Tag Archives: intuition

Intuition or Anxiety?

We know all kinds of things with our bodies. Even if you aren’t drawn to more magical explanations, there are some really rational things to take into account about what we know and where in our bodies we know it. We all absorb far more information than we can consciously process, and there’s increasing evidence to suggest that how and where we store that knowledge is complicated and not just a brain issue. Our bodies know things.

The anxious body has learned fear, and that fear colours what we learn. This can make it challenging to know what to do with body knowledge. How do you tell between fear and intuition? Anxiety will tell you that something awful is going to happen. The worse the anxiety is, the worse the expectations and the higher frequency at which they arrive. Suffering from anxiety made me really uneasy about trusting the idea of intuition. When fear makes you see dangers that don’t exist, it’s hard to trust any other body wisdom.

What I’ve discovered recently is that different kinds of knowing sit in my body in different ways. Anxiety sits in the muscles between my ribs, and is a heavy weight in my stomach. Anything I feel in those locations is most likely to be anxiety, not intuition.

However, if I experience something at a bone deep level, that’s intuition, and well worth taking seriously. It’s difficult to describe, but it is a feeling that is deeper in me – and has weight and substance, and solidity. Bone wisdom is substantial, and persists over time frames. The fear that lives in my muscles is tremulous and shifting, inconsistent and nearer the surface. All it has for me is the potential to be afraid, whereas what I feel in my bones includes all of the options available to a person.

I’ve been working on identifying and trusting my intuition for some months now. I’m trying to rebuild my trust in other ways of knowing, and in my own senses and at the same time to be less in thrall to my own anxiety. I’m making good progress. I’ve done some really dramatic things based on what I’ve known in my bones. Those things have gone so well, and what I’ve known has repeatedly proved true, which helps me build trust in my own intuition. What I know in my bones is worth knowing. If it’s just a fluttering, sickly surface thing then I don’t have to invest in it.

Setting Intentions

Very early on in lockdown I was struck by an intuition. This is unusual for me – or at least has been for a good 15 years. There were a powerful set of things that all turned up together and were very clear. That the most important thing to do would be to figure out my priorities, and that there were some serious curve balls coming. At first, it looked like the curve balls would be the virus impact – and we’ve certainly had our share of those. But no, there was far more to it.

I started setting intentions. I’ve talked a little bit already here about an enormous personal project to change my relationship with my face and body – that’s going well for me, although I have a way to go.

As a household, we were already planning for disruption – the lad should have been doing A Levels this summer and should be off to university in the autumn. For now we can only wait to see what happens, and roll with whatever we get. Alongside this, Tom and I were planning a move to Wales where we could afford a larger property and a garden. Lockdown has left us in no doubt that we need a garden. Having no outside space of our own has been really hard. Wales is clearly on hold for now as an idea. And then the curve ball arced across our lives and Wales is on hold as an idea for the longer term as well.

One of the intentions we’ve collectively set is that we want to create a small film studio, doing silent, black and white movies with soundtracks and practical effects. That intention holds up. The camera that is the heart of the project has been sourced. People who want to be part of it for the longer term are making themselves known. Progress is being made on the Hopeless Maine film despite everything else going on – more information on that over here if you’re curious – https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/category/hopeless-film/

It’s difficult to plan anything at the moment, life is so uncertain. But it is, I am finding, a really good time for asking big questions and setting intentions. Who am I and what do I want? How do I want to live? What do I want to do in the future, who do I want to do that with and who is willing to commit to me? Who do I really need? What do I really need? Which dreams should I nurture? What wild and unlikely things should I throw myself at, wholeheartedly?

One of the gifts of this strange time, is that it does not suggest doing sensible things. There’s little point planning the ordinary, and no reason to think things will ever go back to being quite how they were. It creates a space for thinking the unthinkable, for the wildest ideas and the most inspired dreams, the craziest desire and the biggest ambitions.

By the looks of it, I was right with that feeling that I really needed to figure out my priorities. I’m going to stay vague for now, but there have been reasons to rethink everything, and those reasons are inherently good and exciting. What can be imagined from here is not what I might have imagined a couple of months ago. And if my gut feeling is to be believed, that’s all the curve balls I need to field, and from here it’s a case of working out how to turn dreams into reality.

