How Intuition Works

In the last post The Meaning of Intuition I talked about how I conceive of intuition as being a wise and knowing aspect of ourselves. The dictionary definition of intuition, “direct perception of truths, facts, etc., independently of any reasoning process” raises two questions. How does this direct perception operate? If it is independent of any reasoning process, does that mean it is illogical or irrational?

Our experience of the world, how we relate to it and make sense of it, is based on a wide range of faculties. There are lots of different models, we could use, but lets say we experience the world though our bodies, our hearts, and our minds. Intuition is somehow plugged into how we experience the world through all of these faculties. It takes into account how we are feeling in our bodies, our emotions, and our thoughts. It takes in and processes material from all these faculties at a subconscious level. The human brain is an incredible instrument, and intuition is the brains way of processing an complex array of impressions and messages, and making sense of them for us, so that we can act without becoming totally overwhelmed. A lot of the processing happens in the background, so that it seems as if the impressions that intuition provides us with pop up out of nowhere.

The great strength of intuition is that it is able to make use of a wider range of information than our rational mind. In picking up on things like physical sensations and emotional reactions it offers a more complete assessment of the situation that our rational mind is capable of. What makes us anxious about intuition, and disinclined to trust it, is that we are not fully aware of the process it is going through, the factors it is taking into account, and why it is coming up with a particular idea or perspective. Since it appears to be occurring “independently of any reasoning process” we feel that it must be irrational or illogical, and therefore untrustworthy.

But is it true that reasoning is not taking place? I would prefer to describe intuition as non-rational or non-logical, because it does not give priority to the logic of our rational minds, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t make sense. Intuition occurs independent of a conscious reasoning process. Goodness knows what our brains are doing in the background to come up with these ideas, but in my experience, genuine intuitions can be backed up with reasoning and explanations if necessary.

There are a couple of factors at play here. Typically intuitions develop over time, and it is quite possible to have been learning, researching and mulling over options in the area the intuition is addressing. This process has been informing the intuitive mind, and giving it background to work with. During this process “reasoning” is occurring in a soft and subtle way, in a form of sifting and filtering that you may not even be aware of.

The other factor that comes into play is what I am going to call “the logic of the heart.” The elusive aspects of our being that we call it our hearts, our emotions, our souls, have their own logic, their own priorities. They want things like love and happiness and satisfaction that might not be on the scientific rating scale our rational mind wants to use to made decisions. Sometimes when we are trying to make good rational decisions, we undervalue the logic of our hearts. If it is working well, our intuition values it for us.

If this is the case, we need not fear intuition as being illogical or irrational, as long as we are prepared to give value to what we feel in our hearts, as well as our minds.  If we are willing to do this, then intuition can be a very efficient method for sifting incoming information and providing us with ideas about what to do next. I have found that sometimes a course of action that seems the most sensible doesn’t work out because my heart isn’t in it. That’s why I am have decided to give intuition a chance.

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