I get really jazzed about intuition. I’m an intuitive person and rely deeply on my intuition to guide me towards authentic, meaningful choices. But I notice there’s a lot of confusion about what intuition actually is. How do you know when that little voice inside of you is your intuition? And if it’s not intuition, what is it?
Simply put, intuition is nonconscious information coming from our bodies and our emotional and spiritual selves. Researchers who are studying intuition explain it as our ability to make decisions or perceive information “without rational, analytical thought or inference.” And what they found is pretty cool: “Nonconscious emotional information can boost accuracy and confidence in a concurrent emotion-free decision task, while also speeding up response times.” So your intuition is a really good decision maker.
Intuition resides in our emotions and our bodies. But so does fear, trauma, and our desire to protect ourselves, also known as the ego. That’s why when people tell you to just “listen to your intuition,” it can feel really confusing to know when the little voice actually IS intuition. Our trauma can mislead us into thinking it’s our intuition, but really it’s our ego that’s trying to keep us safe.
For example, I often have clients tell me that their intuition is saying they shouldn’t do the big risky thing they’re considering, like leave their marriage, take the Europe trip, quit their job, buy the dream house, etc. But really, what they’re responding to is their ego.
Your ego is often informed by past trauma. It’s going to do everything in its power to keep you from experiencing another trauma…by staying small and not taking risks. That may be the safe option, but trust me, it’s a very limited and lonely way to live. That’s not for you. If it was, you wouldn’t be on my email list.
It’s not that your ego is all bad or all wrong. Your ego is going to protect you from walking down dark alleys at night, which is a good thing. But when your ego has so much power and control over your decisions and actions, to the point that you’re silencing your intuition — that’s a problem.
So what do we do?
- Stay in the body. Ego and intuition may both be speaking to you but they’re going to feel really different on a somatic level. Ego feels heavy and limiting. Intuition usually feels light or energizing.
- Keep it simple. Intuition is usually simple and doesn’t have a lot of moral judgement attached, I want to be in nature right now, and ego thrives on confusion, complexity, logic and comparisons: you don’t have time to go hiking right now, you should be doing something more productive, what kind of person goes hiking at noon, I bet the traffic will be bad, we need to make a smart decision here.
- Practice, practice, practice. The more you listen, the louder your intuition will get and the more you’ll be able to tell the different voices apart. You won’t get this perfect and sometimes you will follow your fear instead of your intuition. That’s okay. Keep listening.