Intuition Versus Emotion: What's Guiding You?
Hi, has 'following your intuition' ever fucked you over? Same same.
I was thinking about this a few weeks ago as I was examining my experience of an intimate friendship that I'm one half of. I'll save you the backstory, but we're two people who care about each other and yet still seem to hurt each other often. Le sigh.
Constantly, I make the specific effort to listen to my intuition and drop my ego when it comes to this relationship. I rely on what my spidey senses tell me are for 'the highest good of all parties involved' when I consider how to act, respond, and show up ... and yet, we're both stuck in this pain loop, despite our best intentions.
Which got me thinking: What if my intuition is a bit broken when it comes to this situation?
Most of us want to trust that our intuition is right—that it knows something we're not consciously aware of. We like to think that our intuition has our back. But what if it doesn’t?
I can guess that I'm not alone in having a psychic blindspot. There are so many brilliant, tapped-in, intuitive women I talk to who seem to have such a clear insight on every aspect of their lives. Except for one line item. That Achilles heel. That blindspot. That situation in which they mistake emotion for intuition.
It's like we're silently bamboozled. We get so used to that cozy feeling of following our intuition that we don't realize when emotion secretly takes the reins and intuition exits the building.
Perhaps we're mistaking intuition for a familiar emotional feeling, like comfort or pleasure.
And yeah, finding comfort in life is important—but nothing is comfortable, at first. Remember when you were, like, six months old and super into crawling? Crawling was way more comfortable than walking. Also laying down? That was actually best! Like, why did I ever get up!? You catch my drift. Growth is often uncomfortable.
Sure, tapping into your intuition usually means figuring out what 'feels good.' But if you're not constantly examining *why* something feels good, you're likely to get caught up in something like an emotional response. Be careful with that. Sure, it's very nice to luxuriate in emotions. But emotions are slippery and fickle, subjective at best. Better to make choices from intuition, if you can.
Cool theory, Hansel. Now, how do we discern between the two?
Alright. I present my answer to you: The case for NOT listening to your 'intuition.' It's an argument, in fact, for going *against* your intuition ... to find it again.
Let me explain.
I used to be a modern dancer. A long time ago, in New York. Dance class was actually where I first learned about meditation and somatic movement. It was where I made the connection that the frequency and intensity of epileptic seizures diminished when I spent time really feeling into my body.
Even though I've been moving since I was a baby-baby, I'd never felt embodied until I was forced to improvise in school. From the outside, a dance improv class looks like a free-for-all. Sometimes the participants are so disengaged from each other and wrapped up in their own worlds, it looks like someone set free a bunch of mental asylum patients. A little like that Ace Ventura scene.
But if you're experiencing it, there's usually a clear directive on what to improvise on—a theme, a specific gesture, an idea. It's different every time. And how you approach the improvisation depends on the teacher and the other people sharing the dance floor with you.
For a good two years, I'd have a borderline panic attack every time it was my turn to improv in front of my classmates. The idea of getting up in front of people and moving, without choreography, made me want to throw up. We're talking sweaty-pits-stuttering-near-tears-can't-breathe stuff. Fun!
Let's be real: that anxiety came up because I was afraid to be seen (familiar to anyone else? Bueller?) but also because improvisation is essentially an intuition exercise. You can't improvise without moving intuitively—you must literally turn off your 'thinking' brain to move. When you start analyzing, everything goes to shit ... you'll feel it, and your audience will see it. So to improvise well, you've gotta go deep and get into that meditative theta state by truly leaning into your intuition.
When you let go, you immediately get cozy in your body. You get comfortable improvising in front of others. And something funny happens: You start to do the same movements, over and over again. Because it feels good. You find a way that you enjoy moving, and you keep going back to it.
But that, my friends, is very boring. And after awhile, you stop listening to how your body wants to move, and you assume that it wants to move the way it did last Tuesday. Because it felt nice then, so it should feel nice now, right?
Nah. It never feels or looks as good the second time.
So, this is where you double down on your intuitive movement—you experiment with what is *not* yours.
Here's how it works:
1. Turn on some music. Something you like. Here, try these songs. They have a good beat.
2. Start to move. Move in a way that feels comfortable. Stretch to the ends of your limbs, feel every cell in your body making the choice to move. To be alive. Start to find pathways of movement that you don't do in normal life. What is it like to lead your body with your left pinky? Your right elbow? Your chin?
3. Keep exploring for a while. Chill out! You might look stupid, but don't we all? All the time!? Whatever!
4. OK, once you're comfy in your body, I want you to move like someone else. Imagine the way your best friend would dance. Or the way someone you admire would move. And then try to embody them. It's like your stepping into their skin and exploring what it's like to have a new body. Think: How would they move if they were happy? Depressed? Tired? Energetic? Sexy? Do that for an entire song.
5. Then come back to yourself. Move how you like. Practice for an entire song.
Step five should look very different than step two. Your movement will be more clear, nuanced, and specific because you've dialed in your listening skills. And congrats! You've made your way back to your intuition.
Periodic check-ins with practices like this can keep your intuition crystal clear. And if you want to practice IRL with other people, Google 'contact improv jam' and see what comes up in your city. See also: Lacy Phillips' work, The Artist's Way, You Are A Circle, and going on vacation.
I hope this helps you, and that you enjoy it! I recommend utilizing your physical body to access your intuitive powers—there's some sort of divinity in the physical that we sometimes overlook, don't you think?