Tag Archives: intuitive

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.