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Text: what is intuition?

When faced with a difficult decision, or when we struggle, we are often told to 'listen to our intuition', to decide what needs to happen. That used to frustrate the **** out of me, because: what does that even mean?? And how would I go about that?

Since then, I have learned that every woman has some sense of inner knowing AND ways to tap into it.

For some women, it's tucked away underneath lots of very rational layers. 

They don't actively use intuition to guide their decisions, but they have experienced 'knowing something' that they could not rationally explain. Or feeling something quite strongly, without understanding. Or seeing signs, but ignoring them, because it was easier to believe that they were just a coincidence.

Other women would love to tap into their intuition more often, but don't know how.

These women know that there is a wisdom inside of them that is bigger than their rational brain. And they have heard other people talk about listening to their intuition, or their gut feeling. Or seeing the direction they should take.

But they haven't experienced it themselves. Or they have some experience, but don't know how to interpret the information. Or trust that it is the right information.

And then there's the group of women that does know how to be guided by their intuition.

When faced with an important decision, a question that needs answering and in working with their clients, they rely on their intuition.

They have a daily practice to tune in. Or have a specific sign they know to look for, or sometimes they can hear the answer.

So what is the definition of intuition?

I was somewhere in between groups 2 and 3 on this issue for the longest time. And it turned out that for me, the question what intuition is, and what exactly I was listening to, needed answering first.

So I started to do research into the subject. After all, I started my career as a scientist!

Cabinet black and white photo credit Erol Ahmed

My not so scientific starting point was of course Wikipedia: "The word intuition comes from the Latin verb intueri translated as "consider" or from the late Middle English word intuit, "to contemplate". Intuition is the ability to acquire knowledge without proof, evidence, or conscious reasoning, or without understanding how the knowledge was acquired."

The second part of the question: what am I listening to when I tap into my intuition?, requires a longer explanation.

I would love to discuss three theories of what intuition is with you, so you can decide for yourself which one resonates with you the most. 

Hypothesis 1 (neuro-scientific): intuition is a subconscious part of your brain.

Our brain receives an abundance of signals on a daily basis. So since we were young, it has started building a system to filter out the signals that are useful for our survival and functioning. Only these signals make it into our conscious brain so their information can be evaluated some more and then used, stored for later, or discarded. 

The first hypothesis is that when we tap into our intuition, we communicate with the part of us that has more information than our conscious brain does, and can therefore give us a broader perspective on things, or a better informed decision.

Hypothesis 2 (psychological): intuition is part of the subconscious knowledge of humankind.

Carl Jung, a psychiatrist who developed a number of psychological theories we still use in our daily life in for example personality testing, wrote about the 'collective unconscious'.

He believed that humans have both a subconscious of their own, and a subconscious we all share. He based this on the observation that different cultures have comparable myths, and that certain experiences (like witnessing a birth, or attending a funeral) seem to elicit a universal emotion. He talks about it in this video:

According to this hypothesis, our intuition is actually the collective wisdom of humankind.

Hypothesis 3 (spiritual): intuition is part of a universal wisdom, or God.

The third hypothesis doesn't require a lot of explanation, I think. When we communicate with our intuition, it is possible that we are actually communicating with source energy, God, or whatever name you like to call them. In that case, we would be tapping into something much wiser than our wisest self, which would be pretty cool, right?

I finally did learn how to tap into my intuition effectively. 

And for me, it's as beneficial as 'they' say it is. 

In next week's blog, I will tell you all about different ways you can communicate with your intuition. For now, I would love to hear: what do you think intuition is? Do any of the hypotheses feel most true to you, or do you perhaps have a fourth option? Let me know in the comments!

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Cover of the self-knowledge cheatsheet by Marianne van den Broek