Last weekend I was away with a group of brilliant women, gathered together because each of us read and use Sarah Gottesdiener’s Moon Workbook and she had joined us from Los Angeles.
One of the workshops we did during the weekend was about intuition. We'd selected this as a topic for Sarah to cover because it’s one of the strongest powers and resource we have and yet I feel culturally it is undervalued and not very well understood. We see people getting punished or undermined for speaking their truth or walking to the beat of their own drum. We also have a dominant set of archetypes that people associate with those that use their intuition – witches, crones, being crazy, mad or a charlatan. The idea of “studying” it for a few hours felt really important.
The definition of intuition from the dictionary is:
“ A natural ability or power that makes it possible to know something without any proof or evidence: a feeling that guides a person to act a certain way without fully understanding why.”
I love this description and the recognition within it that there are things in the world that we can know, have a sense of or understand, without proof or evidence. I’m not saying I’m anti evidence. I’m really interested in how we can design with data and better use data as a way of giving us dynamic evidence of how people are using or responding to something. I love the scale at which we can now know things and the kinds of feedback loops that can be created through digital data, so I’m really not dismissing those things. What I am wanting though is for every time I hear someone say “ we are making this decision because of what the data tells us, look at the evidence”, for it to be equally valid to say “ I am making this decision because my intuition is telling me it’s what we should do.”
The world needs intuition
Also, in case you haven’t noticed, the world is pretty messy and complex and it feels increasingly so, so the idea that logic and reason are a suitable lens through which to view the world and address its complex problems, feels somewhat misguided. I really believe that our intuition is one of the most valuable capabilities we can build right now, to be in good stead for the future.
The word comes from the latin word to “intuit” – to gaze at, contemplate. Albert Einstein said that it is our most valuable asset, and one of our most underused senses. I so agree with this! He described it as “a feeling for the order lying behind the appearance of something.”
“I believe in intuitions and inspirations. I sometimes feel that I am right. I do not know that I am.”
Intuition is a process that gives us the ability to know something directly without analytic reasoning, bridging the gap between the conscious and nonconscious parts of our mind, and between instinct and reason.
It can also be thought of as a protective mechanism, linked to our lizard brain, to our inherent instincts. I love the sense that when we use our intuition we are accessing an innate wisdom, drawing on the wisdom of many people and lives before us.
In the workshop we talked about the ways in which we experience our intuition, from feeling it in our gut or other bodily sensations, through to just a sensing and knowing in energetic form, or feeling some kind of synchronicity in events. We also talked about what can get in the way of it – being too busy, the need to control, judgement from ourselves and society, not trusting ourselves.
Often if we trust our intuition we can have a new experience. Our ego or fear generally gives us an outcome that we’ve had before.
“ You get your intuition back when you make space for it, when you stop the chattering of the rational mind. The rational mind doesn’t nourish you. You assume that it gives you the truth, because the rational mind is the golden calf that this culture worships, but this is not true.”
Why it matters
Every person is intuitive. It’s a great act in trusting and loving yourself if you practice, develop and use your intuition and that is something everyone has access to.
It’s a way of reclaiming your own power. You can develop clear boundaries about what you can and can’t do, and can and can’t be.
As technology and automation sweep through our lives, replacing human-ness in different guises, our intuition still feels like something we will always be honing in a nuanced and instinctive way, ahead of what the algorithms are noticing and adapting to as they track us.
We can practice it and develop it. The Dreyfus model of skills acquisition shows our journey as we acquire a given skill. At each of the first three stages, from novice to proficiency, we default to our analytical thinking skills. It’s only in the last two stages, when we develop expertise and mastery, that we begin to rely on the power of our intuition to guide decisions.
It feels like a feminist act – the pay-off’s you get from using your intuition often have no patriarchal or capitalist rewards.
Making intuition credible
After the weekend away a group of us have talked more about how we can start creating more conversations that help give recognition to intuition — and ways we can make it more credible. This week I rewrote my CV and I added “intuitive” as one of my key capabilities. A friend used the phrase “feminist intuition” which I like because it dismisses the notion that intuition is female or feminine. I had some great chats with Hanna Tuulikki who through her current residency at the Centre for Language Evolution is thinking about other ways in which we communicate, including studying things like intuition. And it reminded me of a proposal Ben Barker, Dan Watson (with support from the Social Physics team at MIT) put in to Nesta in 2014 about collective intelligence in the form of instincts and embodied knowledge — a very different narrative to the cognitive and big data ideas about collective intelligence.
I’d love to hear from people who can recommend more for us to read or who have suggestions about ways we can create more credibility for intuition.