I worked for many years in an acute care psychiatric hospital, and there was a woman who said that she believed she was an angel and that her father who had died told her she needed to come to the hospital to help people. My response to her was, “Okay, let’s clarify. Does being an angel mean that you can stand on top of the building and fly, and you won’t get hurt?”
She said, “No.”
I said, “Good, okay check that one off the list.”
I continued, “What if your father wanted you to come to the hospital because he thought that that was the only way to get you here to get help?”
She said, “Maybe.”
And I said, “Can you be a human being and still help people?”
And she said, “Yes.”
In that way I wasn’t taking away her belief and I wasn’t in any way being critical of what she thought was true. I was asking if being human was enough and I was validating the fact that she could very well have been talking to her dead father. That might be shocking for some people to hear but I don’t know statistically how many people have a spiritual belief or how many people pray. Why would we not expect a response?
In another situation, with a different patient, who was having what were labeled “auditory hallucinations,” I inquired, “What are the voices telling you?”
“Stop using cocaine and be nice to my brother.”
I said, “Okay, that’s good. We’ll go with that one too.”
I told him that if the voices were encouraging him to do something positive that it’s worth it to listen. If they were telling him to do something harmful to himself or somebody else, then it would be necessary to work that through with a professional who could help help to understand why that might not be such a good thing to do. He got it.
I was a highly intuitive child, also unfortunately codependent, people pleaser, savior behavior child. I learned to read people and give them what they wanted even before they asked for it. I didn’t know I was doing it at the time but in retrospect, I look at it and recognize that it was what I was doing. As I honed my therapeutic skills, I learned to observe, to be a keen observer of human behavior. I think that’s one reason why I became a therapist; I was always fascinated with what makes people tick, myself included.
It’s like any skill. It becomes finely honed and it’s trusting that you know what you’re doing. You can tell if you’re sitting opposite with somebody and their arms are folded in front of them and they’re grimacing, that’s a no-brainer, that’s easy to know that they’re closed off. You may not know why that it’s a self -protective posture that they’re in.
What do you do when what your ‘Spidey Sense’ tells you is so, but others who have an investment in seeing a situation in another way, object to your intuitive hit? Without going into details, there is a major news account that involves alleged child abuse. As soon as I heard about it, my social worker’s sixth sense kicked in and I suspected that it did indeed occur. Those with whom I shared my concerns who have an investment in believing otherwise because they couldn’t imagine the parents engaging in it and presented well, disputed my take on it. They seemed to have more loyalty toward the parents than the children. For the time being, I have no choice but to step back and let the story unfold. This is one case in which I want to be mistaken.
These are methods I have used to cultivate intuitive skills:
- Bring to mind an object and see how quickly it shows up.
- Hum a song and wait for it to be played on the radio.
- Think of a person and notice when they contact you.
- Play out a conversation in your head with someone in your life and listen as the dialogue may unfold word for word as if scripted.
- Remember your dreams (write them down once you wake up) and use them as tools to clarify your life circumstances and assist in decision making.
- Try something new. Go somewhere you have never been before. Change in routine opens the door for flexible thinking.
- Trust your inner GPS, turning right, left or going straight guided by your inclination. See where you end up.
- Hold an object and get an image of who it belonged to and the story behind it.
- Spend time in nature.
- Write from the inside out, letting your perceptive abilities inform your writing and your writing strengthen your intuition. Let the words flow, without censoring or editing. This is called “automatic writing”.