The Mystery Of Intuition

“It is always with excitement that I wake up in the morning wondering what my INTUITION will toss up to me, like gifts from the sea. I work with it and rely on it. It’s my partner.” – Jonas Salk

Intuition is an elusive phenomenon. You know it exists but it’s difficult to describe or explain. You experience insight, recognition, or understanding; you know what to do or not do; you can predict outcomes and avoid dangers. Salk also said, “Intuition will tell the thinking mind where to look next.” But how do you know? Where did the knowledge come from? Why do you now know what you didn’t know just moments ago? Albert Einstein described the phenomenon like this, “The intellect has little to do on the road to discovery. There comes a leap in consciousness, call it intuition or what you will, and the solution comes to you and you don’t know how or why.”

That is the “Now I see,” dimension of intuition but there is more. The new insight or understanding does not appear to derive from careful analysis, thoughtful contemplation, or logical deduction. Those processes are important and thoroughly embraced but intuition is of a different order of things. Alexis Carrel suggested, “All great men are gifted with INTUITION. They know without reasoning or analysis, what they need to know.” Be that as it may, you know, suddenly it seems, what you didn’t know and you aren’t sure how or why. You just know.

It’s tempting to attribute the product of intuition to latent psychic ability, to an untapped sixth sense, or to offer other metaphysical etiologies. Doing so makes intuition at least mysterious and perhaps close to magical. When moved into that arena, intuition becomes an ability or “power” that defies analysis. The goal is more to enhance or increase than to understand.

Alternatively, intuition may be understood as merely a sub-process within the broader context of thinking and understanding that leads to awareness and insight. Its distinction is neither mysterious nor magical. Rather, it’s an absence of cognizance, existing outside of the range or scope of what is known or perceived. You know but are not in touch with the process that resulted in knowing. As Helen Palmer said, “Intuition makes a great range of information available to us.” It’s just there; and you aren’t sure how or why.

From this perspective, the activities and processes that lead to intuitive insight and understanding are the same as those that lead to any other knowledge and comprehension. The difference is whether you are aware of those activities and processes as they happen or can only infer their presence retrospectively. If you are aware of them in real time, you are thinking, judging, analyzing, and forming ideas and conclusions. If you are only aware of the outcome, the insight, the “sudden” knowledge, you are using your intuition.

Just as some people have more capacity for conscious, intentional thought and analysis, some people have more intuitive capacity. They process more information and analyze more complexly at a level below awareness. The point is that intuitive capacity varies from person to person and for each person under different circumstances. That not withstanding, intuition is only a dimension of one’s cognitive capacity. Being highly intuitive is, of course, desirable just as having a high capacity for logical analysis or a high capacity for inductive reasoning are valued. Functioning at a high level within any dimension is well worth pursuing. The point to keep in mind is that one’s composite capacity determines success and achievement and not any specific sub-component.

This is the point. Everyone has some intuitive capacity and makes decisions and choices based on intuitive insight and understanding. Further, for most people, intuitive capacity is far more developed and potentially useful than they know. To the extent to which they are able to manage and exploit that intuitive capacity, they will be more effective, will make better decisions, will experience more accurate insight, will make the right choices more often, and will be more successful.

Intuition is not a new area of study, is not mysterious or magical, is not a secret science, and is not restricted to exceptional people or the intellectual elite. Rather, it’s present, to some extent, within everyone. The challenge is in accessing and maximizing your intuitive capacity. How do you do that? If you give it a chance, your intuition will show you the way. In the meantime, you can consider Joyce Brothers’ suggestion, “Trust your hunches.”

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