Working with intuition

We take in far more information than we can consciously process. As a result, the impressions that turn up as gut feelings, or intuition may well be perfectly rational – they are arising from things we know but have not consciously considered. Information from what we can smell, or the experience of touch, from nuances of tone and body language can all influence us without being consciously considered.

Intuition is however, a tricksy thing. It gets tangled up all too easily with our hopes and fears, distorted by how we want things to be, and knotted up by misinformation. If your gut feeling tells you one thing, and the person it relates to you is lying to you, things can get confusing.

People often mislead us. Sometimes with malicious intent. Sometimes because they aren’t paying attention, or don’t trust us, or don’t know themselves well enough to report accurately. People change, and the truth they shared yesterday can be out of date now. It is an important question to ask – when do we trust the gut feeling in face of clear feedback that we are wrong? Are we really wrong? Are we a bit off the mark? Are we being lied to? There’s often no way to tell.

Even if you can see something with perfect clarity, it’s not always informative about what will happen. You might see a person’s capacity to heal and move on, but it doesn’t mean they’ll take that path. You might correctly intuitively grasp that a person is in love with you, but they may deny it to their last breath even so.

Intuition that is at odds with other kinds of perception isn’t necessarily wrong. It may be coloured by the fears and desires of another person. We may be seeing possibilities that will never manifest. I think where intuition can be held as possibility, there’s plenty of scope for working with it. Problems arise when we cling too tightly to what we think we know and don’t allow space for other interpretations to emerge.

Light, mist and intuition

Walking across the hills on Christmas day, the light was unusual. There was a thin mist or low cloud, with the sun coming up. The light was diffuse. Everything around me seemed quite colour intense while things further away had a washed out quality. There weren’t many shadows, and what there was served to emphasise what was nearest. This kind of lighting creates a strange, otherworldly feel.

What struck me, was this is how I’ve been colouring Hopeless Maine landscapes since the autumn. When I made the decision to approach colouring this way, it was about what I thought would work for the storytelling, and what I could consistently do. When it comes to conscious thinking, I have a really poor visual memory. Unless I concentrate on something, I won’t consciously remember what it looks like. However, I’ve clearly seen that misty light effect before. Some part of me probably knew and remembered.

For me this is an example of how apparently magical intuition often isn’t so inexplicable after all. We take in so much data, we can’t process all of it consciously. What comes in unconsciously will act upon us without our knowing it. This is part of how our environments shape us. When it happens this way, it is a blessing. We turn out to know more than we thought we did, we have inner reserves of wisdom and experience to draw on that come out as a feeling or an idea, not something we can immediately explain and evidence.

However, what else gets in, to inform our feelings and shape our responses? It depends a lot on what we expose ourselves to.

Intuition, ill health and uncertainty

As a much younger human, I trusted my intuition, but through my twenties I became ever less able to do so. For a long time I’ve had incidents that make it difficult to tell what I’m dealing with.

Anxiety will tell you that something is terribly wrong. Depression will tell you that there’s no point even trying, it’s all hopeless. Stress will tell you that you have to keep going, flat out no matter what. Problems with bodily health can feel like psychic attacks, premonitions or signs. If you start buying into these as intuitions of the truth, what you do is reinforce whatever is wrong with you. But at the same time, none of these conditions turn your intuition off, so that can also mean missing important insights.

I don’t think intuition is a ‘woo-woo’ issue, at least not all the time. We take in vast amounts of information – far more than we are consciously aware of. We do most of our processing unconsciously. Thus often what we experience as a magic thing happening, is really our brains having worked through what we’d got. Those ping moments of inspiration, eureka, and intuition aren’t at odds with reasoned thinking, they’re just one mechanism amongst many. At the same time, if your take on reality has room for truly magical things to happen, well, sometimes what we intuit can be so far removed from what we had information about, that this seems plausible.

The question remains, how to tell one from another? Just because you’re feeling anxious, doesn’t mean you’re paranoid. Just because you’re depressed doesn’t mean nothing is crushing you down.  In the last few years I’ve let go of the idea that my intuition is totally broken, unreliable and best ignored, and started making space for it. I’ve started trying to tease out those threads of mental health, hormonal activity, body feelings and so forth to get a better picture of what’s going on in my life.

