If you spend any time hanging out in spiritual spaces or communities, you've probably heard the word 'intuition' thrown around a fair bit but are you clear on what it actually means to you? You've also probably been told to trust it or to follow it, but how can you do that if you're not sure on what it is or how to access it? I'm going to share my experience and understanding of what intuition is and where it resides so you can get clear on how to access it and the benefits of using it!
What is intuition?
Whenever I'm trying to understand something better, I always find it helpful to start with the definition of what it is, so let's start there!
According to Oxford Languages, intuition can be defined as:
the ability to understand something instinctively, without the need for conscious reasoning.
a thing that one knows or considers likely from instinctive feeling rather than conscious reasoning.
So it's an understanding or knowledge that comes from feeling something without using intellect, logic or conscious thinking. It's when you don't know why you know something but your 'gut' just tells you - I'm sure we've all experienced that before!
There's another definition or understanding of intuition that I want to explore which is 'psychic intuition'. This type of intuition seems to go beyond the regular gut feeling that we all know about but perhaps fewer of us have experienced. It's when we use our intuition to channel other energies or access other levels of thought/consciousness that aren't available with our 5 senses or intellectual mind. You'll probably hear the Third Eye being associated with this type of intuition and as being the centre point for where it derives.
When we talk about 'intuition', I feel like it's this 'psychic' type that takes precedence and is what people tend to focus on. Whilst I believe both types of intuition to be true and real, with us all having access to them, I also feel that the focus placed on 'psychic' intuition has diminished the legitimacy and benefits of connecting with and using the 'gut' intuition.
My understanding and experience of intuition is that it's our own personal inner voice and so when we focus on using it to access the 'divine' or other energy sources, we move to powers outside of ourselves instead of the power within. I understand intuition to be the wisdom and knowledge that comes from within us, that we may not be consciously aware of. Some might say that this still comes from sources outside of ourselves and while I don't think it really matters where you believe this knowledge comes from, I do think that there's some basis for it in psychological theory which might help explain it better and support us in accessing it.
The Organismic Self
That's a fun word right? There were lots of mishaps pronouncing this when I was training but I digress... The Organismic Self is one of the many parts of the self that make up who you are as an individual person on this planet. It is present right from the moment you're born and knows what you need from a survival point of view and also from a personal development perspective. The Organismic Self instinctively tells you when you're hungry and thirsty or when saying 'no' to that invite is better for you and whether it's in your best interest to take that job offer or not. Perhaps the Organismic Self is the Higher Self that we also hear so much about when discussing intuition - both the Higher Self and Organismic Self want what's going to be best for us.
So if you ask me, the Organismic Self is that gut feeling, it is that voice telling you to get an early night and to set firmer boundaries or whatever it is that's in your best interests.
The Problem with Intuition
As we grow up, we start looking for validation and answers outside of ourselves, so much so that we're willing to distrust and ignore our inner values that come from the Organismic Self or our intuition. You might think you'll be liked more if you do that thing, even if it's not what you really want to do. Or you might want to look a certain way because that's what the media reinforces as being good or attractive but it's not necessarily what feels good for you. In essence, we learn to trust and satisfy what comes from outside of ourselves instead of what's within.
It's not all bad. Sometimes this can be supportive in helping us fit in or adhere to societal norms and expectations but it can be really difficult to differentiate between what's helpful and what's not. Eventually, we may just find ourselves defaulting to distrusting our intuition and accepting the external information coming in, because we need the external validation and confirmation more.
Trusting Your Intuition
'Trust your intuition' or 'follow your intuition' they say... They're phrases that are thrown around a lot in spiritual circles without much credence given to what it actually means. I remember getting so frustrated when I was first learning about spirituality and personal development because all I would ever see was advice to follow your intuition but never much on how to actually do it!!
So what does it mean? Trusting your intuition means listening to the inner voice that knows what's best for you and then acting on it. I'm sure we've all heard that voice before, the one that tells us going to the party isn't a great idea? But then we go anyway because we're afraid of missing out.... Imagine if all the times you'd heard that voice, you actually followed through on its guidance? I wonder what would have been different?
When you trust your intuition, you're trusting the inner values that comes with your Organismic Self. We're all as unique as each other and so are our Organismic Selves, so we'll all have different needs, values and motivations. The point is, whenever you listen to your intuition (or Organismic Self) and then act on it, you are trusting it.
The trouble with trusting intuition is that we can get so used to defaulting to everything outside of ourselves that it becomes harder and harder to connect with it and hear it. Sometimes, we forget what our organismic needs and values are altogether. The following worksheet is a helpful exercise in reconnecting with what's important to you and what drives you. You can visit the website to download the original copy to fill in or you might like to use it for journal prompts.
This worksheet is taken from Russ Harris's 'Values' worksheet and might help you reconnect with and get clear on what your values are. Values are not goals. They are the motivations that drive you towards your goals. For example a relationship goal might be to get married but a value would be to be a loving, supportive partner.
If you're interested in learning more you can visit Russ's website www.thehappinesstrap.com where you can also find the original worksheet and more free resources.
Once you're clearer on what your values are and how closely you're living/acting in alignment with them, you can start to see what you might need to do or change in order to become even more in alignment with them.
Another great and super simple exercise, is to do a body scan where you start at the bottom of your body and work your way to the top. As you focus on different areas or body parts, pay attention to the physical sensations you can feel. You might feel things externally e.g. where clothing touches your skin or the chair leg touches you. You might feel internal sensations e.g. aches, pains, tingling, heart beat etc. The sensations might be broad or very specific, it doesn't matter. The aim of this exercise is to help you tune into your own experience and because its physical, its undeniable. No one can tell you it's not real or have an opinion on it. It sounds incredibly simple but it's a powerful tool in strengthening your ability to tune into your own experience and inner voice, and to trust what it is telling you.
Putting this another way, how many times have you felt pain somewhere in your body but ignored it and carried on with your tasks/activities anyway? Aches and pains are a not so subtle way of your body telling you that you need to stop or change something and more often than not, we ignore it! This exercise is the opposite of that.
The Benefits of Trusting Your Intuition
When you trust your intuition and act in a way that is in alignment with it, you'll be able to live a life that is authentic and true to you. You will feel more in control of your life and the direction that you're heading in because it will be your voice that you will be listening to. Trusting your intuition will help you be more decisive, eliminate the need to compare yourself to others and help you communicate your needs better to others. You'll rarely feel like you're compromising on anything because you'll always be acting in your own best interests. The way I look at it, there really isn't much of a downside to tapping into this wise and supportive resource that lies within!
I hope this has helped you understand what your intuition is and why it's beneficial to access it. Once we learn to trust ourselves more fully, we're more able to live a life that feels good and is true to ourselves!
Counselling Tutor - Organismic Self