Created by the Center for Spirituality & Healing and Charlson Meadows.

Intuition in Healthcare

What is intuition?

If you are like many people, you may already have a good idea what intuition is and the role it plays in your life. Perhaps you have had experiences like these:

  • You had a sense of the best decision, like who to hire or when to make a career change.
  • You had a feeling or a sense about a situation or person, for example you knew something was wrong with your child or that you could trust a particular person.
  • You knew in advance who was calling on the phone or what someone was going to say.
  • You encountered intuition as part of your religious or spiritual life; perhaps receiving intuitive guidance in a variety of circumstances.

Look over the words or phrases listed below. If you have used them, you were probably describing an intuitive experience.

 Gut feelingI had a feeling
 My heart told meSixth sense
 In a flashInsight
 I saw the lightKnew instantly
 In the zone

An inner voice

 InsightFelt one with life

Even people who are very familiar with intuitive experiences find intuition and how it operates hard to describe. One helpful way to understand intuition is as direct knowing or an inner knowing without thinking it through.

What are some common misconceptions about intuition?

There are many misconceptions about intuition that are important to clear up.

1. Intuition is only experienced by certain "gifted" people.

Actually, intuition is a normal human experience and is reported in cultures throughout the world. However most people don't learn about what intuition is and how to use it, so they are not aware how it works in their life. But all people have the capacity for intuition.

It is true that some people have more intuitive talent, or strengthen their intuition through practice, or are simply born into an environment that supports the development of intuition. These things can enhance intuition, just as practice and support enhance the development of just about any human attribute!

2. Women are more intuitive than men.

In reality, both men and women are born with intuition. However, in Westernized societies, women and artists have more permission to be intuitive than men do. Men often say that their intuition comes from a 'gut feeling.' Women are more likely to say, 'my heart told me.'

3. Intuition is the same as guessing or fast analysis.

Teacher StudentWhile intuition is still a puzzle to scientist, researchers are beginning to discover that people really can know (not just guess) a lot at first glance. For example, recent 'thin slice' research finds that people can predict in just a few seconds of watching a teacher whether they will enjoy and value that teacher. These quick initial reactions generally closely match their teacher evaluations at the end of the course.

4. Intuition is always right.

While it is true that the purest intuitive experiences are correct, most of us have to learn to distinguish between pure intuition and wishful thinking or projected ideas about people and situations. We simply need experience before we can identify our pure intuition (almost all of us haven't had much schooling on the development of our intuition).

Remember also that our "logical" conclusions are not always right either.

Is there a difference between psychic and intuitive experiences?

Yes. Basically, psychic experiences are a subset of intuitive experiences.

Intuition describes a wide variety of ways you get information without using known logical or rational processes. Here are a few examples from the full spectrum of intuitive experiences:

An aha! experience I intuit a creative solution
An instinctive knowing My body intuits I need to do this
In the zone experience Our team intuits what to do when
A psychic experience I intuit what you are thinking

Psychic experiences are just one of the many ways some human beings intuit information and knowledge. And many intuitive people don't experience intuition in this way at all.

In her book, Hidden Channels of the Mind, Louise Rhine, the wife of famous Duke University parapsychologist J.B. Rhine, analyzed thousands of intuitive and psychic stories that the public sent to her. She noticed that the psychic experiences occur most frequently in emotional situations or where there are emotional connections.

How is intuition experienced in different parts of the world?

Collage of ethnic personsYou can also get a fuller understanding of intuition by looking how it is experienced around the globe. Many cultures include intuition in their childhood education, healthcare, social interactions, ideas about death and the afterlife, and spiritual or spiritual traditions.

    • North America. If you were a Native American Indian child, you would probably have been encouraged to seek out and speak with the spirits of plants, animals, mountains, rivers, and other parts of nature.

If you were a member of the Six Nation Confederacy or a member of the Iroquois tribe, you would believe that the tribe was one "long body." You would see the scouts your tribe sent out ahead of the rest of the tribe as acting like the tribe's eyes and ears and sending back intuitive pictures and sounds to tribal leaders just as your nerves send messages to your brain.

  • Latin America. If you were raised in Brazil, you might seek the aid of a psychic surgeon when facing an illness. If you were a Mayan chosen to be a medicine person (shaman), you would receive an education that your culture respected just like Western cultures respect medical school.
  • Asia. If you were raised in China, you might be taught to sense when you were vulnerable to illness so you could give yourself an acupuncture treatment (much as we take aspirin).
  • Africa. If Kenya was your home, and you were raised in a traditional tribe, you might believe that people can control the moment of their death and can will themselves to die. Western suicides would look very strange, because as a traditional Kenyan asked, "Why do you have to hurt yourselves to die?"

Many people throughout the earth believe that their ancestors, who have died and entered the spirit world, can speak to them and guide their lives through dreams and visions. Can you imagine yourself being comfortable having inner conversations with the spirit of a beloved person who has died?

If you lived in one of these cultures, you might feel differently about intuition. You could speak about your intuitive experiences with other members of your culture as openly as you now speak about your ideas, opinions, and logical conclusions in Western cultures.

Is intuition related to spiritual experience?

Intuition is understood in many cultures as fundamental to religious and spiritual experience. Consider this: no one can point to God as a material object or describe the physical dimensions of prayer. Worship is inherently an intuitive experience, a spiritualized dialogue among people and what many call the divine.

However, it is important to remember that people who do not believe in God or aren't sure of God's existence can also have strong intuition but may experience it in different forms.

In summary

One helpful way to understand intuition is as direct knowing or an inner knowing without thinking it through.

Intuition describes a wide variety of ways you get information without using known logical or rational processes. All people have intuitive capabilities, but some might not be aware of them.

Intuition is experienced in different ways around the globe.

© 2006 Charlson Meadows, used with permission.

Expert Contributor: 
Sharon Franquemont

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