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Intuition

So, what exactly is intuition? Well, it’s a gut feeling, a hunch or a little angel on your shoulder. But more specifically it’s the ability to acquire information without using conscious reasoning.  You might also call it access to unconscious knowledge, inner sensing, insight into unconscious patterns or the ability to understand something instinctively. Carl Jung (Swiss Psychiatrist and Psychoanalyst) defined intuition as “perception via the unconscious”.  

Buridan’s Donkey is a philosophical paradox about free will. It’s about a hypothetical situation where a donkey, that is equally hungry and thirsty, is placed exactly midway between a stack of hay and a bucket of water. In theory it will die of thirsty and starve because it can’t decide. In reality it would make an intuitive decision. The reason for the decision may not be correct, but it would make a decision based on intuition.

Intuition is a very powerful aspect of the human mind, but can we trust it? Well, not entirely. Your subconscious holds a massive amount of information – memories, feelings, biases, lessons learnt, judgements, experiences, etc. It also picks up information we are not consciously aware of such as body language, eye contact, pupil dilation and slight changes in voice patterns. With all this information it makes split second decisions. It’s incredible and amazing, but not infallible. As Clarissa Pinkola Estes (American Writer and Jungian Psychoanalyst) said, “That is what the intuition is for: it is the direct messenger of the soul”.

Whether we like it or not, humans are judgemental and biased.  When we meet someone new, we automatically decide what we think about them within a few seconds. Why would your subconscious think one person is friendly or trustworthy? Perhaps based on previous experience of someone who looked like that? Perhaps some feature in their face that suggests friendliness?

Given the fallibility of your intuition it might be an idea, when you can, to take a moment when you realise you are doing something instinctively, to engage you conscious mind and think why you feel the way you do. For example, why do I trust this person, when I have only just met them?

Having criticised intuition, it does have its place. For example, do I feel comfortable about a situation? When we feel uneasy our threat response is activated. We might not be able to explain why but if something doesn’t feel right we shouldn’t ignore it. When things turn out badly we say ‘I knew it’. This was your intuition trying to warn you.  

So, having had some intuition, in time, you’ll discover if it was correct or not.  You will find that your instinctive thoughts are often correct. Should we rely on it solely when making decisions – probably not. But our intuition should be part of the process along with more rational thoughts.

Intuition is also close related to inspiration and creativity. It’s your subconscious sending you a message that can benefit you. As Henri Poincare (French Mathematician, Physicist, Engineer, and Philosopher) said, “It is through science that we prove, but through intuition that we discover”.

So, you should try to hone and improve my intuition. To do this, the best thing you can do is to make quiet times for your subconscious to speak to you. This might be mediation, spending time in nature or just doing nothing. Try it, you may be surprised what you discover.

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