The Secret Behind Intuition: Neither magical nor unconscious


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Erik Thor

Neojungian at Neojungian Academy
I am an INFJ and I want to combat the stereotypes and help promote personality psychology that doesn't limit or mistype you.
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Carl Jung saw spiritual and mystical connections to the term intuition (the ‘N’ function). But I don’t. Neojungian Academy argues that all functions can be used for spiritual purposes, some more, some less. But no function in the brain is inherently spiritual in its nature. Nothing in the brain operates purely on fairy dust. Intuition isn’t magic. So what is it? And why do people think it is?

The Secret Behind Intuition

Can the unconscious be a conscious process?

The second option is that intuition is an unconscious perceiving process, something that happens beyond our conscious awareness. Answers that come from our unconscious. But then we must recognize that the Jungian world has two ideas of the unconscious.

If we say that an INFJ has a conscious intuition, that would suggest that ENTPs have a conscious experience of an unconscious process. ISFJs on the other hand, would then have an unconscious experience of an unconscious process. How the hell do you pick apart this semantically? There must be a better explanation of the nature of intuition. So what is the secret behind intuition?

The unconscious has slowly been weeded out from the field of neuroscience. It used to be how psychology explained everything mystical or magical about the human brain. It was blamed for every human ill. But neuroscience and psychology has found little to confirm such a region exists. If it does, it’s highly limited in its scope. Still, a network has been found that has been closely linked to our ability to pay attention (the saliency network).

We can at least assume that an intuitive type would for some reason (genetics or neurobiology may have the answer) have a weaker preference for attention and attentiveness. To pay attention is somewhat related to being conscious – at least of your environment and your surroundings. If intuitives have a weaker attention to sensations, that would explain why Jung described them as less conscious.

I also believe that the concept of high innate sensitivity may be related to intuition, as intuitives are the most common to identify with being HSP. At least all the intuitive types tend to score highly on some of the traits related to HSP. They may not all be sensitive to moods and emotions, and their sensitivity may vary, but they are all more sensitive than the average sensor.

How sensitivity drives intuitives to tune out

If an intuitive type is overall more sensitive than a sensor, their sensitivity may cause their “maximum attention” to be filled up more quickly. This means they may stop listening halfway through a conversation, or that they may want to tune out and filter out more sensory stimuli. An intuitive would prefer to fill in the other half on their own, using their deduction and inner processing to decide which information fits best in the parts that were left out.

This suggests that:

  • Intuitives enjoy guessing what someone will or might have been trying to say
  • They enjoy reading between the lines
  • Intuitives prefer half-written instructions (where they can fill in the other half)
  • Intuitives are overwhelmed by strong sensations
  • They dislike repetition
  • Intuitives are sensitive to strong sensory stimulation
  • They are more sensitive to touch, smells, visuals, sounds, and taste
  • Intuitives need more privacy and time for private reflection
  • And they need to schedule in more time to think
  • Finally, intuitives will enjoy silence in between conversations and sentences.

All of this falls in line with one key trend: By tuning out or filtering out sensory information, intuitives can be A) More creative B) More open to change C) Generally more abstract and D) Overall more future oriented.

Why intuition is more logical

What is it that allows us to fill in and understand what is in box C, given what we know about box A and B? Intuition. Thinking has often been associated with logic, but this is partially false. The thinking function is more rigorous, more rules based, more formal, and more well defined, but it does not own logic.

Intuition is a logical process, but when paired with feeling and used to judge social motifs, it may appear illogical. This does not mean that it is illogical, just that it appears to be illogical, until someone can spell out their process and their associations in a coherent manner. But intuition is still deduction.

However, the deduction process may be partially ruled by subjective desires. If there is no clear, perfect answer, if the information you have isn’t enough, your intuition picks information and answers that you like or find more interesting. The intuitive type may entertain possibilities and answers that they expect to be true based on their ideas and what they find surprising or entertaining. Your perspective somewhat shapes what answer you decide to act on. Perhaps your “unconscious” expectations can play a big role here. Perhaps intuition is in part based on what you wish to believe is the right answer?

The secret behind intuition: Formal and informal intuition

No matter if it’s used to solve raw math equations, or if it’s used to understand why your grandmother didn’t make you a burger as she used to. Intuition, when paired with feeling, appears mystical and magical, but it’s not. The secret behind intuition is your mind’s ability to fill in and auto-correct and auto-complete information that is missing.

This simply shows that there is formal (rules-based) intuition and informal (social) intuition. The latter is often discarded because it can be harder to explain and appears more subjective. Still, its process is the same. It decides which information might fit the best in an empty space based on comparing it to old or closely available information. It determines the likelihood that something will fit. And it defines possible best-fit information. No crystal ball necessary, and no unconscious either.

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About Erik Thor

I am an INFJ and I want to combat the stereotypes and help promote personality psychology that doesn't limit or mistype you.