Have you ever been on a date and thought “I have a funny feeling about this person”? Or asked yourself why your stomach aches every time you see a particular friend? Your body often sends you signals about your environment that your conscious mind misses. Your body intuitively knows when something is wrong, but you may not recognize the signs because you are not in tune with your body.
Is it possible to fine-tune your intuition? Absolutely.
With intuition, you can understand something immediately, without the need to wait for your conscious reasoning skills to kick in (which may never happen). You instantly know why you have a funny feeling about your date without wasting time getting to know a person who is not right for you. Without spending years working on a friendship that is hurting you, with intuition you can pinpoint what is wrong instantly. In my work as a marriage counselor in Los Angeles, I help patients develop their intuition.
How does one develop intuition? Two ways: First, you learn the signals your body is sending you; your body is the best tool you have. Second, you develop the mindfulness skills necessary to take a step back and see situations clearly.
Imagine you are meeting a friend for dinner. The last time you spoke, you got into an argument about politics. But as you open the door to the restaurant, your conscious mind says to you, “It was not that big of a deal. Our friendship is solid.” The conversation over dinner is stilted, she speaks to you sharply and in a clipped way, and the meal feels like it drags on forever. But, because your intuition is undeveloped all you know at the end of the night is that something felt off.
If you had a fine-tuned intuition, you would have recognized right away that your friend is angry with you and your friendship is making you unhappy. Mindfulness would have helped you get out of your head—where you were thinking about what you would say to her and what you wanted to order—and given you the clarity to instead focus on your friend. You would have noticed how tightly she had folded her arms around herself and how pinched her face looked. If you had paid attention to your body’s reaction to the situation you would have known that this is a friendship that is making you miserable and that you should probably let go of it. Your stomach ached all night, an intense tiredness washed over you when you were with her, and you only felt relaxed once you got home.
Now, imagine you are on a first date. Your date is attractive, smart, and charming. But something does not seem quite right. You finish your drinks and make plans to see each other next weekend. As you drive home and for days afterward, you mull over in your head whether you genuinely want to see this person again.
If you had been more mindful of your situation and of what your body was telling you, you would have known immediately. During the date, your shoulders felt tense, your legs were twitchy and restless, and you kept looking around the bar at the other patrons. Your body was saying to you, “You don’t want to be here.” But your brain was only paying attention to your date’s resume and charm. If you had used mindfulness skills to take a mental step back from your date’s beautiful smile, you would have noticed the way he or she flirted with the bartender, how he or she behaved a little too slickly. You would have said to yourself, “This person is bad news.”
Early humans were social creatures. They had to form groups to survive and relationships to procreate. Their brains were not fully developed, but they needed to recognize whether someone was a potential friend or foe quickly. It is likely that this is how human intuition developed. The problem with the world we live in today is that we focus almost entirely on what our conscious minds tell us, and ignore completely what our bodies want us to know.
When you pay attention to your physiological reactions, and you are mindful of your environment, you do not need to wait for months and a flashing neon sign that says “Get out!” before you decide things are not going to work out with a romantic partner. And you do not have to expend time and energy on a friend whose passive-aggressive behavior is dragging you down. When you practice mindfulness and listen to your body, it is possible to fine-tune your intuition. A fine-tuned intuition can save you time, energy, and heartache.