Research Paper By Michele Spencer
(Life Coach, CANADA)
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
Dictionary.com defines intuition as a direct perception of truth, fact, etc., independent of any reasoning process; immediate apprehension.
Merriam-Webster dictionary has a slightly different definition which is that intuition is a natural ability or power that makes it possible to know something without any proof or evidence : a feeling that guides a person to act a certain way without fully understanding why.
In psychological research into intuition, it has been defined as a process in which information that is usually beyond regular cognitive processes is immediately sensed and perceived in both the body and mind as a certainty of knowledge or feeling about the entirety of a thing that is either distant or yet to happen. The “thing” that is referred to can be an object, entity, event or even a thought or idea.
It is generally thought that these intuitive perceptions are really just the brains wondrous ability to instantaneously paste together prior experiences, forgotten memories, and various knowledge that has accumulated over the lifespan of the individual. If this was the case then there would be no research into this subject as it would just be chalked up to a person’s ability to have higher cognitive processing. One reason there has been triggered research into this area is the fact that there are times when individuals “gut feelings” have been correct about things that are so outside of the realm of that individuals knowing, that it cannot be simply chalked up to prior experience. In these circumstances then, this intuitive perception is considered to be information that is outside of the individuals conscious and unconscious awareness.
The idea that an individual may be able to connect with information that is outside of their location or time may seem like a “magical” idea but a look at some of the data that has been gathered in the field of quantum physics shows that, although this is a little understood area, it nevertheless exists. As early as 1989 there have been scientific papers written describing a kind of “communication” between various particles that are far apart from one another. In other instances it has been recorded that particles “act as if they have knowledge of events before the events actually happen” (McCraty, Atkinson, and Bradley, 2004) which has led to speculation that on a quantum level particles are interconnected in a way that we do not understand.
In the aforementioned paper one of the findings from their experiment was that when they were investigating they discovered that the heart reacted intuitively before the brain did. Although it was only a span of seven seconds this was incredibly significant in that it is always been assumed that, based on the idea that intuition comes from either our consciousness or unconsciousness, there should be no reason for the heart to react first. In this research it was found that the process of decoding intuitive information involved the heart. Although this may be surprising to some individuals a look back on almost all of the different cultures of humanity shows that the heart his always been seen as something more than a simple biological pump.
All people possess the ability to be intuitive, it is a part of being. The differences between people is that for some they trust and act upon their intuition much more readily than others. In the Myers Briggs personality test if a person defines themselves in the following way they are generally regarded as being more intuitive than sense.
- I remember events by what I read "between the lines" about their meaning.
- I solve problems by leaping between different ideas and possibilities.
- I am interested in doing things that are new and different.
- I like to see the big picture, then to find out the facts.
- I trust impressions, symbols, and metaphors more than what I actually experienced
- Sometimes I think so much about new possibilities that I never look at how to make them a reality.
In the book You Do Know, by Becky Walsh, she proposes that everybody has intuition and that it is not some sort of paranormal or extraordinary ability but rather a life skill that can be developed. Where the skill comes in is the determining of whether what a person is experiencing is true intuitive knowing or whether the origin of it is in fact the person’s ego. Strangely enough one of the only ways to determine whether what you are sensing is true intuition or ego is to apply a logical mind to it. With an understanding that one of the biggest jobs that the ego mind has is to keep us safe, checking in to see whether your “gut reaction” comes from a base of fear is a quick way to determine its origins. An example would be that you have a “bad feeling” about a person that you have just met but upon deeper introspection what you uncover is that they actually remind you of someone that you had a negative experience with. At this point then you would be unable to know if that really was truly intuitive or just the ego trying to protect you based on a previous experience. This indicates that the greater that you know yourself and engage in self reflection frequently, the easier it becomes to know when you are being triggered by the ego mind. Taking time to assess the situation, consider the data, if there is any, and then take a moment to “feel” can lead to confirmation that it is the ego or intuition that is pointing you in a certain direction.
According to Gary Klein, author of The Power Of Intuition, other things that can block intuition and make it unreliable is that the response to intuition is done too quickly and that the information being received is inaccurate and perhaps based on misinformation from previous experiences or being influenced by unrelated emotions. There is also a chance that, because of previous solutions that have worked, the information being received may be limited in scope because it is based on just the person’s current experience level. This may limit the number of options that the person considers as they tend to stick to what they know. This also leads into the fact that many people have their own inherent prejudices, which can lead to a lack of openness in their own thought process or in the intuitiveness of others. On the other side of this though a person who believes themselves to be completely intuitive and relies on it without question may forget to use logic to determine if it is appropriate in a particular situation.
Unlocking your Intuition
There are some steps that can be taken to increase the reliability of your intuition, or at least make it so that you have greater trust in it. First would be to simply examine your belief systems, are you really only comfortable believing in things that are based on facts and evidence? If so this will block your ability to trust in your intuition. In cases like this than it is advisable to reflect back on times when you had a “gut feeling” and it was correct regardless whether you chose to listen to it or not. Talking to people that you respect who have had the same thing happened to them can also increase your ability to be open to the process of utilizing intuition. If you are determined to continue to increase your confidence and ability in the area of intuition in the next few steps should help as well.
