THE PSYCHOLOGICAL BASIS OF INTUITION

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 This is a guest post by behavioral specialist and metaphysician Jimmy Henderson (MA Psychology).

‘In the interval between words, between thoughts, comes understanding’. Krishnamurti

    The phenomenon of intuition is alluded to in psychological research, but given the term ‘immediate insight’ and linked to the appearance of spontaneous solutions to visual problems, allegedly based on a mental re-arrangement of elements taking place in the mind without any real conscious thought. However, I believe that intuition can be further explained as a process when, under certain circumstances, such as introspection, light slumber or during specific mental exercises such as visualization and meditation, the rational thinking processes are subdued or quieted, allowing the unconscious mind to assume dominance and  release information in the form of sensations, impressions and sometimes even images. These communications usually form the content of dreams, but when one has not yet fully entered the sleep cycle, or as mentioned, is in a highly subjective state, they can, for a few brief seconds, enter normal consciousness.

   This suggests that the fundamental principle of communication between conscious and unconscious processes underlies the phenomenon of intuition, which can now simply be explained as someone becoming aware of the promptings of his or her unconscious mind. This argument is supported by the fact that intuition can be activated simply by addressing specific questions to oneself and waiting expectantly for an appropriate response. Developing intuition is therefore an excellent method of building a working relationship with the unconscious mind. 

   As already mentioned, communications from the unconscious (intuitions), can present themselves as sensory impressions, verbal messages and even spontaneous images which can arise in the inner visual field. In this regard, the human body itself has an inherent intelligence which allows it to communicate its needs in the form of sensory impressions or cues which can sometimes act as an early warning system for preserving life and health. For example, feeling ill after a meal could suggest that one has eaten something disagreeable, and every person has, at some time or other, experienced hunger pains or uncomfortable feelings and sensations which indicate that food or drink is required. This principle forms the basis of many diagnostic and holistic treatments involving bio-feedback.

Sensory intuitions

   What is little known is that this ability to detect sensory cues can be strengthened, improved and used to detect emotional or psychological threats as well. For instance, research shows that, within any social context, clues as to peoples’ true feelings and intentions are embedded or hidden in their actions, body language, choice of words, nuances and emotional responses. In fact, most persons will admit to having experienced feelings of discomfort in some situations, but did not give them a second thought. In most cases these feelings are normally overlooked or simply ignored. In this regard, our unconscious minds are far more open to this type of feedback than our normal perception, and, under the right subjective conditions, could draw our attention to these sensory cues, some of which could suggest possible threats to our physical, emotional or psychological well-being.

 Intuition and imagery

   Due to the processes of translation and assembly inherent in human perception, our minds can construct messages and even images out of the impressions and communications from the unconscious mind. Exactly what is heard or seen will usually be based on our existing framework of schemas, (which are mental programs based on our past experiences), as well as our thinking paradigms and belief systems.

   The construction of intuitive visual images depends on the action of the same brain imagery centres that we use for our normal perception of the world (reality). However, in this case, the information is originating from inner processes (the unconscious mind) and not from the outside environment. Intuitive images represent a more powerful medium of communication than words and language. For example, some persons have reported receiving intuitive warnings of impending danger in the form of images of an accident flashing briefly through their consciousness, which links up with the previous section on unconscious cues warning us of possible threats. However, this does not exclude the possibility that some spontaneous imagery (visions) may have an external source.

    The problem that it is relatively easy for our own thoughts and ideas to enter and alter any subliminal messages, and for this reason, it is always important to maintain a clear and open mind when working with intuition. In this regard, intuitive imagery should be distinguished from an overactive imagination. As mentioned in my previous articles, a true intuitive message or image is immediate, presents itself spontaneously, and is not under our conscious control. 

 ‘The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.’ Albert Einstein

Interpretation

   As with all intuitive communications, the key to understanding the true meaning of intuitive messages or images would be in correct interpretation. In some cases, such as the accident warnings mentioned previously, images have been reported as being quite clear and precise. However, similar to dreams, intuitive images are usually shaped by our symbolic processes and merely contain elements or clues to the message and meaning hidden within their context, structure, form and composition. The meaning we attach to the images could also be influenced by our existing conceptual framework, those ideas, beliefs and values through which we normally view the world, as well as the unconscious schemas mentioned earlier, which contain ‘rules’ for thinking and interpretation based on our past experiences.

   Unfortunately, this all means that intuitive imagery cannot always be taken literally, and what is seen will normally need to be compared with our present storehouse of knowledge, framework of thinking and past experiences with similar situations, persons or objects, and interpreted metaphorically. For example, seeing an image of a log or large boulder on a road could represent a stumbling block along our present path, something that in real-life, we would have to walk around or climb over, and this would require additional introspection to identify that actual obstacle in our present life. 

   Finally, an entire scenario spontaneously unfolding in one’s consciousness is rarer than a single image, but has been reported in many credible cases. This could in fact, be classified as a vision, although it is normally believed that visions have an external origin. Once again, this scenario would be constructed in the mind from the components of an intuitive message and, as in the case of a dream, could provide information on one’s own inner states, emotions or thoughts. For example, a visual scenario involving an altercation between two figures could actually be mirroring an inner conflict, something of which one was not aware, and such intuitive self-insight will certainly be useful in resolving this issue.

Jimmy Henderson is a well-known behavioral specialist, metaphysician and regular radio talk show guest. He is the author of many articles as well as two spiritual self-help books entitled ‘Multi-Dimensional Thinking’ and ‘Multi-Dimensional Perception’ which are available at Exclusive Books, Amazon.com and kalahari.com. He is also a facilitator with Metavarsity, as well as a psychology tutor with the University of South Africa, and is based in Durban, South Africa. His website is www.jimmyhendersonbooks.com.

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