I’ve come up with a couple of things I think are useful. Firstly, checking in with someone else. Most mental health issues make it difficult to trust your own judgement or perceptions. If there’s a person you really trust, being able to run things past them can be helpful. Am I being paranoid? What’s the most likely source of this experience? What’s your perception? It is worth being wary because two people intent on out-wooing each other can build layer upon layer of imagined things and end up convinced that they’re at the centre of a magical war or some such (I do not jest, I’ve seen it happen). If you can help each other think critically, all well and good. If not, it may do more harm than good.

My other solution is to give my intuition defined outlets – divination tools to play with where the interpretations do not depend so much on my own mental state. Oracle cards are great for this. It gives me a cross reference for the body feeling. Do the cards reinforce what I’m experiencing, or are they at odds with it, or do they cast the whole thing in a different light? It’s also a way of honouring and making space for my intuition rather than wholly distrusting it, and I feel better for being able to do that.

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.

Intuition or fantasy?

As a younger human I had decent intuition; enough to help me steer through life a bit. There was one, total intuition fail, although in fairness I recall wondering on the day of my first wedding whether I was actually doing the right thing. I wasn’t, but I put it down to pre-wedding nerves, and tuned it out. By then I was already struggling to distinguish between intuition and anxiety. That brought me years of being lied to and misled, in ways that left me even more anxious, and unable to distinguish between unhelpful anxiety, and valuable intuition. With my judgement constantly questioned and my preferences continually undermined, I stopped hearing my own voice.

The trouble with anxiety, is that it tells you, loud and clear, that it’s all going to be awful. Fear that what went before represents something normal and dependable starts to blot out your reason. It is this, taken to an extreme, that makes people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder so unable to function in trigger situations. However, for those of us not dealing with that level of trauma, fear can still teach us some lousy lessons. We learn not to trust the good stuff, we learn to expect the worst.

One of the things that mangled my intuition, was a lot of time spent dealing with the bat-shit-crazy, from a number of sources. Having your own, private intuitive responses is one thing, laying them in front of other people as though these are unassailable facts, is quite another. Being able to tell between what you ‘know’ as a fact (it rained yesterday, that’s too expensive, etc) and what you ‘know’ (you’re hexing me, I am magically keeping this other person alive, I have saved you from demons…) that kind of stuff is nothing but trouble, and when someone else drops their imaginary world into yours, the results can be traumatic to say the least.

Being Pagan can often mean engaging with reality in a way other people do not. It means acting on things, sometimes, that other people may find irrational or alarming. Many Pagan paths call for a degree of trusting the magical insight and the intuition, and in a lot of circumstances, that can be a good thing. However, we have to watch ourselves. Taking too much on trust without looking at our own motives can be a dangerous process. It is all too easy to project things onto other people, for a start, especially if we are reluctant to look at our own issues. When we start using intuition as an excuse, or an explanation for that which we could not conceivably justify by other means, we are in trouble.

The key questions to ask are, does this work, and what does it achieve? If intuition fills your world with people who curse you and attack you magically, if you’re fighting wars with demons and endlessly unhappy, consider that maybe something else is going on here. If intuition tells you that everyone is out to get you, that might in fact be paranoia speaking. If all intuition says is that the world is an awful, hostile place, you may be suffering from anxiety. Actually, if all intuition tells you is one thing, be sceptical about it. Intuition, if it is well tuned, will pick up all kinds of things.

If, on the other hand, intuition tells you when to pick up the phone and call a friend, means you grab the laundry before it starts to rain and put your hand on just the book you needed, and other things of that ilk, then it’s good stuff and you may as well enjoy it.

The important thing to remember is that intuition is one tool in the box. I gather that psychological research suggests we mostly make our decisions intuitively and then figure out the rationale later. It’s always worth doing that cross reference, double checking to see how hard facts and gut feelings work together. When they coincide, you know you’re probably going the right way. If there’s conflict, pause and rethink. Check out facts, and query what the gut said. Either can be wrong.

Antidotes to unworkable beliefs

I first encountered Colette Brown (no relation!) by reading her book, Maybe the universe just isn’t that into you. As a reviewer I get exposed to New Age writing, much of which makes me want to cry. Colette’s book is a brilliant antidote to this. It’s a small, punchy and amusing read, which lead me to contact the author and ask if she’d do me an interview. So, here we are, and here it is!

