I’ve actually been developing my intuition – or my psychic abilities, which I believe to be basically the same thing – for quite a few years now. I haven’t been making a huge effort for all of those years, but I have kept attempting to use my abilities, becoming, I believe, gradually better at it.
What happened recently was that I realised just how frequently I had been ignoring my intuitions.
The trouble with intuitions is that they are subtle, and often hard to distinguish from other thoughts. And they often seem irrational, and so the more rational side of my mind questions them and often wants to ignore them.
For instance, not long ago I had an intuition to buy a bag of potato chips. My rationally-oriented mind didn’t see why I had to do so, though, so I ignored the intuition. The day after, I found myself in a rather horrible situation where I was immobilised by hunger and had to get help from my friends. If I had only listened to my intuition, I would have avoided a lot of pain.
Though the mistake I made was rather clear in this particular instance, I’ve had many different similar moments in my life, usually with smaller consequences. I’ve often had intuitions to buy something, for instance, which I ignored because I couldn’t find any rational sense in buying it; I then later needed that exact thing and had to go to the shop again. Or, as another, more recent example, I had the intuition to call a friend at a particular time yesterday and ignored it, thinking I could put it off till a bit later, and then later couldn’t call them. The consequence of that was that I upset my friend a little, something I would have definitely preferred to avoid.
I think it has been a help to me to just be somewhat aware when I have an intuition; to make a note of it, even when I don’t act on it. I think doing this helped me get to the point where I became rather frustrated with myself for not acting on what later turned out to be good intuitions, and to make the resolution to act on them more.
I obviously haven’t stuck to that resolution perfectly, as you can tell from the fact that I messed up yesterday. But I have been following my intuitions a bit more, with some good consequences.
The day before yesterday, I had to ask myself whether to do a trip I had been planning. It seemed like quite a bit of wasted money and effort, and no certain return on investment. However, in my intuition the trip felt very “light” and I felt filled with desire to do it.
So, I did it.
The morning of yesterday, I got thrown out of a train for holding up a sign asking if people wanted to share a ticket with me. (I knew it would probably annoy the train staff, but I expected just to get told off – instead I got a big man seriously power-tripping on me, going overly dramatic and tearing up my sign; I’m guessing he had a throbbing hard-on by the end of it). By absolute coincidence, I was thrown out in the town where my girlfriend lives. I decided to give up on my trip, as I’d had enough stress for one day, and spent a wonderful day with her.
I actually couldn’t have stayed with her if this hadn’t happened; it’s rather hard to convince the person she lives with to having visitors over. I don’t see my girlfriend that often and every moment I spend with her is precious to me. So, as you can see, following my intuition worked out really unexpectedly well this time.
Normally, I think I prefer to follow my intuition and risk being wrong when there isn’t much potential downside. Buying those things from the shop wouldn’t have harmed me in any perceivable way. Calling my friend earlier rather than later would have cost me nothing but laziness.
I had an intuition to take a different path back home from the train station last night. But the path I felt inspired to take was poorly lit, unpopulated, and scary-seeming. The downside was getting lost and scared, and, seeing as I’m a woman, a small chance of being targeted for sexual violence that I don’t want to entirely ignore.
So I ignored my intuition this time. Maybe one day when I’m more confident in my intuitions I will do stuff like that. Now I don’t need to.
I don’t think intuition is ever really wrong, but you can mess up when using it in two ways:
One, you can mistake something that is not intuition, for intuition. Intuition comes as a thought or feeling. You can get ego, imagination, or cravings, for instance, through the same channels.
Two, you can misread the signal. This happens less often, but sometimes you might, for example, get an image of roses, then go out and buy roses when what it actually means is that you should appreciate the beauty of life a bit more. (This is a stupid example, I invented it because I can’t remember of an actual example that has happened recently in my life, but hopefully you can get the idea).
I have slowly gotten better at distinguishing my true intuitions from other signals by learning to identify their distinct quality. They are gentler and less attention grabbing than fear-inspired thoughts. If they are not time-sensitive, they are often quite persistent; other thoughts tend to pass eventually, despite being noisier in the short term. Incidentally, because of this, when I’m unsure of what my intuition is saying I find I might go for a walk or just leave a decision off a bit longer; fearful thoughts pass, while persistent intuitions become more and more obvious to me over the long term.
As well as this, intuition sometimes seem to come from somewhere “else” than other thoughts; it might seem like a non-sequitur or not something I’d normally think in this situation. They can seem sometimes kind of brighter and more “real” than my imagination, like I have a tiny window in my head looking out onto some differently-located reality. And hopefully, you can distinguish them from your cravings by realising that they are not coming directly from your body or emotions. (If your intuition is to go have ice cream, for instance… well, it could be, but you might want to scrutinise that a bit).
This is seems to me somehow a little vague, which is probably a reflection of the fact that I still have a long way to go in mastering this skill. But this also just goes to show just how subtle the difference is.
I guess the best way of telling is to be rather alert. I think if you stop to observe a thought, it can be easier to tell if it is intuition or not. But, at least in my case, I often let the thought pass without paying much attention to it, and only notice later that perhaps I should have done so.
Then, acting on an intuition can be scary. I guess there is the fear of being wrong – a fear I’ve learned healthily from my phase of being over-confident in my intuitions. That can be something more or less rational, but then, you can also just be scared of messing up or looking silly. In which case, I think it’s worthwhile to be brave and just go ahead with following the intuition.
Your rationally-oriented mind wants an explanation for everything you do. When following intuitions, though, you can’t give it an explanation. Just – and this is advice I’m giving myself too – let it not need an explanation for what you’re doing, and act.
It feels like a leap of faith. It seems like the rationally-oriented mind, and always knowing WHY, gives you a sensation of safety – a sensation that is sometimes reasonable, sometimes not. Not knowing why and just doing can feel like jumping into the abyss. But be brave; the unknown is not always as bad as some parts of you would like to believe.
Something else that I find hard is explaining my actions to people when acting on intuitions. “I don’t know why, it just feels right” can be a bit hard for others to accept. They want an explanation and you can’t really give them one.
And I personally feel scared of looking stupid or irrational to others. But you can just say that you’re acting on an inexplicable intuition, and it’s normally not such a problem for people. So you can work on overcoming your fears there. Well, that’s what I’m working on.
Anyway, I find intuition a fascinating and rewarding thing to cultivate. So far what’s worked is just trying, again and again, to identify intuitions, and to either act on them, or not. To become more and more aware of what intuitions are like and what other thoughts are like. And, now that I’ve gotten a little better, I think it’s time for me to start being more confident in them and to learn the bravery to act on them despite not knowing why.
I do recommend giving this a go if you feel drawn to it. I wish I could recommend some resources about the topic, but so far for me it’s been a rather personal journey. I guess the one writer on the topic I can really recommend is the one who basically got me started down this road, Erin Pavlina.