We all have intuition, and we don't have to be psychic to use it. But how many of us sometimes doubt that intuition really exists—or that it is a power we all have. Letting go of the misconception that intuition is just "new-agey" stuff can help us better tap into this valuable resource, one that actually can improve our lives. Intuition is not as mysterious as it sounds.
Our editors turned to Judith Orloff, MD, a psychiatrist... assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at University of California at Los Angeles... and author of several books, including the New York Times best seller Emotional Freedom (www.DrJudithOrloff.com), to find out how to become more intuitive.
"Intuition," said Dr. Orloff, "is a talent some people are born with—like math or music. Some have more of a propensity for it, but everyone can learn to develop powerful intuitive skills to serve them in their lives."
She described intuition as what we feel rather than think. It's a continuum that runs all the way from trusting your gut to seeing the future. The intuitive process can be used to help you make all types of decisions, including setting goals, resolving relationship issues, solving career problems and controlling your finances. Intuition can even help prevent illness by warning you when something is just starting to be "off." It's the body's way of telling you it's time to pay attention.
You don't have to have a high IQ to read your intuition. On the contrary, Dr. Orloff often finds that highly intelligent people have more trouble stepping outside their reasoning minds. Intuition can be as simple as feeling up or down in a certain situation, with a particular person or when considering a decision. The energetic feeling you have when you meet a dear friend for lunch is your intuition affirming the circumstances—and if you find yourself stepping back and crossing your arms in a tough business negotiation, that's your unthinking self sending signals of caution.
How do you know what your intuition is telling you? Dr. Orloff suggests some simple signals that your intuition is at work:
Signs that your intuition is saying "yes"...
Signs that your intuition is saying "no"...
Dr. Orloff mentioned four common myths about intuition and how to overcome them...
Myth: You either have intuition or you don't.
Truth: Though many call it a "gift," in reality, Dr. Orloff said, we all have intuitive powers but it takes practice to learn how to use them. The more often you use your intuitive powers, the better you will get at making them work for you. Her pointers...
Myth: Dreams symbolize truth.
Truth: While dreams only sometimes represent actual wishes, they always contain information you can learn from. Intuitive dreams are neutral, crisp and clean. They don't involve much emotion, but information does come through. For example, you might be standing naked in front of a classroom and everyone is looking and laughing at you. Though you aren't aware of feeling anxious in the dream, such a dream reveals that you do have anxiety.
Myth: Dreams are unconscious—they just happen.
Truth: Dr. Orloff said that you can actively use dreaming to help you make decisions or to resolve difficulties. She suggested posing a question to your dreaming self before you go to sleep. Then, immediately upon waking, write down your dream (some keep a dream journal for this) and "ask" your intuition how your dream applies to your question. If you dreamed of a lonely situation, for example, search for how you might be feeling abandoned in your life. If you dreamed of sadness, consider what losses may be bothering you more deeply than you realize. When you have an intense reaction to a dream, it likely points to psychological issues in your life. One way to open yourself to a different perspective is to challenge yourself to be in the role of each and every character in your dream, asking what is relevant to your life.
Myth: Intense focus is key to feeling your intuitive powers.
Truth: The opposite is true—you must be relaxed and open to be in touch with your intuition. Dr. Orloff said that some of the best times to tap into your intuition are "hypnagogic" times—the stage between sleep and wakefulness when you haven't yet organized your thoughts on a particular topic or activity. Insights that arrive to you in this state are important and truthful ones that come from deep within and aren't as likely to be shaped by outside forces.
Those not accustomed to making intuitive decisions can get in touch with their intuition. Dr. Orloff pointed out that most of us in the Western world are conditioned to live from the neck up, ignoring the rest of the body—but that's where our intuitive powers live. She advised intense thinkers to practice getting quiet instead of overthinking. She also advised starting with easy decisions.
If you're not sure, she said, just try it. Don't let your logic talk you out of the existence of intuition. Trust yourself and take the risk. Keep on trying—it may take two or three attempts. Learning to use your intuition is a process, she said, and, like any process, you'll learn from your mistakes.
In the end, Dr. Orloff said, both intuitive and analytical decision making are valid, so she suggested blending them for maximum effect. Listen to your gut and your head.