We all have the power to collect cues subconsciously before we are actually aware of them. Whether you call it a gut feeling, a hunch, a sneaky suspicion or the sixth sense, intuition offers a course of action without much rational thought. Intuition can help you decide what you should embrace and what you should avoid long before you’ve had time to analyze the situation.
We subconsciously adjust our behaviour many times a day. In fact, shortcuts like these were probably an evolutionary survival mechanism that allowed us to react quickly to dangerous external stimulus. Everything about the environment – what you see, feel, smell and touch – is instantaneously computed. Of course, we can’t track or attend to all the details of everything we experience in a conscious way, so instead, some of this processing takes place ‘behind the curtain’ (think Wizard of Oz, the whole “pay no attention to the little man behind the curtain”).
How the brain makes these unconscious decisions is just beginning to be understood. The brain is a highly organized storage facility capable of evaluating and filing every experience. For efficiency purposes, the brain also has a fondness for patterns; all new experiences are quickly matched against ones that have already occurred. The positive side of this pattern-matching is intuition, which allows you to cut to the chase, act faster and use less energy.
Consider the funny feeling in the pit of your stomach. In the English language, the tacit understanding we all have that intuition is related to the gut is memorialized in phrases such as ‘go with your gut’, ‘gut instincts’ and so on. This is more than mere language. Much like the brain, the gastrointestinal tract is home to an abundant network of nerves, which is why it is often called the “second brain.” When the brain receives certain input from the environment, a surge of nerve activity travels via the vagus nerve into your core, causing that “gut” feeling.
I can bang on about this all night . . . but I won’t. In a future post, I’ll try to connect it intuition to the process of creative writing.
References and More Readings on Intuition
Mayer, Elizabeth Lloyd. Extraordinary Knowing: Science, Skepticism, and the Inexplicable Powers of the Human Mind. Bantam, 2008. ISBN 978-0553382235