I’ve witnessed the amazing powers of intuition – and been incredibly thankful for trusting my gut. Unfortunately I’ve also suffered the consequences of not listening to my intuition – because I didn’t take its warnings seriously.
With this in mind, I decided to research a logical way to understand intuition – and explore why (and if) I should take it more seriously.
Today I’m sharing what I learned – and the reasons why I firmly believe “gut instinct” is a powerful force we should all perk up and pay more attention to.
Intuition is an animal instinct transmitted by your subconscious mind. All animals have this animal instinct, to just do without thinking—every animal from a human to, say, an armadillo.
When an armadillo senses danger, it instinctively runs or attacks. It doesn’t use up lots of time weighing the pros and cons of running vs. defending. It doesn’t use up lots of time talking with its armadillo friends and getting their opinions—or convening an armadillo focus group.
Yes, unlike a human, an armadillo just does what its animal instincts tell it to do—without over-thinking or under-thinking. (Interestingly enough, armadillos also don’t get ulcers like humans do.)
Biologists even have a logical explanation for how our facial- and vibe-assessing abilities work.
They explain that our brain is comprised of emotional pathways that run from the eyes to the emotional control centers, bypassing the cortex.
Because of this setup, we can often find ourselves reacting emotionally to someone, even before we’ve had time for that conscious “cortex” rational analysis.
Then, after the cortex catches up and interprets the situation, the conscious brain reacts and can affect what you think about a person and what action to take.
Think of your brain as a library of information – and your animal instincts as the librarian.
Every day you are gathering information andstoring it on your brain’s different memory shelves.
This stockpiled warehouse of information is always available—but rather unwieldy.
Basically, it’s impossible to have all this information show up in your conscious mind at the same time, which is why it’s often hard to make decisions.
Your “animal instinct” is like your brain’s librarian.
It’s familiar with every piece of stored data. When you learn to trust this librarian, it can speedily narrow focus and fetch all the needed info from your brain’s information warehouse.
Another way to describe intuition is to say that it is thinking that occurs not “onstage,” but “offstage”—outside our field of vision.
According to some very smart folks like Albert Einstein and Carl Jung, this offstage area is your “collective unconscious”—a universal consciousness comprised of universal energies and thoughts.
Jung wrote a lot about the powers of the collective unconscious, explaining how each of our brains is actually blessed with a shared energetic byproduct passed down through millions of years from our ancestors.
Jung believed we could tap into this communal mind, thereby sharing the same “thought resources” of all humans.
Imagine your brain has a pipeline to an infinite world wide resource of intelligencebeyond your finite conscious brain library.
Well, according to both Jung and Einstein, when you tap into your gut, you are accessing this infinite world wide resource of thoughts, so you know more than you alone should know—because you have access to infinite information.
Einstein readily confessed he relied on this infinite resource of the collective unconscious for his ideas—admitting he often “knew” a scientific answer even before he’d proven it—then he’d do his research after he made his conclusions.
“The intellect has little to do on the road to discovery,” said Einstein. “There comes a leap in consciousness, call it intuition or what you will, the solution comes to you and you don’t know how or why. The truly valuable thing is the intuition.”
Einstein wrote a lot about intuition and how he believed it sprung from the infinite world wide resources of the collective unconscious.
“A human being is a part of a whole, called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest… a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.”
Basically, when you tap into your intuition you are tapping into a large field of information transmitted from the collective unconscious.
So, whenever you have a gut feeling about a person or situation, it’s because you’re receiving information (that you don’t yet know with your conscious mind) via the pipeline from this infinite information resource.
Consider an ant.
A single ant doesn’t usually have much on its little mind. But if you put a single ant with a group of other ants, it miraculously develops the ability to think brilliantly—gathering food, carrying this food up a hill, digging holes, encircling a dead bug. Just look at any group of ants working together.
It’s amazing how this “group brain” of an ant structure can think, analyze, judge, plan, evaluate, compute, intuit. It’s as if this “group brain” takes on its own higher level of intelligence.
Interestingly, studies show that the more ants in a group, the more effectively the ants create their group plans. Even if some ants are merely “passive observers,” their activity is improved.According to both Jung and Einstein, humans can tap into thought systems of other humans in the same way ants tap into thought systems of other ants.
And when you get a gut instinct about someone or a situation, you’re thinking with the higher intelligence of this group brain.
Jung believed this group brain—this collective unconscious—explained why a single idea germinating in a single mind could become a movement or trend very quickly.
And we’ve all witnessed the rapid speed with which an idea can spread. Just look at trends in TV, film, music, fashion, literature, religion, politics.
Jung also believed the collective unconscious explains why humans all seem to share a mutual love for specific images, archetypes and themes in religion, mythology and dreams—because we all share the same “group brain network” of thoughts.Modern-day best-selling author and business columnist James Surowiecki also writes about the power of ”group brain” in his best-selling book The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies, and Nations.
Throughout his book, Surowiecki argues that “under the right circumstances, groups are remarkably intelligent, and are often smarter than the smartest people in them.”
The TV studio audience of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire guesses correctly 91 percent of the time—whereas “experts” get the answer correct only 65 percent of the time.
Surowiecki believes there’s a definite “collective intelligence” in a crowd—and that’s what informs these highly intelligent gut instincts.
For a variety of reasons – some psychological and some anthropological – your intuition is a valuable asset.
Want to develop your intuition and strengthen your intuitive abilities? Want some fun and simple tools you can start doing right away – so you can trust your intuition more? For a limited time I’m giving away my book GUT.
Hi I’m Karen Salmansohn, founder of NotSalmon. My mission is to offer you easy-to-understand insights and tools to empower you to bloom into your happiest, highest potential self. I use playful analogies, feisty humor, and stylish graphics to distill big ideas – going as far back as ancient wisdom from Aristotle, Buddhism and Darwin to the latest research studies from Cognitive Therapy, Neuro Linquistic Programming, Neuroscience, Positive Psychology, Quantum Physics, Nutritional Studies – and then some.
Live your happiest life. Get my research-based happiness newsletter delivered conveniently to your inbox.