Developing Your Intuition
by C.S. Clarke, Ph.D.
Intuition is defined as "The act or faculty of knowing or sensing without the use of rational processes; immediate cognition."(1) If that sounds a little woo-woo to you, it might help to remember that rational processes are conscious processes. Intuition relies upon what Sigmund Freud described as unconscious processes. No matter how many of Freud's hypotheses get debunked, the existence of the unconscious is well-supported in research. Most of our learning and memory resides in the unconscious and the feelings we get arise from our experiences buried there. Intuition is merely a process wherein we put two and two together in our unconscious and come up with four . Unfortunately, we also can come up with five or seven, because the unconscious by its very definition lacks the organizing ability of the conscious.
Intuition can be described, measured and replicated through training. It is real, you have it and you can access it and develop it. You can use your rational processes to discover it and bring it into the conscious realm. You can learn to distinguish between intuition and simple "feelings."
Can I teach you all that in a web article? No. But I can get you started in accessing intuition methodologically.
Remember that intuition is like any other skill. It must be learned in steps and practiced, practiced, practiced. So approach it as if it were a lab experiment. Try various methods of access and keep notes on your progress. Do it daily.
Methods of accessing your intuition.
1. Everything I Think I Know Is Wrong. (EITIKIW) In the "EITIKIW" method, you challenge all your preconceptions about a problem or issue. For example you consider whatever the topic of concern as if your knowledge is inaccurate, your information is a lie or you've been focusing from the wrong point of view. You ask yourself, "If I didn't know anything about this issue at all, was not involved personally in any way and someone else presented it to me, what would be my immediate reactions? How would I feel about it? What questions would I ask? What knowledge would I seek? How would I research this? Who would I consult."
2. Think Nothing, Do Nothing. (TNDN) In the "TNDN" method, you sit quietly with your eyes closed and imagine you have a closed box in your lap. You think of the issue you want to resolve in terms of a question or a statement. For example, you ask yourself, "What is really bothering me about this?" or "What is the most urgent and important aspect of this case?" or "What am I missing?" Or you say something like, "I know what I need to do next." You then look -- in imagination -- at the box in your lap. You just sit and wait for it to open. Soon you will see the box open and something will be inside or something will emerge from inside. Whatever comes from inside the box will be symbolic, even if it is a slip of paper with a clear answer written upon it. Analyze the content of the box as if it were in a dream.
3. I Know The Answer Is Here Somewhere. (IKTAIHS) In the "IKTAIHS" method, you write at the top of a page a statement or question about the issue you want to explore. Then you simply start writing whatever comes into your mind. It might be a list, a phrase or an entire essay. Just keep writing. Don't think about it. Just allow stream-of-consciousness to take over. When you feel you've written all you can, read over it and see if you can find anything that stimulates workable ideas.
The above exercises are just an introduction. If you really want to improve your intuition, try the following books.
- Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
by Malcolm Gladwell
- Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious by Gerd Gigerenzer (This is the science behind the book Blink)
Focusing by Eugene T. Gendlin
- The Power of Intuition: How to Use Your Gut Feelings to Make Better Decisions at Work by Gary Klein
- Intuition: Its Powers and Perilsby David G. Myers.
(1) Intuition. (n.d.). The American HeritageŽ Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved July 02, 2008, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/intuition