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.

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

9 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.

    • Nimue Brown

      That makes a lot of sense to me, thank you for sharing.

    • twobigdoorshotmailcom

      Martin, and Nimue,
      Martin- I really appreciate your process of disctinction between nudges and vibes vs ruminating!

      Nimue- I hope you write a lot more on this subject! I have so many questions, hahaha! One is (rather a lengthy bit of context)- I was in a year long re-acquaintanceship via FB messenger text and phone with someone I attended high school with 30 years ago. Within 4 days it became intense and then imploded. Overall, we shared a mix of nostalgia, new friendship, and mutual curiosity, plenty of flirting and sprinkles of sexual desire, Neither of us expressed intentions or where we hoped we were headed. I thought I was just being open to whatever, but with the boundary of not wanting a significant other to weave into my daily life. I like the idea of having some sweetness in life. Toward the end, befroe our implosion, he began speaking in a different tone – a little sadistic and contradicting himself, and less of the cutie pie he had been all year previous. At one point I drew a very strong line, where he made a grave assumption about me. Afterward we hung up our phones. Feeling raw, I called back to work thorugh what had happened with him. He was stone cold. I hung up. He never called me again – no explanation or complaint against me.

      I flipped out, and I’m not proud of how much I persued his attention. There was evidence that he was reading and listening to my expressions of concern, pain, and eventually anger. Then finally, he accused me of harassing him and that I had no right to look up his public record for his background. Clearly, so much pain happening.

      As with the stages of grief, I bargained and bargained in my mind. My therapist and I had an EMDR (a modality of traumatic release) about my triggered emotions and behavior. I let go partially, save for one thing that came to me as an INTENSE FLOOD like a wall of water pounding over me. In a single moment, I had a complete visualization. The word, “GO” persisted audibly in my right ear (where I’ve had premonitions as a child). The “GO” seemed to carry my body as if I hadn’t touched the floor – taking me from one place to home in what felt like an instant.

      Knowing this intuition is waaaay waaaaay outside of our norms now, I asked myself to cool the drive for 24 hours. Afterward, I’ve been cross referencing with critical thinking and a healthy amount of skepticism. But like Martin says, I cannot stop thinking about this. I might be ruminating, or my intuition might be tapping my shoulder to get things in motion. For example, when I sleep, my body stammers repeatedly and wakes me up. I don’t feel that I’m letting something fall away- I feel that my subconsciousness is alerting me.

      The vision of this intuition is INTENSE – feels ludicrous in our current norms and I don’t know how to honor it (yet). Reflections and guiding questions are most welcome – thank you so much for reading my whole post. I also posted a comment on another of your essays.

      • Nimue Brown

        I’m in a situation at the moment that is either going to give me a strong sense of how to work with my intuition, or will break me entirely. I will come back, either way, and talk about it when I can, but things are a bit on hold at the moment.

      • twobigdoorshotmailcom

        Wow~ I love that you are preparing yourself for the possiblity to be broken and then come back, but mostly I love that you are willing to be broken for the sake of learning and experience. ❤ Some immense wisdom is sure to follow!

      • Nimue Brown

        Can’t say I’m enjoying it much at the moment though, but I am learnnig a lot.

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