Develop your listening skills seems like a straightforward thing to do but a lot of times we don’t listen fully and so can lose some of the vital information that we need for decision-making. The more information that you can get about any situation the more able your intuition can kick in and provide another perspective/solution. When this occurs then reflect on information that is coming to you check to see if this might be your ego triggering a response. If at this point it passes your own initial assessment perhaps talking to other people that are involved in the situation can be the part of the reflective process. If possible being able to explain the rationale behind your intuition can be a way to help you feel more confident. It is also useful if the people that you reflect with know you and so can pick out if it is ego mind that is a part of your process. The more you are able to apply logic and practices, the more confident and the better you will become at understanding your intuition and its reliability. But because part of what your mind does is compute facts based on situations, reading up on solutions to various situations that have occurred in the past can also help your mind become more expanded in the possibilities and options of potential future solutions.
One of the biggest blocks to intuition though is when trying to apply it to a decision that is emotionally charged. These would be in situations such as who to get married to, is this person the right person to go into business with, basically any time there is a relationship involved you find emotions involved. It is important to understand that your emotions can change, and when relationships run into difficulty your intuition may no longer be relied on. This is the area where intuitive decision making may have to deal with the greatest amount of challenge. Relationships take a lot of work generally, therefore decisions that have an impact on personal/working relationships will be best served by become more open, explicit and rational especially when there are several people involved. This can be extremely difficult for people who are strongly driven by the combination of intuition and emotion to make decisions.
To make this an easier process, like what was mentioned in the beginning of this paper, doing regular self reflections will make it possible for you to recognize the signals that your emotions are giving you. Generally you will begin to see patterns unfolding in your emotional state based on situations and events both internally and in your external environment. This will provide insight as to when you can rely on your intuition, recognizing when it is being accurate or emotionally based. As intuitive decision-making is a skill that can be honed the more you practice it and reflect upon it the more you will become confident as to when it is being accurate and useful.
- Describe a time when you had an intuitive feeling and it proved to be accurate. Where did you feel it being expressed physically?
- What supports do you have in your life to reflect on your intuitive process that will provide you more objective feedback?
- You have completed the action process above, how are you feeling?
Coaching With Intuition
Once you are in a place where you can feel more confident and comfortable using your intuition its usefulness as a coaching tool will come in when you are working with your client. In these instances when your intuition fires up and you recognize it as being triggered by the client it will provide you with some insight so that you can utilize this in the form of asking powerful questions. This can be quite impactful because it can go to a deeper, more meaningful level for the client as it will be based more on perhaps what they’re not saying but what you’re sensing. The more you are able to utilize this skill with your clients the greater your ability to be intuitive becomes. But as always it is important to stay in the moment and be aware so that you do not become complacent thinking that everything you sense is real, as always if in doubt check with your client.
The other facet to this is that once you have gained this ability you can help facilitate the process of your client developing their intuitive ability should they so desire. An example with this would be if you had a client that had a very difficult decision to make and this person was very logic oriented, they may choose to do a pro and con list in order to weigh out the various options. If they came to a place where no clear-cut decision was available to them than an option would be to get them to see how they intuitively feel about this. This provides them with an opportunity to move outside of the head as their only source of information, and as they are discovering through research, activating their heart as a source of intuitive knowledge.
As a coach this provide you with another tool where the client is able to access all information that is possibly available to them. Some ways that you can help the client further develop their skills is by introducing the idea of mindfulness practice, what this provides is bringing a person into the present moment and becoming aware of what their emotions and body are telling them. This can be done by simply asking them to stop for a moment, take a breath and tune in to whatever is going on inside of them as they talk about their situation. If this seems like a strange idea to your client it could be an opportunity for you to talk about intuition and their experience with this. If this turns out to be something that they’re interested in then in future sessions with them you could just ask them what their intuition is telling them.
It also may be useful to combine intuition with other tools that can be used in coaching. A combination could be something such as using visualization and get your client to explore what is going on for them and remaining in tune to how it’s making them feel. An interesting aspect of intuition that was put forward by Becky Walsh was that there are four kinds of intuition. One kind was a mental intuition where a person gets pictures and images. Another kind is a physical intuitive whereby the body will respond in a particular way. She described another type of intuition has being emotional intuitive whereby the person will be tuned into their client’s emotional state and the last kind was spiritual intuition which can be more vague as a person is more in tuned with the entire environment. Every person can have a little bit of all of these but one may be more dominant than the others and so learning how your intuition triggers you and your client and let you know that something’s going on increases your skill.
- How aware are you of your intuition behind your decisions?
- What can you put in place (i.e. structures) to learn more about your intuition?
- What questions can you ask your client to help them discover their intuition?
- What process or ritual do you have in place to create an intuition before your coaching sessions?
ICF website, 2015. Article by Satyam Veronica Chalmers, PCC Looking at Type: The Fundamentals. Charles R. Martin (CAPT 1997)
Walsh, B. (2013). You do know: Learning to act on intuition instantly. London: Hay House.
Rollin McCraty, Mike Atkinson, and Raymond Trevor Bradley. Electrophysiological Evidence of Intuition: Part 1:The Surprising Role of the Heart. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Volume 10, Number 1, 2004, pp. 133–143