Your Sixth Sense: Unlocking the Power of Your Intuitionby Belleruth Naparstek
Unlock the Boundless Power of Your Intuition
We've all experienced moments of "knowing" that defy logic and reason. But just what is this extra sense and how does it work? Why do certain life experiences—falling in love, feeling intense grief, having a near-death experience—seem to bring it on? Let this thoughtful and illuminating guide help you coax
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Unlock the Boundless Power of Your Intuition
We've all experienced moments of "knowing" that defy logic and reason. But just what is this extra sense and how does it work? Why do certain life experiences—falling in love, feeling intense grief, having a near-death experience—seem to bring it on? Let this thoughtful and illuminating guide help you coax out your own intuitive wisdom.
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Clarifying Some Terms
As I said in my Introduction, the general territory I'm looking at is what parapsychology researchers call psithe knowing and sensing that overleaps logic, analysis, and rational thought and just shows up. This is called intuition, esp, psychic ability, telepathy, clairvoyance,1 high sense perception, and paranormal intelligence.
For my purposes here, I'm much less interested in other aspects of psi. For instance, I won't be spending a lot of time in this book on the phenomenon of psychokinesis (pk), which is about making things happen from a distance with our intention (as in healing, prayer, and the more mundane tricks of spoon bending, table tipping, and the like). And I pretty much ignore the ghosts, goblins, and spirit aspect of things, too (phenomena that also get subsumed under the category of psi), except when some research in this arena helps me make a point about esp. What interests me most is how we get useful information that bypasses "normal" cognition, perception, or logic.
Clarifying some of my terms will help establish the territory I am talking about. I differentiate among three ways of knowing that often get confused and interchanged. The first is what I call the knowledge that comes from experience; second is intuition; and third is what I refer to as psychic knowing. Even though later on I use the terms intuitive and psychic interchangeably (particularly because so many people in my study had such an antipathy toward the word psychic and beseeched me to please not use it when referring tothem), I'd like to distinguish them here.
But first, I'd like to say that I know perfectly well that the word psychic has a rather tinny sound, carrying with it some fairly cheesy associations with seances, table tipping, and things that go bump in the night. The negative connotations of the word have been exacerbated by the recent appearance of a spate of tv psychic hot lines of dubious reputation and skill.
The word intuition, though still suspect, is on a bit more respectable ground and can be carried more easily into a mainstream venue. When dressed up in its masculine garb and called gut instinct or hunch, we can take it almost anywhere.
Because of the discomfort that the word psychic generates, it often gets downplayed or called by the name of its weaker but more respectable cousin intuition, even when psychic is what people mean. Several of the people I interviewed, in fact, told me that they avoided using the term psychic, even though it probably best conveyed what they could do, because of all of its unpalatable connotations. They preferred calling themselves intuitive counselors, seers, spiritual advisors, or empathsanything but psychics. (Frankly, I question whether these alternate terms provide a whole lot more positive cachet.)
What was most interesting to me was how much discomfort, embarrassment, chagrin, and repugnance surrounded the term psychic. That's a lot of heat on one small word. I suspect it reflects our culture's intense ambivalence toward the whole topic. We're all a little intrigued and embarrassed, I'd say.
All of that notwithstanding, psychic really is the word that immediately and unambiguously describes certain things. Psychic is the elaborate but sudden "pop" of information that comes all of a piece, seemingly from nowhere. Like intuition, it bypasses rational thinking and just presents itself. But unlike intuition, it also bypasses our five senses and doesn't even bother to dress itself up as a sensory fragment. Because of this, psychic knowing is odder, more striking than intuition, and its appearance might reflect a stronger connection or deeper state of mind. Psychic information tends to be more defined and complex, and it's harder to ignore it or palm it off as a logic-related anomaly. It's intuitiononly more so.
It has been my experience that, in spite of the fact that psychic knowing tends to be more dramatic and flamboyant, generally more astonishing and impressive than intuition, it does seem to come from the same preconditions and circumstances. It takes the same methodology to invoke itonly perhaps more of it, in more concentrated doses, over more time. In other words, psychic knowing comes from the same well, only deeper down.
The knowledge that comes from experience can be as fast and as smooth as intuition or psychic knowing, but it's not the same thing. It is the product of logical thinking that has simply become quick and automatic. It's cause-and-effect common sense, accelerated by repetition. Sometimes a dash of intuition is thrown in, too, but often it exists all by itself.
For instance, knowing to cross the street when an innocuous-looking but in fact dangerous stranger is approaching might at first glance look like an intuitive choice, and possibly it is. But it could also result from a combination of memory and analysis, the brain having first made a quick assessment of an atypically stealthy gait, some shifty eye movements, or a certain way of holding the arms and hands and then, based on past experience, associating this particular body language with danger.
Students of intuition call this quick, subliminal processing chunking,2 and it takes place when certain perceptions, through repeated experience, become so automatic as to feel intuitive. Chunking, in fact, often combines seamlessly with intuition.
Clinicians rely on this kind of information all the time, as do seasoned workers in any field. An example of it happened recently with a new client, a beautiful, chisel-featured woman of sixty-one, a successful writer with badly metastasized lung cancer, who was seeking guidance for holistic therapies after a failed course of chemotherapy. The overriding impression that I got from her was that she seemed very, very tired.
While taking her history, I asked her a couple of standard questions about what she had to live for and how much emotional support she was getting. At some point in our conversation, I became aware of feeling a vague sort of discomfort, a very familiar feeling that I'm used to experiencing in my sessions: the best way I can describe it is as a nonspecific sense that something important had been skipped over. I could feel my attention being yanked back to something that she had almost said a couple of questions earlier. But I couldn't place exactly where it was or what it was about.
Invariably when this happens, with barely a conscious thought my interest gets activated, and, before even knowing why, I become like a heat-seeking missile, going back and forth, circling around, scanning for the buried hot spot. At the same time, and possibly quite unconsciously, my artful friend was doing her best to steer me away from the place. And so we danced our little dance for several minutes.
Somehow, my questions began circling around her relationship with her husband of thirty-six years, gently poking and prodding here and there. With each of her answers, she dodged me elegantly, offering graceful, oblique responses, couched in her impeccable manners.
Our little pas de deux finally resolved itself when I leaned forward, elbows on thighs, and asked, "So, is it fair for me to assume then, Jane, that even though your husband is a good man and he's very worried about you and he wants to do everything he can to help you and keep you alive, you don't really experience him as a source of emotional support?"
Her eyes widened, her mouth dropped open, her breath caught, and she very quickly said, "Oh, I would never say that!" I leaned forward with my best conspirator's smile and whispered, "I know. That's why I'm saying it." Before she could help herself, she laughed out loud, like a girl, our eyes made contact, and the connection was made. In that moment, the tension between us dissipated, the ground rules shifted, and we both knew that from then on we'd be telling each other the truth.
And so it was no surprise to either of us when she began talking about how hard, how wearying, it was for her to be marriedthat perhaps for her, the solitude and independence of single life would have been a far better choice, that even when her husband tried to be helpful, to her it just felt like one more set of demands to respond to and accommodate. More than anything, she liked being left alone.
As she spoke, she became visibly livelier, more energized and spontaneous. She looked stronger, freer, less burdened. It was clear to me that she needed to be talking about these things, that it was good for her to be telling the truth.
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Belleruth Naparstek is a practicing psychotherapist, author of Staying Well with Guided Imagery and Invisible Heroes, and creator of the bestselling Health Journeys guided imagery audiotapes.
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