A Series on Intuition…
Do You Trust Your Gut?
Have you ever been convinced you should do something, but failed to because it simply didn’t make sense? You know, just chickened out. Well I have, many times. In each of these situations I failed to trust my gut.
What does it mean to trust your gut? Is it really a sensation in the belly? A sort of feeling? An idea about something? Well, sort of, but not really. These three metaphors use sensation, feeling and thinking in an attempt to explain something that belongs to the realm of intuition.
Our language struggles to define the experiences that are appropriate to intuition. It’s as if we have yet to fully develop it’s vocabulary. My sense is that is because intuition feels taboo, magical, untrustworthy, and yes, dangerous.
That’s because intuition just knows. I like the word hunch, but it goes well beyond that. Jung teaches that intuition is that function of consciousness that is able to pick up information through the unconscious. Therefore remembering a dream, having a vision or a “hearing” in meditation, or simply knowing what to expect in a given situation are all attributes of intuition. In his typology Jung also teaches that like sensation, intuition is irrational.
As an irrational function intuition will neither follow the laws of logic nor the values of feeling. As most of the collective aligns with the rational functions, it is common to see an individual with weak intuition express fearful hyper-rational resistance to the data they pick up from the unconscious. Collectively we can see this expressed in the general dismissiveness towards dreams. But the good news is that intuition, like all the functions of the ego, can be strengthened.
Three Steps to Strengthen Intuition
The first step is to make space for our intuitions. The second is to develop the habit of honoring intuitions. And the third is to begin to trust them.
this first step is in some ways a prelude, but it’s often necessary as the demands of rationality can have such a grip in our attitudes, that it can be necessary to carve aside some time and space where the dictates of logic and judgement do not control us.
In psychoanalysis this is done by revisiting dream material and playing with it. Privately, creating a dream journal, developing a meditative practice and consistently giving yourself time to fall into reverie all help give intuition the space it needs to operate.
Recognizing our intuitions can be very difficult for some. It is not uncommon when working at depth with people to observe the tendency for the ego to immediately “take possession” of an intuition as if the rational mind knew this to be the case all along. Such a move steals the material without receiving it even though it is freely being offered.
Putting energy into recording our process with dreams, psychoanalysis, meditation and reverie all honor the material as it emerges.
The final step requires that we begin to shape our life based on what we have learned through intuition. This takes a balanced approach. To incorporate intuition as a guiding force in our life does not require us to abandon reason and feeling. In fact, when intuition is operating as the inferior function, we often see outrageous catastrophes perpetrated in the name of this or that hunch. A trusting attitude with intuition tends not to need to force things. It recognizes that the information coming from the unconscious has it’s own time rhythm which seldom follows our conscious desires.
For those of you versed in Jungian psychology, you might get an inkling that my presentation of intuition here is leaning toward seeing the transcendent function not as a distinct ego function, but instead as fully developed intuition.
Psychoanalysis serves many different functions depending on the client’s needs. A common theme in the work is to it provide a safe place to explore and strengthen intuition. “I just know it!” is a claim that often needs to get nurtured before getting squashed by the forces of reason, both internal and external.
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