Nimue: Maybe the universe just isn’t that into you, made me wonder if you had been subjected to one piece of new age silliness too many. Was there a final straw that prompted you to write?
Colette: Actually it was a build up over a few months. I had watched an acquaintance forge forward with what seemed like a very daft idea ‘because this is what the Universe wants of me’. That in itself wasn’t that bad but the venture itself would involve other people. When it failed I was upset for good folk who had invested in it. Then I thought ‘when will it be ‘a lesson from the universe?’ and sure are goodness that is the next thing I heard from the acquaintance! Simply a bad decision being flaunted as ‘lesson’.
At the same time I had been reading daily inspirations from a site on the Internet and was becoming bored by the way they all seemed to be saying the same thing day after day. To be truthful, I didn’t find them inspiring as most seemed to be saying if you could visualise success, then you could achieve it. I thought this was a bit much if you were starving in a third world country, had a terminal disease or were long term unemployed. The flip side of it seemed to be saying that circumstances play no part in life and to almost be blaming folk for their ‘failure’ even if they had no control over their circumstances. What annoyed me is that I still looked for these ‘inspirations’ and was hooked in case I missed a good one. They can be addictive.
Then I read something on Facebook along the lines of ‘God only gives the strongest warriors the pain and suffering’. Like pain and suffering was gifted to strong resilient folk but that God avoided giving it to wee sensitive weak folk? NOT TRUE!
It just seemed one thing after another. Spiritual people following ideologies like sheep, disrespect to higher beings like angels who seemed ‘on call’ for anyone who cared to turn an angel card and people spouting conspiracy theories online. I was ranting about it all to my husband, injecting humour so that it didn’t depress me and he said simply ‘write all this down’ . So I did and that is how the book came about.
I consider myself spiritual. I do believe that in the correct circumstances, with the correct intent and a lot of hard work, that we can work with the Universe to make things the best they can be. But there are times when ‘maybe the universe just isn’t that into you’ and you know, that is ok too.

Nimue: I share your unease about ‘failure to achieve’. That’s troubled me with New Agey stuff for a long time. We can’t all be winners, logically. What have you found most helpful when you’ve been learning?

Colette: I am an avid reader so I found it easy to read lot on lots of different subjects and then dispense with books or ideas that didn’t suit me. You have to be discerning as there is a lot out there and not all of it is good. I also found a strong connection with the tarot early on and found that it became such an amazing tool for self-knowledge and personal development.
I have been lucky to have some wonderful teachers i.e. people who walked their talk and informed me of it but then let me make up my own mind on it. The best teachers are the ones who simply live it and don’t preach or stifle your own thoughts.
I also have felt that my instincts have served me well. If something seems too good to be true, it normally is. I like simplicity. There are so many terms out there just now that simply don’t mean anything or are confusing to say the least. If your brain can’t understand the name of a workshop or therapy, then be wary! Either it will be a rehash of something else or it will be something you have to pay to understand the intricacies of or become ‘apprenticed ‘ to.
My family and husband have also made my spiritual life very easy for me. They accepted that it is who I am and that without it, I lose me!

Nimue: Not everyone seems to know where to find their intuition, much less how to trust it. Any other suggestions for how to tap into the innate knowing we probably do have somewhere…?

Colette: The fact is that we are sentient beings so we all do have intuition. I liken it to having the potential to play the piano: some folk can be very good piano players if they practice and give time to it. Others may well be more talented as such and have a more impressive natural gift. If they use this natural gift AND practice, then that will bring the most successful connection.
So I feel that first we must accept that we are all intuitive to different degrees and practice as much as we can to achieve our own personal best. To me there has to be time, discipline and energy given to this pursuit, even if you are a natural. A friend of mine who is a very respected astrologer told me he thought that I was like a psychic athlete who flexed and honed their psychic muscle every day as I meditated and did readings most days. So I think maybe we need to think of our psychic senses as muscles and feed them good spiritual food and exercise them a lot but not too much.
My basic requirements for this are: solitude, nature, meditation, mantras and prayer, burning herbs, and my trusty tarot deck.

Nimue: There’s a lot of warm humour in your book…. who makes you laugh?

