Thursday, 10 November 2011

"If you know what I mean?" Well, I might just...

Discussing intuition with some colleagues who share my interest in the neuroscience of the therapeutic encounter proved to be a good way to spend part of my weekend.  We arrived at a definition whose novelty left a lasting impression and caused me to ponder a while longer - is intuition any more than a summing up of past experience.

"Intuition is the clear comprehension of the whole at once."
Johann Kaspar Lavater  (Swiss Theologian, 1741-1801)

"Intuition is the supra-logic that cuts out all the routine processes of thought and leaps straight from the problem to the answer."  Robert Graves (English poet, 1895-1985)

[in-too-ish-uh'n] noun

Immediate knowledge arrived at without inference or the use of conscious reason. 

Intuition provides us with beliefs that we cannot necessarily justify.

Origins:  from the Latin word 'intueri', which is often roughly translated as meaning 'to look inside' or 'to contemplate'.

As we grappled to discern between instinct and intuition, we likened the latter to instant knowledge which caused me to consider those times when a client has casually said 'do you know what I mean?' requesting confirmation of something far more abstract and uncertain than intellectual knowledge - in the question is an invitation to affirm the connection between us, that I might somehow, mysteriously intuit what it is that they seek to alert me to, so that something that perhaps defies description is known to us both. 

I wonder whether such 'intuition' might underlie many of the 'magical' moments in the therapy room as it becomes explicit, as either therapist or client courageously give voice to facets of their internal worlds.  To me, the risk is justified by the dividends I know can result.   

"You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. 
What you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover is yourself."
Alan Alda (American actor b. 1936)

"Intuition can often be a far more powerful searchlight than cold reason."
Betty Williams (Nobel Laureate, b. 1943, Belfast)

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