“Intuition is a spiritual faculty and does not explain, but simply points the way.” Florence Scovel Shinn
Some call it “intuition.” Some call it “a hunch.” Others may know it as a “gut instinct,” a mysterious form of mental processing that offers reliable information for judgments and decision-making. Whatever you call this unspoken and unreasoned knowledge, it can help you to live more effectively with less mental effort and better results.
What Is Intuition? Since the dawn of mankind, people have been aware of a subtle ability to discern certain types of information without cognitive thought or logical analysis of the data. This ability has been called by many names, but its almost mystical quality has been credited with successful decisions and sometimes life-saving actions. Intuition is thought to be a rapid-fire processing of sensory information that compares it to previously experienced events that are similar. The mind can then immediately draw a conclusion, without resorting to breakdown and analysis of the individual facts. Renowned psychologist Carl Jung called intuition “perception via the unconscious.” Some referred to it as “pre-conscious” activity. People often find difficult to list the observation and steps involved in the process because they take place on such an unconscious level. Intuition is often spoken of in spiritual terms, a knowing without consciously being aware of it, as if having been endowed with the knowledge.
Science and Intuition. Reliance on intuitive thinking and decision-making is so prevalent in human behavior that researchers began studying it extensively. They found that human survival depends on both conscious and subconscious processing of information. Frequently, it is during times of high stress or danger that the subconscious processing of information occurs. At these times, the mind absorbs the tiniest of cues that can be the warning of upcoming danger or give clues about an outcome, rapidly comparing them to other experiences in the past and drawing conclusions about their meaning. All of this can occur without the person being aware of the information that is provoking the decision. Intuition’s evolutionary function appears to be to give us information quickly in intense situations in which our lives or well-being can be at risk.
Can You Trust Intuition? Though intuition can often give good information about a present or future situation, it can also be contaminated with prejudices, stereotypes and fears. Relying too heavily on intuition can lead to overconfidence that can be dangerous. However, intuition can be used as one of many factors that allow us to make good decisions quickly, using both the emotive, intuitive part of the brain as well as the analytical, logical side. Your “gut instinct” can be coupled with hard facts to give a more complete picture of the situation.
Using Intuition in Daily Life. Listening to your intuition can be helpful in assessing people or situations. However, you must exercise your intuition to become familiar with the feeling and how much you need to “tweak” it with rational analysis. You can do this by taking note of your “gut feeling” when meeting new people. After you have known them for a time, you can compare your initial intuition with the reality to see how accurate your judgment was. In time, you will learn to adjust your intuitive judgments to allow for previous experiences or errors in thinking. It may be helpful to keep an intuition journal to reflect back on previous intuitions and how the decision worked. Exercising the right side of the brain with creative work such as painting, sculpting, dancing and other pursuits can help to develop the brain connections where intuition originates.
The human brain is a complex organ that possesses many ways to process information for survival. Intuition is one of the ways that can help you to live more effectively with less stress.