Thursday, September 3, 2009
"How intuitive are you?" I asked you in a poll I conducted during the month of August. There were seven possible answers - ranging from "psychic" to "sorry," and you were allowed to fill in as many as you like. One hundred fifty of you came up with 316 answers, or two each, presumably not ones that represented polar opposites.
The extremes provide some indication of where you stand. Nearly one in four of you (35, 23%) answered that you were "borderline or full-on psychic, or at least it seems that way." In contrast, less than one in ten (13, 8%) responded with, "Sorry, I'm totally rational and logical."
I highly doubt that we would find so many with psychic tendencies in the general population. I also suspect that a lot less of you would share this kind of information with your psychiatrist. We've all had experiences that we can only describe as uncanny and inexplicable. Some of us have them with greater regularity.
Moving on to straight-up intuition: Four in ten of you (64, 42%) indicated that "my thoughts and ideas seem to come out of nowhere" while more than half (83, 55%) reported that "I often read people and situations like a book." This represents our bipolar advantage - creativity and seemingly otherworldly mental abilities - as well as our curse - racing thoughts and distractibility.
I would have expected that "I can put two and two together and come up with five" to have yielded a similar result to the previous two answers, but only one out of four of you (38, 25%) said yes to this. In retrospect, it wasn't exactly clear what I was driving at. What I was looking for was insight into how we connect the dots to arrive at conclusions. I suspect that many more of us possess the type of prescience that stuns casual observers. By the same token, we can come across as fools for giving undue weight to the first thing that happens to pop into our heads.
The most intriguing response may be those one in five of you (32, 21%) who reported that "I have heightened awareness in areas of my life that require my attention, such as my job, my hobbies, or raising kids, but rarely elsewhere." This suggests that although some of us may be born more gifted than others, we can improve with practice. Indeed, the military is onto this. A recent article in the New York Times describes how bomb squads in Iraq are trained to use their sixth sense to sniff out ambushes.
One third of you (51, 34%) report, "I get occasional flashes of insight, but I see myself as rational and logical." If you fall into this category, along with the eight percent who see themselves as totally rational, please don't feel like you're missing out on anything. Being grounded confers enormous advantages.
So what is intuition all about? In a recent piece on BipolarConnect, I observed:
Investigations into creativity and intuition point to variations in the way the brain processes information. In either endeavor, the mind arrives at conclusions that cannot be explained as the product of rational and linear thinking.
One way of looking at it is that in the creative and/or intuitive mind, the brain may be inefficient at filtering out so-called irrelevant inputs. Strongly allied to this notion is the idea that creative/intuitive brains may be frighteningly efficient at connecting these so-called irrelevant inputs into something transcendentally relevant.
I also noted in my BipolarConnect piece that science tends to view creativity and intuition as normal behavior writ large. Our brains, after all, are wired to function in novel situations. But there also seems to be a fine line where states of hyper-reality cross over into breaks from reality. This may account for why intuition, creativity, and bipolar (and other mental ills) seem to come packaged in the same brain.
Finally, I cautioned that the left brain is there for a reason. Our intuition may offer an enormous advantage, but only our ability to think rationally gives direction and purpose to this mysterious gift.
From Knowledge Is Necessity
The Mystery of Creativity
Madness and Creativity - What's the Connection?
Trick Question: Vincent Van Gogh
Intuition, the Paranomal, and Bipolar - Any Connection?
Intuition and Bipolar - Is There a Connection?
Question of the Week - Uncanny Moments