Intuition on the street: Harnessing the power of the sixth sense
By Lt. Jim Glennon, Lombard, IL (ret.)
Part I of a 4-part series
I found it difficult to argue logic waxed so poetically.
But what is this intangible thing in our collective psyche that allows us to size up situations and people in the mere blink of an eye? Are humans actually hard-wired with innate intuition about other people? Does intuition, defined as “direct perception of truth, independent of any reasoning process; immediate apprehension” even exist?
It’s the notion that intuition is independent of any reasoning process that I question, because there definitely is a reasoning process involved.
There is no such a thing as an “intuition gene”or a special chromosome on the DNA strand that assigns intuition as a human trait, like blue eyes, hammer toes and hairy backs. But we do possess the ability to read others. Think about it: Don’t you usually get an impression about another — whether it be a sensation of fear, dread, or caution — within the first few seconds of interaction, even before words are exchanged?
Why is it that we can glance across a room at someone and feel an instant connection? Why at other times do we get a sensation of fear, dread, or caution almost instantaneously when in the presence of. . .well, assholes?
The theories are many, but they are just that — theories — which means no one knows exactly how any of this works. But who cares? What we need to examine and understand is that this instinctive communication is constant, and unquestionably involves the brain processing unconscious thought at lightening speed.
Consider meeting someone for the first time. Within milliseconds of the encounter, our senses begin observing and evaluating stimuli. Within two seconds, if not quicker, our mind jumps to a series of deductions about the other person: good, bad, dangerous, safe, someone to avoid, or someone to trust. And studies show, those evaluations tend to be incredibly accurate.
Law enforcement officers absolutely need to understand and learn to focus on those two seconds because those seconds can literally mean the difference between life and death, success and failure. Gut feelings come from the unconscious part of our minds. It is our unconscious that processes observations (via sight, sound, what is there, what is missing) and thus evaluates the surrounding world.
This happens so fast, our gut feelings confuse us. They don’t compute at the level that controls our conscious awareness and therefore those feelings at times, just don’t feel quite right. So we tend to ignore them. Partly because the words used by other people, being processed and evaluated at the conscious level, battle with the processes going on at the unconscious level. Often, if we can’t rationally explain why we feel what we feel we respond to the evaluations processed in the conscious mind instead of reacting to the “gut” feelings processed by the unconscious.
I teach communication classes for law enforcement and for private industry. I used to say in those classes that the unconscious is in control of 90% or our everyday activities, but I was wrong. Upon further study and reflection I have to acknowledge that orchestration of actions, done consciously, is no where near the figure of 10%.
While it is the conscious mind that houses our subjectivity, morality, judgment, our ability to be self-aware and make rational decisions, it is our unconscious that is actually the controlling force in both dealing with our existence and in navigating our way through life. And the unconscious does more than feel and react, it actually does think and that thought process is quite rational. But, it is a thought process that moves so fast that it is mysterious and perplexing to the more logical, deliberate thinking, conscious mind.
|Back to previous page|