Intuition is a concept increasingly present in the conversation about mental health and wellness. In the most concrete sense, it can be described as listening to your gut, which is especially important for people whose identities have been oppressed and impinged upon and those who have experienced trauma. Maybe you could say that intuition is an antidote to gaslighting, which would probably explain why so many people who have experienced trauma are (in my opinion) highly psychic. But intuition is more than that. It’s about connecting with yourself and beyond yourself.
In a world that largely focuses on productivity and exploitation of labor as the road to success, it is also unsurprising that frequently intuition that relates to other people is something that folks struggle with managing. It can become wrapped up in codependency, sometimes it becomes a way we exploit ourselves for the benefit of others, or we may unintentionally encroach on others’ boundaries. Chief among the reasons for ignoring intuition is that for many the experience is so overwhelming, they simply tune it out completely.
I remember the first time I saw a class for “psychic development” at a wellness space I had been attending for a while. I used to think that the talk of “anyone can develop psychic abilities” was mainly a marketing technique for people to fill up classes. That’s partially true. But it’s also true that the psychic senses are no less real and available to anyone as the other more “physical” senses. They run parallel to each other. One set of senses tunes into the seen, physical, tangible realm; the other tunes in to the unseen realm. There are lots of things we can’t see that we know are there, and awareness of what is unseen is a benefit to health.
Anyone can improve their senses, physical and otherwise, by practicing with them and completing certain exercises. But we also have senses that are more naturally developed. I believe that every person has intuition, and that intuition can be developed more strongly. This can routinely be observed on the personal level, that you can learn to tune into your guides and higher self and receive clear information. I think there’s a bit of talent involved in doing this with others, mostly because you need to know and feel yourself clearly enough to quickly and accurately distinguish self from other. There’s a tendency in our culture to turn everything into a potential lane of work, that every skill should be sold for a profit. So do I think everyone can “be a psychic?” That would be like saying every good guitar player can and should make a living through music. But also…if you really wanted to do it probably if you worked hard enough you could, at least to a degree? My point here is that it doesn’t really matter. Everyone can benefit from developing their abilities personally for the same reason that it’s good to have acute physical senses: it’s useful and beneficial for everyday life. Some will feel called to use these gifts with others, and some will be happy to use them for themselves (which still benefits others indirectly).
As I was imagining how to write this piece, honing in on my own process alongside remembering exercises you can find books, I was struck by the parallels between the physical and intuitive senses. For example my weakest physical sense is eyesight. I have worn glasses since I was 13 and my eyesight can no longer be corrected to 20/20. I’m sure I could improve the overall health of my eyes through exercises (I do some eye yoga now and then) but there’s a limit. I need to use my mind and awareness, and certain tools to fill in the blanks. It’s interesting to reflect on this and also consider that intuitive sight was the most difficult for me to develop. It was similar to what I described above, I needed to use my other senses and a bit of mind-structure to make better sense of it. And I needed a few tools to plug in for it to feel more reliable.
Meanwhile I have a tremendously sensitive sense of hearing (the sound of my dog clicking his nails in the floor at night will wake me from a dead sleep!). And by far my strongest intuitive skill is hearing, it took very little practice for it to be reliable and clear. Even when I am seeing information I often see words and letters in print instead of images! I don’t know if this connection is true for others but I suspect it might be, and maybe that’s informative in how we approach developing different senses.
Just as we would in the physical, I find it best to focus on one sense at a time. Tuning in to one particular sense on a regular basis helps to deepen your level of detail and clarity. That sense will get stronger, and you will become more aware. There are lots of books that offer interesting exercises to do this, and you can also experiment. That question of talent comes into play too. I’m a big fan of not letting a lack of “natural ability” stop you from doing what you want to do. Because we have the capacity to learn! And we can also acknowledge that each person has unique gifts and some can be developed easily and others will take more work (or you could choose not to). Sometimes our insecurities can also create beliefs about our capabilities that aren’t even true.
Awareness is the other branch of developing these senses. It’s one thing to sense clearly, and it’s another thing to create space to be aware. Awareness is the peripheral vision, the hearing what’s behind you, the awareness of the space around your body. Without awareness, we are only looking (seeing, feeling, knowing) for what we think is there, focusing without seeing the big picture. We are searching for confirmation of what we already believe, and excluding other information.
