Inspired by a conversation with a teen-aged niece, I am spending the Hebrew month of Elul* looking at intuition in my life. In the past ten years or so, I have moved away from relying on my own snap judgments. Instead, I notice when I have an instant feeling or reaction to something. I acknowledge that I had it. Then I look objectively at the situation.
How do I make peace with honoring my intuition and still remain able to articulate to others how I know what I know? (Your insight is welcome!)
Intuition in my life so far
The recent past
Sometime during the past ten years, I have developed a habit of retreating back to intellect and knowledge base instead of following the intuitive moment. When I sense that something is just wrong or just right, I seek logic or evidence as backup.
Some of why I do that comes from owning a company; becoming the owner made me responsible for supporting the livelihood of other people. Responsibility made me more cautious. Some of the reason for not relying solely on intuition came from thinking that, as an adult, I need to be able to verbally support my decisions. That thought may be self-defeating. Or is it?
Earlier in life
In my life, there have been pivotal moments that were driven solely by intuition. Big ones! They often drove me to major life changes like changing jobs, moving, making significant health care decisions, and modifying relationships. Some worked out well; others, not so well.
The ones that didn’t work out well all seem to be snap judgments that came out of old fears. The easiest one to discuss is the day that I shaved my legs and noticed a dark mole on my leg. Dark! Mole! I had the familiar stomach clench that told me something was really wrong. I took a picture of the mole. It had perfectly clean margins. It was a regular shape. It was only a little darker than all the other moles on my body. Subsequent doctor visits confirmed that this mole was a mole, like the other hundred or so on my body. That was about ten years ago. Whenever I see that mole, I remain resolved to engage my intellect when my intuition alarm goes off.
What I’ve read about intuition
Fifteen years ago, I was reading up a storm about intuition. I intended to write a book on intuition, judgment, and real estate. (Did I write it? No.)
Those books stuck with me, in little ways. I learned from Malcolm Gladwell that there is information perceived in fractions of a second. When doing video of couples, the video captures very fast eye rolls that indicate disrespect. It is a good indicator of an unhappy marriage. The disrespected spouse may or may not be consciously perceiving those eye rolls. They may be unclear why they are unhappy. There could easily be other signs of disrespect that are more obvious, as well. However, the eye rolls were there, and they correlated strongly with couples who divorced.
The other thing I learned from Gladwell is that snap judgments are too fast. Giving them just seconds more can make them better (examples of people who should take a moment being police and bodyguards). There are ways to make the crisis situation of policing or guarding someone a few seconds slower by keeping distance between potentially violent people.
The last part of Gladwell that stuck with me was that too much information can leave room for people to decide based on a prejudice. The example: more women passed symphony auditions when all applicants played behind a curtain. Before that, only five percent of symphonies had female players, and it was “believed” that men were generally better than women.
So, how did that relate to buying a house? See why I got stuck?
Back to my quest for 2021/5782
Spurred on by my niece, I am rereading You Already Know What to Do by Sharon Franquemont. I read shortly after it was published (1999). The only part of it that I remember is that I wrote something to myself, recorded it, and played it back every day for a month. That caused a shift in my self-perception that stuck with me. I am only two chapters into the rereading; I will report back on that later.
*Elul is the month leading up to the new year. Observant Jews are encouraged to take stock of their lives during Elul, in preparation for the soul-searching services that accompany Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. For me, the real work comes during this month, not during the long services in September.