Reclaiming my intuition

The trouble with intuition, is that some people will use it to replace evidence in a way that cannot be argued with. The experience of people magically ‘knowing’ things that from where I was standing, looked like utter bullshit, left me reluctant to use my own for many years. I’m equally troubled by the way we use confirmation on social media ‘I have a bad feeling about today, does anyone else?’ Of course someone else does – the internet has a lot of people on it. I’m wary of how we can all use ‘intuition’ to tell us the things we want to hear, to affirm our biases, prejudices, personal insanity…

But life without intuition is thinner, paler and missing a lot of tricks. We absorb far more information than we can consciously process, and what emerges as a ‘gut feeling’ may not be ‘magic’ but instead the result of unconscious processing. If I let myself, then some of my best thinking happens this way.

How do you tell if what you’ve got is intuition, self indulgence, or madness? This is a question I’ve been asking myself for years. It’s especially loaded for me, because depression and anxiety create feelings of doom and misery, and I can persuade myself that I must be psychically knowing that something dreadful is going to happen, and spiral down into it, and make it a self-fulfilling prophecy. Or I can attribute it to dodgy brain chemistry and let it go… How do I tell which is which?

The only thing I’ve got as a method of testing, is whether I can use it to make fair models of what will happen. If my gut feel about a person, or a situation, fits in fairly well with what happens, then regardless of whether that’s psychic-ness or unconscious processing, I’ve got something I can use. If my impressions don’t relate to reality, then something less helpful is going on. It requires an uneasy amount of self-honesty. Who doesn’t want to be magical, intuitive and special? It’s hard to look at a gut feeling and say ‘you aren’t real, my brain chemistry is playing up’ but sometimes that’s the path to sanity.

Then there’s the question of how we use intuitive insights in social situations. Some people are assholes. If that’s where you’re coming from, then aggressively asserting intuition as a means to power, to subdue or impress others, is just asshattery. It’s not good to go deliberately trying to poke around in other people’s heads and lives, either. It’s an invasion of privacy. If insight just turns up, then there’s a responsibility to use that kindly, and not as some kind of power trip.

I’ve spent some years now trying to be more open to my unconscious mind, to insight and intuition and at the same time to not let my depressive and anxious tendencies latch onto it. I’ve got a way to go, and I’m a long way from entirely trusting myself, but overall I like the trajectory.

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

5 responses to “Reclaiming my intuition

  • manonbicycle

    I used to work as a psychiatric nurse until I retired about ten years ago.

    Way back, I and others would make intuitive assessments of patients or the mood of a ward on a particular shift. Was a new patient likely to self harm or exhibit aggressive behavior? Would there be a disturbance on your shift that morning or afternoon?

    Not very clinical maybe, but the best of us usually got it right, using this intuitive approach.

    Towards the end of my nursing career, this approach became very much out of vogue with the introduction of box ticking assessment tools, but I’m not convinced that they yielded better results.

    The intuitive approach unconsciously takes in so many variables plus your own experience of these things. The box ticking assessment tool approach is very one dimensional and fails to take so many other factors in to account.

    • Nimue Brown

      When people achieve a high degree of proficiency, making them tick boxes can actually reduce performance – anything that makes a person conscious of their own process in fact. its because the conscious mind gets in the way. Ironic that this pretty simple bit of psychology is being ignored by people working primarily with psychological concerns…

    • manonbicycle

      I think old school police officers used the term “copper’s nose” for this approach. Not always appreciated by the innocent though!

  • Martin

    I seem to be somewhat intuitive, when I choose to pay attention, and to some degree I share your struggles with brain chemistry vs intuition. But what I have found is that intuition (for me) usually consists of a once-or-twice subtle ‘nudge’ or, more likely, a persistent (during an encounter), but one-time-only, sense of a ‘vibe’. Brain chemistry ‘messages’, on the other hand, seem to be highly repetitive and nagging amounting to something like worrying. It’s not always this clear-cut, however.

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