Intuition, instinct. Those two words are sometimes interchangeable although I would probably ascribe slightly different shades of meaning to each, as intuition frequently gets used pejoratively, especially when used as a phrase “woman’s intuition”. But I won’t go there today. Instead I want to talk about that innate sense of instinct or intuition when you just feel something – good or bad – about a situation or a person.
This is a powerful, invisible sense emanating from our physical bodies, not from our heads or our thoughts. Instinct can be described as an unconscious or subconscious ‘knowing’ and yet how many of us really hone that gift, and make use of it? It acts as a powerful compass for all living creatures on the planet but many of us don’t pay too much attention to what is described as our “sixth sense”. Humans just like other animals could not survive without it. Even when we don’t recognise that this sense is as valuable and necessary as sight or hearing, we are often, in any given situation, performing instinctively or automatically. In the animal kingdom as well as ours, it can mean the difference between life or death; drives birds and butterflies to migrate; salmon to swim upstream and human beings to take action before conscious thought kicks in.
How many times have you felt instinctively comfortable with someone you have just met or, conversely as I recently did, very uncomfortable. These intuitive ‘feelings’ are described as resonance and dissonance. Even if those are unfamiliar terms, most of us have the experience of immediately ‘hitting it off’ with a stranger and feeling as if we are old friends or the opposite, meeting someone for the first time and instinctively drawing back from them. I’m not saying that it is necessarily sinister, only that for some reason, we are not always at the same level of resonance as the other person and if we are not we cannot be comfortable or compatible. I have always had a very powerful sense of intuition and learned to listen to it very early in life which has served me well but also led to some un-nerving moments when I felt something was about to happen out of the blue, or someone popped randomly into my head and a few minutes later there they would be unexpectedly right in front of me. I’ve also almost always known, in advance before a job interview or a meeting, whether it would be successful or not, whether I should take a certain action or not and on two separate occasions the exact moments when my mother died and my father-in-law passed, both when I was thousands of miles away in another country but verified later by making time adjustments.
As recently as this week I drove a friend to meet the captain of a catamaran for whom she was to take up the position of first mate. She had never met him in person but had no misgivings. However, as soon as he started walking towards the car and looked directly at me, every instinct in my body said “no, no, no”. They unloaded her bags quickly and walked away as I got out of the car, tempted to run after her and ask her if she wanted to re-think this venture, but I didn’t. I went home whilst the bad feeling persisted, and sure enough, the next day she called to say that it had turned into a somewhat bizarre nightmare. The captain had reportedly become verbally abusive and persistently insulting, demeaning her at every turn. Against all advice from me and others, she decided to try and manage the situation for few more days, but the end result was she had to leave and I happily picked her up again. This is my point, we all have intuition, and had she been more in tune with hers, she would have avoided a very distressing and potentially dangerous situation.
When we develop an awareness of the value and significance of our instinctive feelings we can tap into this resource and consciously use it to our advantage in many circumstances. Paying attention to that quiet murmur you sometimes hear intruding on your busy thoughts will add another dimension to your ability to move through your world. This is an invaluable natural and powerful skill you can harness to be a valuable guide in directing your journey and your relationships. You don’t need a star to guide you, just your inner compass.
• Victoria Sarne is an entrepreneur and writer. She headed a team to establish a shelter for abused women and children in Canada and was its first chairwoman. You can reach her at email@example.com, visit lifelineswritingservice.com, or call 467-1178.