Demystifying the Sixth Sense
Dear Marta: How can I use my intuition in relationships?
Dear Reader: I’m so glad you asked!
This shows a real sensitivity to others in your life.
You’re aware that you want to use your intuition in a way that doesn’t sound like “My way or the highway!" or "No, I don’t need to explain my thinking to you because my wisdom is so far beyond reason you wouldn’t understand.”
In other words, you want to use your intuition with confidence and in a way that’s not presumptuous or absolutist.
Here’s the guiding question I would keep in mind when navigating this realm of intuition-in-use:
“How can I use my intuition in a way that empowers rather than overpowers?”
And here are some steps that help me to answer that question:
- Understand it. Understanding intuition is the first step to using it in an empowering way.
We understand intuition as an immediate knowing or understanding, likely derived from feeling rather than conscious cognition. Philosophy professor Massimo Pigliucci rounds out the explanation: "..at bottom, intuition is about the brain’s ability to pick up on certain recurring patterns." Essentially intuition is a thought that comes to us very quickly, probably as a result of being able to subconsciously ascertain certain patterns. For instance, we may immediately know that our friend is upset about something. But if we took a step back, and slowed things down, we may see that this intuitive knowing comes not from the genius of the ether but from something we picked up in our friend’s voice, posture, face, or even something we felt in our own body.Rather than actually being some sort of esoteric sixth sense, our intuition instead acts to rapidly interpret information we pick up through our five other senses - often without us consciously registering that we received any sensory input at all.
- Slow down and articulate the pieces. Now that we understand how rapidly intuition works, our task is to slow down enough that we can articulate both our hunch, and, if we can, the sensory information that preceded our hunch.
In the sad friend example, we may say something like:“ I noticed your voice just dropped when you said that. I have a sense this was really sad for you.” Or, if we can’t quite put our finger it, we may say, “Something in your voice felt a little sad to me.”
Contrast this with assuming your friend is sad, accusing them of some sadness they may or may not be feeling, or worse - jumping in to cure them of their hypothetical sadness!
At this point, your intuition is in the realm of hypothesis. Treat it as such.
Here’s a little sensory cheat sheet to remind you of some of the range of information that we may be subconsciously processing too fast to notice!:
- Sight - facial expressions, gestures, losing or gaining color in the cheeks
- Hearing- changes in vocal tone, in volume; 'extraneous' non-verbal sounds, sighs
- Sensation - waves of emotions passing through our body, temperature on our skin, itches
- Check it. This is the most essential of all the steps. Not only does this honor the other person, but it empowers both of you to use your “hunch” as a vehicle for deepening understanding. We use our intuition as a jumping off point, not as an end-point. Use your curiosity, and don’t be attached to whether your intuition is right or wrong. Remember, it’s just a thought!
Here’s an example of how your might check your intuition: “I’m sensing that you’re still upset about that, but maybe I’m making that up. What’s true for you?”Invite the other person to confirm, deny, or tweak your hypothesis. By using intuition as a tool for deepening our understanding, it serves to empower rather than overpower us.
- Go deeper. Know that this skill can be used in self-inquiry as well as relationships. We can slow down, articulate, and check our intuitions about ourselves as well. Try dialoguing with yourself next time you have a strong intuition - ask what preceded the intuition, and ask yourself - does this feel true? Untrue? Mostly true but a bit different? Feel free to explore.
Tell me about your experience with this method of channeling intuition in the comments. I’d love to hear - challenges and successes!
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