Intuition and Reason are two sides of the same coin

Jan 23, 2016 | | Say something

“One way to think about reason and intuition and their integration is to consider them as two sides of the same coin.” – Susan Smalley and Diana Winston, Fully Present: The Science, Art, and Practice of Mindfulness

Glad to see that I’m not the only one who has noticed this. Yes, they are. Both, reason and intuition, born from the depths of the rational mind seeking reason in the emotional awareness of life. What makes the difference between the two? Though one and the same, the mode of rational arrival is what is different. Reason takes apart, deduces, and pieces together, until things make obvious and better sense. It is the mode of most scientific investigation. Intuition, on the other hand, brews in the mind for a time – often a long time, then pours or sometimes explodes out in a rush, unwilling to be denied. Reason is, then, employed to verify the obvious that now stands so bold.

Reason is linear thinking and methodical, studiously observant of every perceivable detail. Full of questions, and suspicious of the validity of every answer. Reason employs the tool of questioning, even when answers have already begun to be gotten. Intuition, on the other hand, is non-linear and usually not even consciously perceived. Unbeknownst to the rational thinker, who is filled with often conflicted emotions, it stirs in the mind, pieces connecting in no reasonable manner, until – suddenly – all the pieces needed are there and fit together. It all now just makes sense!¬†Whoah, a sudden state of enlightenment, an “aha!” moment.

As a writer I have an insight into this process, because writing for me is not a reasonable process most of the time. Though, often, it is highly rational. A thought occurs or an observation has been made, then stirs and brews in the mind of I this experience does. Restlessly in the back of the mind, and I can find no words to release this uneasy budding awareness. I know I need to say something, but what I just don’t know – yet. I have no verbiage. That is, until my writer’s “aha” moment, when the words finally find their order and the words flow from mind to typing fingertips without restraint. This is not the time, in these moments, to do other things. It is the time to write, and the words – so clear now – will demand so, not allowing any other act.

Intuition is reason, and reason is intuition. The only difference between the two is one works under the conscious surface, then explodes onto the scene in a moment of conscious revelation and inspiration. The other one, uses its conscious ability to label and scrutinize, to number and deduce, until nothing is left but the plain obviousness. Perfection exquisitely explained. The obvious conclusion has been exposed layer by layer, in every detail, like an intimately revealed fruit, and thoroughly tested for its validity. Scientists, both famous and unknown, have and do employ both – reason and intuition – to arrive at their present conclusions. On the aspects that are intuitive, often this arrival spans significant moments of their entire life – culminating in a sudden awareness of how the pieces do fit together.

Whether it is science or writing, statistics or the arts, both are necessary for the progression of human understanding. The intuitive moments lurch and propel us forward in surprise and, sometimes, timely ways. Sometimes I wonder if we aren’t propelling too fast, at times, seeing how our evolutionary biology still needs to catch up. The reasoning, that sustains us most of the time, keeps us in balance – keeps us from falling over on one side. The coin must spin in its unique way, if reason is to see the light of its day. It’s much like how reason, the newer cognitive function, keeps emotion, the older evolved frame of mind, in balance, and from tearing us irrationally apart in response to life’s stimuli.

There are many coins spinning, each at their own speed and in their unique flows of direction. Together they animate and elevate our awareness and understanding of this thing we call life. We owe it to ourselves to celebrate this, and to encourage it, even. To celebrate the diversity of thought that gives our lives purpose, meaning, and direction. For happiness is found in the balance of ever growing awareness and acceptance, of discovering the depths of what we thought to be true or now know was nowhere even close to truth. Knowledge in perspective is bliss, when the hope of its shared survival is readily perceivable!

I wonder if is the same for gut feelings and emotional intelligence? I suspect that it just may be. A correlation between the natures of what makes us human. Wikipedia defines emotional intelligence as: “(EI) or emotional quotient (EQ) is the ability of individuals to recognize their own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different feelings and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.” Sometimes, we have our emotional “aha!” We just know, even though we can’t reasonably explain it, how we know. Most of the time, for those who are observant, we are employing the same tools as we use for reason, and using these tools to guide our thinking and behaviors.

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