On Intuition: You can't know what you don't know until you know that you don't know it

I had to go to an event in Marylebone a couple of days ago and something niggled at me about the location and which tube station I should go to (I went to the same place a couple of years ago but it was the day the Christmas lights were turned on so I couldn’t quite place it), so I did a cursory check of Google Maps and then promptly got distracted. On arriving in Central London, I checked Google Maps again and it said that I should get off at Oxford Circus and walk 14 minutes, and I remember rolling my eyes at the phone and heading down to the tube. When I got to Oxford Circus, a part of me (and the information) I’d read, was saying exit the station but another part of me reasoned, Feck this. I know better. Why would I get off here when I could go to Marylebone station? A bit of dithering and I decided to opt for the latter. A few minutes later, I arrived at Marylebone, checked the app… and it said that it was a 13 feckin minute walk! Ack!

The thing is, I was given information as well as certain cues such as something in the back of mind saying to check out my route and the rather obvious fact that the app tells you the shortest route, but I ignored these, because my reasoning and what I was treating as my knowledge, blinded me.

Lying in bed this morning wondering why my children cannot sleep in on the first blummin’ day of their half-term break, it suddenly struck me how a lot of my dating and relationship experiences were much like my dithering in Marylebone. Green-lighting code red stuff based on what I deemed to be logic.  I also hear from so many people who give themselves a hard time for feeling that their intuition has failed them and who decide that because they got something wrong, that they cannot trust themselves.

It’s like going to a traffic light and not being sure how to assimilate the information from the colour of the lights as well as your surroundings. Let’s say that it’s on red but you think that it means go, so you do so, and then you get hurt – would that mean that you’d never use a traffic light again? Would you say that the traffic light was wrong or broken? Would you decide that you cannot be trusted? Or would you recognise the knowledge gap and get a sense of what you need to know for next time?

And that’s when it hit me: Was it my intuition, which is based on my instinctive emotional responses, that was wrong? Or, is it that the reasoning I applied to the situation as well as me doing stuff like ignoring cues, that was off?

Our feelings happen without reasoning or knowledge – it’s up to us to discern what’s real and what’s not. It’s up to us to provide the reasoning and knowledge.

We can’t know what we don’t know until we know that we don’t know it. Of course it’s harder to know what we don’t know, if we also ignore us or are heavily reliant on external parties to direct us.

When it comes to our intuition, we cannot hone it and basically know where it is right without recognising and learning from when it is off base.

We also need to be a bit fairer to ourselves because it’s wrong to blame our intuition. It’s wrong to say that we shouldn’t be trusted. It’s about our reasoning and knowledge held and sometimes we have to hold our hands up and admit that we sometimes use default reasoning aswell as stories we treat as facts, as a way of not having to be conscious about what we’re being and doing. It’s our safe comfort zone. We also have to recognise that it’s highly unrealistic to expect to go through life without having to learn from our mistakes so that we can grow and find out what we need to know.

The key thing that we forget is that whatever reasoning and knowledge we use is based on our understanding of the truth at that time. As Maya Angelou said, “When you know better you do better”, but this isn’t going to happen if it all becomes about focusing on ‘failing’.

If you have unhealthy beliefs about you, such as you not being “good enough” and believing that you’re to blame for something, that’s using reasoning that ‘makes sense’ to you, but that doesn’t mean that it’s representative of the facts. That’s like when I was a kid and I couldn’t understand why my parents broke up or why my father was flaky – I looked for a reason that ‘made sense’ to my 3-4 year old self and decided that it was my fault because I wasn’t loved enough and later decided that I wasn’t good enough full stop. It then became my default reasoning. It seemed logical at the time but actually, it didn’t make sense.

The more you’re willing to expand your understanding beyond default logic that may have ‘made sense’ at one time but it doesn’t now, is the more that you can rely on your reasoning and knowledge to help you make sense of your intuition. This isn’t going to happen though if you ignore you or berate you because you will not only be afraid to put a foot wrong but you will also have no sense of when you’re putting a foot right because you won’t have the self-esteem left to recognise this.

Your thoughts?

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