In yesterday’s post, I referred to an excellent article by Darlene Lancer regarding self esteem and what we tell ourselves, and inevitably I brought up Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by Dr. David Burns, a book on how to implement cognitive behavioral techniques into our lives.
Our cognitive abilities can be a critical part of working through anxiety, depression and many other psychological quirks we might have. But it can be overdone, especially if we try to use it to override our intuition.
According to Carl Jung, there are three other psychological functions which are just as basic as thinking [cognition]: feeling, sensation and intuition. Intuition is hard to describe, but I like author and intuitive Lynn A. Robinson’s definition: “the act or process of coming to direct knowledge without reasoning or interfering.”
In other words, it’s that gut feeling we get when something is awry without direct evidence that definitively shows that this is the case. My favorite example of this happened several years ago when my oldest daughter was still in college. At the time she was living in a small complex with three units; three were upstairs, the other three were downstairs. She lived directly above a couple who fought. A lot. And at all hours.
One particular morning she called me because she was feeling uneasy and she wasn’t sure why. She’d gotten up around 4 a.m. to get some water and they were fighting; even though it was practically the middle of the night, this wasn’t an unusual occurrence. But the incident made her feel uneasy anyway. The intensity of the argument wasn’t out of the ordinary; in fact she couldn’t tell exactly what they were saying. But something was “off.”
Rationally speaking, she shouldn’t have given the incident a serious thought because there was no “evidence” that something was out of whack. So, we chatted and I made the comment that she was probably anxious about it because it was so late at night. “You know how it is when you wake up during the night,” I told her. “Things bother us that we don’t give a second thought about at daybreak.”
Good bit of cognitive behavioral advice, right? Hmmmm. . . not so much, as it turns out.
Early the next afternoon she ran a couple of errands and was gone less than 45 minutes. She returned just as a SWAT team in full regalia was carrying a body bag out of the unit below her. Here’s what happened:
My daughter was right, the fight she overheard WAS different. Like I said, she couldn’t hear what they were saying, but she found out that the guy had threatened his girlfriend physically. The next morning she called the police on him, and she tipped them off with some additional information: he was a methamphetamine dealer and there was lots of cash in the apartment. Apparently, he was pretty high level because SWAT was called in; unfortunately, when they broke down the door after making their presence known (“Po-LEECE!!”), he didn’t respond. They broke down the door and he pulled a gun on them, so they shot him. Along with drug paraphernalia they did indeed find over $30,000 in cash.
Logically and rationally, I was “right” to explain away her uneasiness because there was no disruption of status quo. But it turns out I couldn’t have been more wrong.
This incident begs the question, “How can I be sure whether my intuition is telling me something rather than my irrational fears?”
That takes practice. I mentioned Lynn A Robinson, her book is a must read for those who are interested in tapping into their intuitive abilities. Aptly entitled, “Divine Intuition,” it’s as psychologically and emotionally relevant (not to mention as practical )as Burns’ missive. Reading both books is an excellent way to differentiate and utilize both our cognitive AND intuitive functions to our utmost advantage.