People have a tremendous intuitive capacity inside of them that they lose contact with as “shit happens”. Most people have it pounded out of them by their teenage years through the incorrect, harmful parenting that is commonplace. They also lose it because of television (a huge culprit), social media, and public schooling. In adulthood they further obscure it from themselves through the unending distractions proffered to us by the rulers. Usually this is termed “addiction”.
Sobriety is important in recovering one’s intuitive feedback but it is not absolutely essential in the short run. You can breach contact here and there, as you remember to be human again. In the long run, you want a strong connection to that intuition-making core of yourself and consistency becomes essential.
Intuition, which I loosely term “first feedback” here, comes to you in your initial response to whatever you observe. Some people say it is a thought that occurs first and then a feeling. Some people say it is a feeling first and then a thought. I tend toward the former, that a thought occurs first and then you have a feeling.
Let’s take a concrete example: your neighbor has a child that screams loudly at all points of the day. The observation occurs to you, through your ears. You have the thought, “That damned kid again!” and you feel anger. Right here is where you have to slow things down. Everyone and their grandma plays the “should game”. They say to themselves, “I should not feel angry” or “I should retaliate” or “I should try to help the kid” or something else. In come the “shoulds”. This is the propaganda and training we’ve been saddled with in our development. People really do take their social cues from the TV shows and movies they watch and it has been a total disaster for the species. Most people don’t even notice the anger. It flares up in them for a split second and then off they go to “shoulds” and solutions. The fact remains that there was the thought, “That damned kid again!” and anger. That’s fact. The rest that people jump into, may or may not be true. Usually, it is not true. Curiosity allows us to slow time down, stay with the fact of the thought and the feeling that came with it, and truly ponder the meaning of our response.
The wonderful thing about our intuition is that it is here to help us. Usually, it beckons us to self-knowledge. If you quiet down all your ways of managing difficult experiences and actually just sit with the thought and feeling, you will get childhood memories come up. Maybe you were the noisy child on the block. Maybe you had experiences in relation to the noisy child on the block. Maybe you learn about yourself that you’re angry at yourself for moving where you did. Or you learn that you’re disappointed with the new neighbors and would like to assert to them your concern about the child. The anger has something useful to give us, if we’d just slow and listen rather than jump to conclusions and shoulds.
Intuition does not mean we are paralyzed in navel-gazing. It means we are building upon our initial response to things with logic and curiosity, as opposed to compulsivity, stress, and the desperate need to make things more comfortable that people walk around with. All that stuff is inflicted into us.
Let’s take another example: a young man listens to music that makes him sad. He hears the music, thinks “this reminds me of my father” and then feels a sinking sadness. We have been trained by modernity to get as far away from reflecting on our genuine experiences of our parents as possible. So the young man dissociates into abstraction. He is taken by some particular aspect of the instrumentation. Or he says to himself, “I always like to look out the window and doze off when I listen to sad music.” Or he tries to fall in love with the woman singing the song. He doesn’t notice he is anchored to the music because he has a need to resolve some aspect of how his father affected him, once upon a time. He does not stop the song and listen to his sadness instead. The sadness has something to tell him.
When people initially dig into first feedback, they will find there is a huge backlog of feedback that is directly related to the sorrow of their histories. For some, this is just too much to bear and so they attack the messenger, me usually but also the truth-bringer aspect of themselves, and to unconscious living they return. This is why starting one’s self-knowledge journey as early as possible is important. People in middle-age really do have so much pain in them that even dipping one toe into the pool can feel like unbearable fire. Younger people have a better chance. They’re more impressionable. They’re less corrupt. They’ve done less to hurt others. They’re not as far into the rationalizations for their addictions. But anyone of any age can listen to that first feedback and get something accomplished. Sometimes the true voice in a person will erupt and guide someone to safety. Or it will tell them of their moral failures (quarter, mid, and late-life crises). People may have a dream that grips them and then they do something slightly different from there on out that others notice (“Bob whistles with his morning coffee now!”). Or people in a place of danger who have neglected the danger for too long will have a death premonition that rocks them and they pack up and leave for somewhere else. People who become severely obese often have a sustained burst of authenticity that drags them back to a healthy weight whereupon some of them continue living more in-contact with their intuition whereas others will simply maintain a holding pattern and comfort themselves with the new sense of normalcy, superior to the old. Drug addicts will have a moment of clarity and then sober up.
We can have our “moment of clarity” every single day, if we so choose. We can have it minute to minute, hour to hour, if we practice listening to the first feedback sufficiently. A self-knowledgeable person is not merely someone who has done an extensive survey of their personal history. This kind of psychology has been championed in the past four years by “Jungians” but it is a tired old trick. First feedback ties a person’s lived experiences to the personal history, and much more, rendering the person into someone of personal and moral excellence. Our initial response will often inform us of courage. We go with the instinct and brave the odds of being someone who bucks the social trend in order to live true. Some people know enough to listen but then they don’t do what they hear. These people become neurotic, self-justifying cowards over time who use self-knowledge to manipulate others – usually to throw attention off of themselves because they’re ashamed of not having walked in the fire to their heart’s satisfaction.
All that is very advanced though. You’ll get to that eventually, if you keep “walking into the mystery” as I mentioned on this website recently. Being true to our initial responses will upend our social order, our working lives, sometimes where we live, how we choose to express ourselves, and what we take an interest in. It will cut away all the nonsense in our lives and leave us as moral, healthy, real human beings. Dealing with these changes requires a great deal of tolerating uncertainty. Uncertainty is uncomfortable! It is especially uncomfortable for people who have no interest in self-knowledge. Much of self-knowledge is a private, reflective process – which is the upside. If it’s a healthy process, why would it involve you exposing yourself to unnecessary danger or suffering? That just means something wasn’t as parsed through as much as it could have been.
To go a bit superficial, what if the music we listen to keeps us in a cage of someone else’s madness? What if the clothes we wear disappoint us and tire us? What if the job we work is massively intolerable and we become elusive pricks to ourselves in order to “hang in there”? What if the car we drive scares us with its constant threat of needing costly repairs? What if being in debt makes us feel supplicant and pathetic whenever our boss walks by? What if that pair of shoes we’re deeply sentimentally attached to actually hurts the tendons in our feet? What if all those jogs we go on to outrun the emotional pain leave us aching and distracted from the real pain? What if we raise our voice at people in order to keep ourselves from realizing they’re right? What if we start to act like a manipulative explainer to other people, dislike who we are being, and don’t want to face up to the feeling of guilt that comes up as we continue the behavior? What if our lawn looks like crap and we feel like a schmuck with a crappy lawn?
On and on go the observations we make that we deny because emotions are icky and “make us weak”. Stoicism is the answer, after all, right? Just be stoic, dude!
No, we want to align our life to our intuition, our sovereign judgment. The real feedback is the first thought and the emotion, not all the whirly-gig stressy stuff that takes over if we don’t make the effort to slow time down and observe with curiosity what has just happened. Our betterment lies through self-reflection. We will hear things we don’t like. We will have feelings of patheticness, rage, remorse, self-reproach, and so on. We hang steady, stay curious, and help those aspects of ourselves by uncovering a memory, having a realization, changing how we do things, improving our treatment of others, grieving what we did or what we lost, or by adopting new ethics in business. The changes we can make are as endless as our observations. There is so much to engage in ourselves.
Stick with the first feedback you get from yourself. It will lead you to a better life!