By Alyssa Ford, Experience Life
Just after WWII ended, a former U.S. soldier began to have a series of dreams that he was back in the army. In the dream, he tried to take cover during an intense firefight by curling up inside the hollow of tree. Despite his efforts, his dream self always got shot in the lower left side of his chest. The dream continued until doctors discovered a small tumor growing in the lower lobe of the man’s left lung, right where he had been “shot” in the dream.
What happened to this veteran, whose case was first documented in a 1950 issue of the International Journal of Psychoanalysis, wasn’t some kind of divination or prophecy — it was a message from his subconscious that all was not right in his body. What he experienced was intuition, a type of bodily “knowing” that researchers are discovering isn’t otherworldly at all. Intuition has a very real biochemical basis, and the science of “just knowing” is gaining academic respect and mainstream popularity.
If you’ve ever “felt something in your bones” or “had a gut feeling,” you’ve experienced intuition — and you’ve gotten a glimpse of how this type of wisdom can help us better understand our own bodies.
Often described by researchers as “rapid cognition” or “condensed reasoning,” intuition is an unconscious associative process in which the brain assesses a situation, does a search of its sprawling catalog of symbols, and then matches what it finds to the situation at hand. It’s like a rapid, unconscious game of Go Fish.
“It isn’t magic, it isn’t a gift, it isn’t something that only special people have,” says Caroline Myss, PhD, a medical intuitive and author of several best-selling books on intuition, including Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing (Harmony Books, 1996). “Intuition is an inherent survival force that all people have, just as all animals have instincts.”
Intuitive hits can feel untrustworthy because they don’t come to us through the more familiar channels of logic and reason. Intuition sends information through your subconscious, a part of your mind that psychologist and Princeton University professor Daniel Kahneman, PhD, described in his 2002 Nobel Prize lecture as our “Track 1” — our behind-the-scenes self, where we are fast, automatic, effortless, emotionally charged and not available to introspection. Messages from our subconscious come to us as knowings, feelings, gut responses, emotional or physical impulses, dreams, or symbols.
Somatic psychologists believe we must function with such dual minds because the human body can sense some 40 million bits of information per second while the conscious mind can process only a tiny fraction of those — just 40 bits per second. If we had to consciously process all the millions of bits of information we encounter, we’d be too overwhelmed to function; if we were limited to taking in only those 40 per second, we’d miss too much to survive.
Next: How Intuition Works