Respect Your Instincts
While pondering over a crucial life decision, I turned to my friend and said, “ My gut feeling about this whole thing….” I was abruptly interrupted as my friend, very smartly, said,
“Buddy, your gut may have bacteria but it has no feelings”.
Of course, how else was I supposed to respond to such a smart interjection? I abandoned listening to my gut for the moment and turned to more logical and rational thoughts.
It was the latter half of September of 2007. I was in Sydney and on a fine-looking day, I ventured out and took the bus from the outskirts of Sydney to the train station and then onto the Bondi beach. Solo trips have never been an issue with me. Anyhoo, I got comfortable in my beach shorts and went in the beautiful blue water and was having a gala time. I must mention, I had never seen waves that high. Oh, did I forget to mention, I couldn’t swim.
I remember it as clearly as the present. I saw a wave rising, which rose to a height close to a five-storeyed building..by the time I saw it, it was too late to avoid it. There was nothing I could do, and in a moment, it crashed over me, pulling me with it. While I kept rolling inside the deluge of water, (think a washing machine ). After a frantic struggle, I started feeling I was making no progress and my breath was running out. Finally, I accepted my fate when something incredible happened. A film roll started playing, thousand flashes a second. I saw my entire life being played out, the life I remembered and all those minor stories, interactions, visuals, I had completely forgotten or never knew existed.
As you can guess, I survived. After what seemed like a lifetime, I was thrown off onto the beach, with water deep into my lungs and a nagging thought that would not leave me for years…the million visuals that flashed through my mind, how come they were never a part of my conscious memory and yet now I could place them, right back to my childhood days?
Over the years, having met hypnotists, psychologists, based on personal experiences, and having read a lot on this subject, I have come to a conclusion, which I am open to alter, in the face of counter-evidence or logic.
And the conclusion is that the subconscious mind acts like a data bank that stores experiences, memories, feelings, and interpretations of experiences. The brain soaks up countless bits of information at any moment but to process it all and deliver coherently would be like asking Joey to calculate a difficult multiplication problem (FRIENDS alert). Hence only the information that is of importance or relevance to your set goals and purposes are moved on to your conscious mind while the rest gets stored in this vast attic, which is your subconscious mind.
Now, the problem is the subconscious mind finds it difficult to conjure up important bits of data and communicate it to the conscious mind when you are about to make a decision. Think of it this way; a friendly Martian is living in your head. It understands and calculates and wants to help but does not know your language. Hence, in all those decisive moments, when you get a “gut feeling”, it’s the Martian poking you, trying to communicate to you. It just doesn’t know your language.
So basically, those intuitions and gut feelings are the result of some extremely complex calculations based on humongous chunks of data, done by the subconscious mind, which are way beyond the scope of the conscious mind.
Earlier, I too was guilty of swatting away any other consideration other than what my rational reasoning would allow me while taking any critical decision.
With the knowledge that such compelling impulses come from a place of complex calculation of data, way beyond my conscious knowledge, I consider that very seriously before coming to any conclusion. It’s not a perfect process but I do not subscribe to the idea that if it’s not perfect, it ain’t right.
The research on the subconscious mind is unfortunately still nascent. The scientific understanding of the brain is still very limited. When it is said that we use our brains in a limited capacity, a large part of that is due to a limited understanding of our subconscious mind. The least we can do is to give it a chance instead of outrightly rejecting the phenomena of intuition.