If you’re anything like me, you want to be more intuitive, but suffer crippling bouts of self-doubt when the opportunity presents itself. This happens when you meet Alice who seems nice on the surface, but your soul starts withdrawing; curling up into a ball because something just feels wrong about her.
“But she seems nice!” You reason with yourself. “My friend Ashley is really close with her. Ashley is a good person, and she wouldn’t hang out with Alice if she was no good. I’m probably just projecting my own fears onto her. God knows I’ve got so many issues it’s probably just me being suspicious and reading into things!”
Three months into being friends with Alice, you are crying your eyes out in the bathroom because she’s asking you for money every week even though you’re struggling to make ends meet yourself. She’s sleeping with four different guys, and pretending that she’s in exclusive relationships with all of them—but she’ll still come to you crying over the fact that one of them is cheating on her with another woman. She gives you advice about how to raise your children even though she doesn’t have any, and she gossips about Ashley behind her back.
“How did I get myself into this mess?” You ask yourself, feeling in too deep and not sure how to get yourself out. “Oh, wait a second!” You say. “I remember: I knew she was bad news the moment I met her. Why didn’t I listen?”
Sound familiar? Well, this is just a scenario that I pulled out of my hypothetical-situation bag, but we’ve all found ourselves in similar circumstances, right? So below are a few tips on how I’ve been learning to recognize when my intuition is speaking, or whether it is, in fact, simply just fear or suspicion. Like other skills, though, listening to intuition becomes easier with practice. So try not to beat yourself if you make mistakes because you don’t trust yourself. That will come with time and lots of self-compassion.
What Is Intuition?
To the sceptics among us, do not fear! Intuition isn’t some magical, pie-in-the-sky super power that only the Halliwell sisters possess (don’t hate me for my Charmed references). Sadhguru explains it like this,
“Intuition means a different level of computing. Not a different level of perception. Spiritual process or mysticism means moving into a different level of perception. For this you have to enhance your perception. Intuition is just a different level of computing. If I ask you to multiply 1736 with 18,304, what is the number? You don’t know. But if you buy a handy little calculator, it will come up. So is it smarter than you? No! It is just that you have to go through 25 steps to get to that number. It [the calculator] is just jumping to it [the number]. This is intuition.”
So if we look at the two distinct methods Sadhguru talks about for drawing upon information, one is conscious, left-brained, and analytical. The other is subconscious, right-brained, and intuitive.
In the documentary InnSaei, different neuroscientists, spiritual practitioners, and artists discuss the way that our society has become analytical at the expense of our intuition. And that it’s not just affecting our personal lives, but the planet as a whole. I see this reflected in our obsession with doing rather than being. We are so productivity and results focused that we neglect process and presence. So it makes sense that when we encounter something—and experience cautionary intuition about it—that we doubt ourselves; we switch into our society’s default for over-analysis, distrust our deepest instincts, and proceed without caution.
The “No. Just No. ” Factor
Not entirely eloquent, I know, but this is the only way I’ve been able to describe it to myself. When I encounter a person or opportunity that makes me immediately feel that sense of “Nope. I don’t know why, but just nope.” This is my intuition.
This is my right brain saying, “Hey, Carrie! Me and your left-brain have been talking. Alice seems cool on the surface, but even though you’re not aware of it consciously, her body language is the same as every other liar that you’ve met in your life. The way she laughs is similar to the laugh of every gossip and meddler whose web you’ve been caught up in the past. Her oversharing the first time you met is a trait that every person you’ve known who doesn’t respect boundaries has possessed. It’s going to take too long for me to say all this to you in a few milliseconds so I’m going to put ALL this information into a dossier about Alice, and send it to you via the sensation you have labelled “Nope. Just Nope.”
In the past, I’ve heard intuition explained as a subconscious recognition of breaks in pattern. So while we may not be aware of certain tell-tale signs on a surface level, our senses have stored information in our subconscious filing cabinets about all the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and physical-touch sensations that we have gathered over the course of our lifetime. There is no way that we could function on a day-to-day basis if we were processing this lifetime of accumulated knowledge consciously. So that work is being done in the majority of our brain that is working behind the scenes on our behalf.
Knowledge. Not interpretation.
One mistake that we make when we experience intuition about people, situations, and opportunities is to expect to be able to understand why we feel that something is wrong. If that is how intuition worked it wouldn’t be intuition anymore. It would be psychic ability. And because of this we lead ourselves into a spiral of confusion about the information we’re picking up, and convince ourselves that it’s just our mind coming up with things. But intuition is not supposed to be decoded and interpreted. It is not a mathematical equation to be broken down into steps in order to reach the correct answer. Intuition, the sensation, is the answer itself. We generally don’t know the why, but we have to learn to be okay with it. Which leads me to my final point.
Why Would You Feel It If It Wasn’t True?
We all know emotion is fickle. Fear is an emotion. And I only tend to experience it after I’ve experienced an intuitive knowing. In my experience, intuition comes first. Then fear comes second—followed by confusion. There is a time to analyse and reason. But there is also a time to trust. And if we’re feeling “Nope. Just Nope.” about something—and that instinct has been proven true time and time again—maybe it’s time for us to stop trying to convince ourselves that we’re not smart, spiritual, or healed enough to be able to truly perceive what is going on. Who are we to say that this person is bad news? Who are we to say there is something fishy about this new business opportunity? Well, the flipside of that is the following question: who will we be when we’re suffering the consequences of being too scared to trust ourselves.
It’s scary to think about how powerful we actually are. But it’s also necessary for us to accept and embrace it in order to survive. We have what it takes to navigate our way around things that aren’t beneficial for us. And, in the same breath, we have what it takes to find the path that will lead to our greatest good.