Colette: I have always loved observational humour and for me the best with this is Eddie Izzard. He can make something as mundane as hoovering so funny. I was also blessed to see the late great Les Dawson live before he died and laughed for weeks after it.
I laugh at myself a lot too. I am dyslexic and some of the faux pas in my writing can be so funny. Thank Goddess for great copyeditors! I am a real people watcher and can find humour in most situations. But I don’t like humour that is cruel or divisive.
My previous book was Weegie Tarot which was the tarot Fool’s Journey set in the east end of Glasgow. This gave me so much fun as I had worked there for many years as a pharmacist and so enjoyed the humour of the people. I relayed stories I had heard and some from my own experiences and chuckled so much as I wrote it. Of course it was sad too……
I feel that many spiritual people can take themselves far too seriously. I think we all need to lighten up and have more fun with life. If a ritual or ceremony goes a wee bit wrong and something funny happens, it is ok to laugh. I don’t feel that the ancestors were humourless!

Nimue: Where can interested people find you online?

Colette: my website is http://www.coletteclairvoyant.webs.com my facebook is Colette Brown ( author) or colette clairvoyant.

Colette Brown MRPharmS
author of
Tarot Novice to Pro in One Book (Nov 2011)
Menopause a Natural and Spiritual Journey ( May 2012)
Weegie Tarot Life of a Foolish Man(October 2012)

coming in 2013….
Maybe The Universe Just Isn’t That Into You
How to Read an Egg

Reclaiming Magic

In my teens, I had a strong belief in magic. Not so much the spells and wands variety, but the essential, magical nature of reality, the importance of will, the strange complexities of existence. It’s one of the things I’ve lost along the way, and that wasn’t any kind of good or natural ‘growing up’ experience, or a deliberate embracing of another paradigm. Simply, I had my sense of magic stripped from me.

Over a period of years, I was exposed to a number of people with deeply disturbing and psychotic beliefs. People who claimed to be deities, who claimed to have cursed others and caused illness. People who claimed sole responsibility for keeping other people alive, the fate of others dependent on their whims. I also encountered people who claimed to be highly intuitive, but used their claimed intuition as a way to bully. It’s very easy to use the assertion that you have magical powers to control, intimidate and manipulate others. When modern writers criticise ancient cultures, it is often with the very assertion that people claiming magical powers used them to bully the credulous into serving them. It certainly does happen and is both alarming and destructive to encounter.

Exposed to this kind of behaviour and attitude, I became increasingly unwilling to think about anything in magical terms. Rational causality became ever more important to me. I felt a strong need to defend myself from what I was experiencing by becoming ever more conventionally rational. Magic became the word for experiencing the numinous or feeling a sense of wonder, but the idea of spells or deliberate will working I rejected. And oddly enough, that sense of the numinous, of the magical within life and nature, also began to diminish within me. I became, quite literally, disenchanted.

It is absolutely vital to maintain an understanding of reality that allows you, me, to functionally engage with others in viable and meaningful ways. However, humans are not wholly rational creatures. All things that we do begin in thought, will and imagination. We all have experiences we can’t explain, and the further reaches of science are so full of complexity and strangeness that getting my head round them is endlessly challenging, and much of the time, it might as well be magic. So often historically, ‘magic’ has been the word we’ve used for things we had no other explanations for. Letting that sense of wonder and possibility back in does not mean letting go of sanity or reason.

I am setting out to rediscover my sense of wonder, to rebuild my trust in the world and my ability to perceive it as a place that is not openly hostile to me, and that is rich with beauty and goodness, even amongst the pain and challenges. It is my intention to actively seek my own re-enchantment. The belief of my youth was just what naturally occurred to me. I didn’t put much work into it, so while it had an inherently innocent quality, it was also somewhat unformed, untested. To set out deliberately to rebuild in myself a sense of wonder and magic, is not going to give me back what I’ve had stripped from me. What happens, if this works, is bound to be different. I have no idea what to expect. Gone are the days when my sense of the future was keen and I trusted to my intuition.

I am choosing to step out into the darkness, with only intent to guide me. I want my magic back. I want my sense of magical possibility back, and my trust in both myself and the wider world. I want the rich, unconscious dreaming life I once had, and also I want those things I do not yet know about, that will be part of this journey. I’ll be blogging what happens alongside the other issues I tend to tackle here, and as ever, will be glad of anything anyone feels moved to share along the way.