Intuition - What is it really?

Intuition....that elusive harmony of life all of us possess. Mostly unacknowledged and worse, misunderstood by many psychologists and academics, it can guide us faithfully if only we could bring ourselves to stand still long enough.


On a cold sunny day just before the Christmas holiday a young shop assistant tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘There’s a lady over in the greeting card section who’s weeping and looks very distressed. She says her son died a few months ago and it’s his twenty first birthday today. She wants to give him a card and I don’t know what to say to her’.

The instant thought that came first was to drop everything, let the long queues of customers wait and head over there to offer some comfort and a cup of tea maybe, so that she could talk about her grief at losing a beloved child.

The next thought that came was, ‘I’ll finish bagging up here and take the money, it won’t take more than a minute or two.

Of course when I did get there she was gone. And even though I stepped into the street to look there was no longer any sign of her.

We inevitably experience a feeling of failure when our intuition speaks and we don’t act. It was my shop. I could have done whatever seemed right and I did not.

Similarly, on the last day of a holiday in Tunisia, a final tour had taken us to see a nearby town for last minute purchases and souvenirs. We’d done our shopping, had a nice lunch and were waiting patiently to board the coach that would take us back to our hotel to pack.

Standing all by himself, in the huge parking area about ten metres away, was a young boy maybe nine or ten years old. But uncharacteristically he was not approaching our little queue to beg for money, as was usually the case. We had seen for ourselves the poverty that was mostly well hidden from the affluence of our tourist quarters and we knew children were routinely sent out to ask for money. Nudging my friends I said, ‘Lets give him all our loose change, we won’t be needing it any more’. A grumpy man watching us boomed out, ‘Put your money away, don’t give him a damn thing – he’s just a beggar’. We were young then and did as we were told.

It was a dismal day for Tunisia with overcast skies and a slight drizzle aptly reflecting our mood as we pulled away from the now deserted coach park, leaving behind a lonely little figure forlornly waiting in his shorts and bare feet.

A month or so later I remembered the boy as I tossed the now useless coins into the designated container in the charity shop. David G. Myers, a Hope College social psychologist, is the author of Intuition: Its Powers and Perils He explores the effect of fear and misjudged confidence on intuition and offers this opinion in his entertaining and much acclaimed book. “Intuition — automatic, effortless, unreasoned thinking — guides our lives. Intuition feeds our automatic behaviours and grows from learned expertise”

This is a misinterpretation. The act of thinking plays no part in intuition. Once we apply our thoughts in any given situation we bring the full gamut of our emotions into the picture, including fear, that most destructive of all emotions.

Intuition is serendipity. It presents itself in the right place at the right time and offers us an opportunity to solve a problem, help a fellow human or simply do the right thing. It springs from our Eternal Soul and teaches us in a single moment what a whole lifetime of struggle and endeavour could not. Intuition is unsummoned and visits unannounced. Then like a shaft of sunlight on a cloudy day, just as quickly it is gone. We may choose to notice it or not but it doesn’t bear scrutiny or the jackboots of intellectualism and calculation..

The next time you’re prompted to act, pay heed to the little whisper that came before any rational thought, because that was your intuition.


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