Tag Archives: intuition

Trusting my intuition

I have a hard time trusting my intuition. It’s something I’ve been exploring deliberately this year. I’ve also found myself in situations where there are no other sources of information, and intuition is all I’ve had to go on. At this point I’ve come to the conclusion that I can afford to trust what I intuit.

One of the single biggest problems for me in all of this is that I suffer from anxiety. I have a powerful imagination and can come up with many ways in which a situation could go wrong. There are reasons, rooted in my history, that make it hard for me to imagine good outcomes. It is hard to trust my intuition when my anxiety is screaming ‘you’re doomed’ and my imagination is playing out all the worst case scenarios. It’s not easy to tell what is just anxiety screaming, and what might be something else.

Being an anxious person, I tend to assume that any hopeful feeling is just wishful thinking on my part. I have been in the habit of writing off any good or uplifting feelings on the basis that they must be irrational. This hasn’t been helpful.

The answer has been to make time and really sit with whatever I’m feeling. To pay attention to what fits in my habitual thoughts and what doesn’t. If I interrogate those impulses I can often tell what is just anxiety as usual happening for me. Alongside that I’m making a conscious effort not to dismiss out of hand any possibility that doesn’t lead to crushing failure, disappointment and distress. Sometimes things do work out well, and I have evidence of this. I no longer live in a situation where there is someone intent on crushing me, and I no longer need to assume the worst for my own safety.

My intuition has room for the best in other people. It has room in it for hope, and good outcomes. My intuition is much more open to trust than the rest of me. It’s a small voice, long ignored, but this year it has held up where conventional sources of insight have failed. My intuition has kept me going where otherwise I might have broken down entirely. I do not have to accept a life without hope and possibility. I can consider that better outcomes are possible. I can afford to trust existence and the universe to be neutral towards me, not actively hostile. I can trust myself, and I can stop feeling that my more hopeful impulses are naïve, self indulgent or ridiculous.


Seeing the future

One of the best tests of any information source is how well it predicts the future. This might seem obvious when thinking about divination, but it applies to all forms of knowledge. I think this is highly relevant at the moment as we have so many beliefs and opinions dominating conversations. I remember when the idea of the UK leaving the Single Market and Kent becoming a lorry park were labelled ‘project fear’ only now that seems to be happening…

Predicting the future is of course a tricksy business, and the future is full of surprises. No one really predicted this virus malarkey. However, the international vulnerability to a pandemic was known – the way we travel, the lack of joined up thinking between countries and the way we invade wild spaces where new diseases are lurking, were all known factors suggesting a particular trajectory.

The thing to watch for is how close your knowledge gets you to being able to make useful predictions. If your knowledge source doesn’t take you in roughly the right direction, what you’ve got isn’t knowledge, it’s a belief, an opinion, a fantasy. When you’re really invested in something that doesn’t match up with reality, putting it down can be really hard.

When it comes to prayer, and magic there may be other factors to consider. Are you getting what you asked for, or are you getting what you need? What time frames are you working on? Do you need more practice? In fact that practice question is pertinent across all areas – if you’re trying to study the world in a rational way to predict what will happen, that also requires skills and knowledge and it may take you time to get it right. Knowing where to push to make the changes you want is a big part of getting anything done, and that might not be apparent at first.

There’s a lot to be said for cross-referencing between different kinds of knowledge. Intuition certainly isn’t an irrational source – we take in far more information than we can consciously process, so what rises up from intuition can be a consequence of processing information. The trick is telling between intuition, wishful thinking and fear. Here again the cross referencing helps because information from other sources can clarify which is which, and over time you can build a  better sense of what is emotional reaction and what is processed information.

Misguided beliefs and opinions don’t allow us to make good predictions. The longer we hold on to  them, the more distorted our relationship with reality becomes. That means having to create ever more complicated stories to explain why what we ‘know’ and perceived reality aren’t matching up. That way lies madness. However unsettling it is to put down a belief, it can be far better to do so than to build layer upon layer of cognitive dissonance. There should be no shame in making mistakes or trying things that don’t work – the important bit is knowing when to give up on an experiment in light of the evidence it generates.


Heart Lessons

Things I have learned about myself in recent weeks, shared in case it helps someone else.

I like me most when I can love fiercely, when I overcome fear and keep my heart open.

There are a great many difficult things that I can weather, but not being sure if I am loved is unspeakably hard. Trusting people to love me, and to stay heart-open to me is one of the things I find most difficult to do. Deciding to stay heart-open has been a real challenge, but I recognise that I have a choice here and do not have to be ruled by past experiences.

I really struggle with feeling powerless. I need to accept that there’s a great deal I can’t help with. Sometimes I can’t even meaningfully offer comfort. Wanting to ease pain does not translate into being able to. Waiting while other people take their own needful journeys is hard, but waiting and witnessing is the right thing to do. I need to recognise the work that is not mine to do, and not let my own feelings get in the way of people doing their needful things.

Alongside that, I really do need to get better at expressing basic needs and asking for what is most important to me.  I don’t handle this well, and there are triggering issues around it for bonus complexity. I’m going to come back and blog about this in more detail when I’ve got a better handle on the mechanics.

I get excited about intellectual challenges, and if there aren’t enough of those of the right shape and nature, I feel sad and worn. I need to look at this because it’s one of those basic needs issues and I might do a better job around meeting it.

Falling in love with people is part of who I am. It doesn’t happen that often, but it happens. Sometimes those people love me in return, and aren’t afraid to be open and honest about that. They are my soul tribe, my most beloved ones, the people I cannot do without. If I don’t at least communicate with them fairly regularly, I struggle. I do not know who I am without them, and I find myself, my hope, my sense of direction in those closest and most important relationships. These relationships have all kinds of shapes, it’s the emotional intensity that is key for me, and what we share and exchange.

To have had a beloved fall silent for several weeks is really hard. It’s left me not knowing who I am – because I exist in a context. To be me, I need to be in relationship with my soul companions. It’s not a case of being completed, or someone else filling in the gaps in me – it is that first and foremost I exist in my interactions and in what I do, day to day. This absence has taught me a lot, and what I’ve managed to do and hold during it has opened me out in unexpected ways. I find myself doing intuition and belief as never before in my life, and these are surprising changes indeed.

One heart lesson in all of this for me is to put down the pernicious ideas about how we are all supposed to stand alone. I am a tree in a spinny, I stand because others stand with me. Tear one of us down and we are all more vulnerable to the next storm. I need roots that intertwine with other roots. I need to share my soil. I am not complete on my own because I cannot be myself entirely if I am not connecting with and sharing things with other people.


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.