One of the ways I differentiate intuition from just “what you’re thinking” is that often my intuition has very different information. Of course that’s not always true, but when they are in exact alignment I usually don’t feel the need to interrogate it- you just “know.” So often what we think is true is just a tiny piece of the information available about any given situation. Intuition allows us to sense into what lies beyond our thoughts, our ego, the way that past experiences influence how we interpret the present, and distinguish between our emotional reactions and a broader perspective of what’s happening. It helps us discern between intention and result.
Something I read early on in my process of exploring empathy and intuition, is that such abilities are only hazardous when we can’t control them. If our intuition is a radio, we need to be able to tune the station so that it is clear and distinct, we need to be able to adjust the volume, and we need to be able to turn it on and off. As we develop this ability to make more fine adjustments, we do not need to completely turn it off as frequently. Practicing how to focus and unfocus your awareness is one part of it (like listening carefully in conversation while in a crowded room). I think a lot of progress and skill can be found from honing your senses and awareness alone. And for me it expands to a whole other level when we connect with vibrant energies and guides. Connecting to the sources of information outside yourself is really where psychic ability comes in. Your intuition is still you, even if it is your higher self. It is your spirit’s perspective. It tends to be informed by the many experiences of your different lives, even if it does in some ways transcend them.
Connecting with spirit guides, deities and benevolent energies of your cultural or ancestral origins, the unseen realms, vibrant ancestors, elements and earth energies, and/or a power greater than yourself is where our perspective can become more broad and we step out of the personal. Sometimes the rhetoric about connecting with guides can seem individualistic, or solely focused on “your purpose” and getting what you want and need. If you’re accurately perceiving the information, it’s not only about you.
I mean it’s partly about you; you deserve to be happy, to feel loved and supported, and to have a sense of purpose. But true happiness and purpose cannot come at the expense of others. My guides often say that giving is receiving, and receiving is giving. The two are intricately connected, a constant cycle and spiral. The balance shifts and tilts based on the unique circumstances of the present time but one does not truly exist without the other.
Anxiety and depression, as opposed to worry and sadness, tend to be focused on the unique conditions of the self. Intuition can seem related to these feeling states, but it is distinct. Intuition is informative, and can live alongside anxiety. Like when you’re in a situation and something “just doesn’t feel right.” I’m a proponent of listening to both, in many cases there’s no harm is exiting a situation that feels off even if you’re wrong. But intuition helps us discern between anxiety that is about our harmful beliefs and past traumas, and anxiety that is the body’s way of communicating something that is felt but hasn’t materialized in the physical yet.
It surprises me that intuition is not universally a part of trauma therapy. How can one manage trauma responses without tuning into something outside of that experience? How do we know the difference?
It also doesn’t surprise me. There are countless euphemisms for intuition in the therapeutic language that reframe it in a Eurocentric, scientific method. Associations, “wise mind,” dream analysis, the “field” in Gestalt therapy, sublimation, introjection and repression in service of the ego, a moment of clarity or breakthrough…I could go on. I think it does some damage to the therapist to deny the role of intuition in their work, because without that awareness you can’t hold effective boundaries on this level. It does a disservice to clients too because it gives the impression that therapists have access to secret knowledge. It’s a missed opportunity to acknowledge that this skill is available to everyone and it can be learned. It neglects to explore a vital skill of learning how to turn that awareness off when you’re around people who are harmful or are not consenting to this level of attunement.
I’ve been wanting to explore intuition more directly in a class for a while. Although I was already highly intuitive and psychic before taking classes myself, I benefited from the class environment tremendously. It’s easy to become caught up in self-doubt, and it’s refreshing to connect with other people who hold similar interests. I also feel I have a unique take on it from my years of trauma-focused therapy!
This May I will be offering a four week class called Tuning In, and it’s all about cultivating your intuition sense by sense. It will be recorded, if you choose you could attend it remotely if it doesn’t fit your schedule (let me know in the notes). You will also be able to download the recordings to return to in the future. But my hope is that it can be a supportive space in addition to a place of learning. If you have an interest in this group, this group is for you. You do not need to have a professional interest in psychic awareness, although we can talk about client work. You don’t need to be interested in spirit guides or communication with the unseen realms, though we’ll explore that too if folks are interested.
Let this be a gathering space to connect with some like-minded people, practice tuning in as a group, and bring this unique form of magic more actively into your life!