Judith Orloff, MD, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA. She is author of the new national best-seller The Ecstasy of Surrender: 12 Surprising Ways Letting Go Can Empower Your Life upon which this article is based. DrJudithOrloff.com
There’s a way to get a view of what lies ahead without consulting a psychic—in fact, it doesn’t cost a dime but pays off handsomely by improving the quality of your life…it’s your intuition. We all have intuitive skills, and you don’t have to be psychic to use them. I’ve learned from experience that once you learn how to tap into this valuable resource, you can be far more effective at work, home and play.
I spoke recently with Judith Orloff, MD, a psychiatrist and author of several books, including her newest New York Times best-seller, Emotional Freedom. She told me that intuition is not as mysterious as it sounds. “Intuition,” says Dr. Orloff, “is a talent some people are born with—like math or music. Some have more of a propensity for it, but everyone can learn to develop powerful intuitive skills to serve them in their lives.” She describes intuition as what we feel rather than think. It’s a continuum that runs all the way from trusting your gut to seeing the future. The intuitive process can be used to help you make all types of decisions, including setting goals, resolving relationship issues, solving career problems and controlling your finances. Intuition can even help prevent illness by warning you when something is just starting to be “off.” It’s the body’s way of telling you it’s time to pay attention.
You don’t have to have a high IQ to read your intuition. On the contrary, Dr. Orloff often finds that highly intelligent people have more trouble stepping outside their reasoning minds. Intuition is as simple as feeling up or down in a certain situation, with a particular person or when considering a decision. The energetic feeling you have when you meet a dear friend for lunch is your intuition affirming the circumstances—and if you find yourself stepping back and crossing your arms in a tough business negotiation, that’s your unthinking self sending signals of caution.
How do you know if your intuition is working? From Dr. Orloff’s book Emotional Freedom, here are some simple signals that your intuition is at work:
Signs that your intuition is saying “yes”…
Signs that your intuition is saying “no”…
Dr. Orloff told me that when it comes to learning how to be more intuitive, a common challenge is convincing people that intuition really exists and that it is a power we all have… and getting them to let go of their misconceptions and presumptions about all that “touchy-feely stuff.” In particular, she talked about four common myths and how to overcome them…
Myth: You have it or you don’t.
Truth: Though many call it a “gift,” in reality, Dr. Orloff says, we all have intuitive powers but it takes practice to learn how to use them. The more often you use your intuitive powers, the better you will get at making them work for you. Her pointers:
Myth: Dreams symbolize truth.
Truth: While dreams only sometimes represent actual wishes, they always contain information you can learn from, but it is fairly straightforward. Intuitive dreams are neutral, crisp and clean. They don’t involve much emotion, but information does come through. For example, you might be standing naked in front of a classroom and everyone is looking and laughing at you. Though you aren’t aware of feeling anxious in the dream, such a dream reveals that you do have anxiety.
Myth: Dreams are unconscious—they just happen.
Truth: Dr. Orloff says that you can actively use dreaming to help you make decisions or to resolve difficulties. She suggests posing a question to your dreaming self before you go to sleep. Then, immediately upon waking, write down your dream (some keep a dream journal for this) and ask your intuition how your dream applies to your question. If you dreamed of a lonely situation, for example, search for how you might be feeling abandoned in your life. If you dreamed of sadness, consider what losses may bother you more deeply than you realize. When you have an intense reaction to a dream, it likely points to psychological issues in your life. One way to open yourself to a different perspective is to challenge yourself to be in the role of each and every character in your dream, asking what is relevant to your life.
Myth: Intense focus is key to feeling your intuitive powers.
Truth: The opposite is true—you must be relaxed and open to be in touch with your intuition. Dr. Orloff says that some of the best times to tap into your intuition are “hypnagogic” times—the stage between sleep and wakefulness when you haven’t yet organized your thoughts on a particular topic or activity. Insights that arrive to you in this state are important and truthful ones that come from deep within and aren’t as likely to be shaped by outside forces.
I asked Dr. Orloff how those not accustomed to making intuitive decisions could manage to get in touch with their intuition. She pointed out that most of us here in the Western world are conditioned to live from the neck up, ignoring the rest of our body—but that’s where our intuitive powers live. She advises intense thinkers to practice getting quiet instead of overthinking. She also advises starting with easy decisions.
If you’re not sure, she said, just try it. Don’t let your logic talk you out of the existence of intuition. Trust yourself and take the risk. Keep on trying—it may take two or three attempts. Learning to use your intuition is a process, she said, and, like any process, you’ll learn from your mistakes.
In the end, Dr.Orloff says, both intuitive and analytical decision making are valid, so she suggests blending them for maximum effect. Listen to your gut and your head.