There are arguably two ways of thinking about anything: logically and intuitively. Sometimes it pays to think logically – in other words, in accordance with certain rules. At other times, it may pay to sense intuitively – in other words, to pay less attention to your current logical rules, and focus more on what is going on for you in terms of a broader range of feeling.
It may be that you are habitually more of one thinking type than another. I’m a great believer that we should not be trapped by categorisations, but it might be useful to consider what bias you usually have. It’s handy to know what your strengths and weaknesses might be, especially if you want to communicate well with others who might operate under a different thinking system.
WHY WE THINK LOGICALLY
Historically, humans have developed a large amount of brain space for self-control. Traditionally, this brain space is often regarded as being near the front of our heads, although I personally think this is an over-simplification. Your pre-frontal cortex is understood to be partially responsible for keeping a check on yourself. If it gets damaged, you may find that you cannot inhibit your emotional responses. Alcohol actually interrupts its process, which is partly why you can lose emotional inhibition if you drink it.
Our logical mind is, if you like, a team of police officers, constantly watching and filtering what we do, to make sure we don’t get too random and out of control. With its help, we can hold back some thoughts, and focus on others. It is a great inhibitor, filterer, chooser, checker.
In our evolution, it has been helpful to be able to choose carefully and apply rules. It is responsible for much of our culture. It is the brain function that perhaps, more than any other, contributes to the functioning of our legal systems, which often depend on systematic and objectively shareable rule-application.
WHY WE RESPOND INTUITIVELY
Humans, as well as many animals, also have a strong propensity for intuitive response. You are responding intuitively when you say ‘I don’t know why I feel this so strongly… but I’ve just got a hunch that this is the way to go.’ Intuition, in my view, has more complex and diverse support systems. Some of it is informed at source by our ancient alarm bell system, the amygdala (which can get things horribly wrong, as well as right!). Some of it is informed by more complex pattern recognition systems (for instance, when you get a ‘sense’ you know someone, but you can’t put your finger on why, where or how).
Our intuitive mind is, if you like, a team of artists, constantly getting ideas about what to do next, to make sure we don’t get too police-like and over-controlled. With its help, we can access and match our tastes, senses, memories, and more wholistic functions. It is a great energiser, associator, enricher, friend.
In our evolution, intuition has provided diversity by letting us do what feels natural, and then letting us be moulded by the result. It also informs our culture, in that it forms our imagination. And it complements the more legalistic forms of cultural thought, by adding a breadth of more compassionate understanding and communal enjoyment. It is, in a sense, our freedom.
YOUR BALANCED SELF
Have a think about how you function. Are you predominantly a logical thinker? Do you often act as an inhibitor, filterer, chooser, checker? Perhaps you have a job which involves just those skills.
Or are you predominantly an energiser, an ideas person, looking for ways to enrich life, and to make friends? Perhaps you prefer to use those skills, rather than the logical ones above.
Often, in your life, you will notice that logical thinkers, and energisers, get on each other’s nerves. For instance, have you been in a business and witnessed a flaming row between an inspiring salesman and a controlling financial accountant? I have news for you: both are right. But they are approaching life with different glasses on.
You, too, are a composite of both those skill sets. You have a team of internal policemen. And you have a team of internal energisers. if you spend too much time telling yourself what to do, you may get depressed, because life will seem stale and bossy. If you spend too much time free-associating and intuiting, you may start to feel anxious and out of control, and start looking for rules to control you.
It is always a question of balance: having enough rules to provide a structure, and enough intuition to shape your life organically.
Notice what bias you are exercising at the moment.
If you are being over-logical with your life, give yourself a break. Go and experiment with different activities. Find out more of what you like. Sniff the air. Go where intuition wants to take you, with or without a good reason.
If you are being hyper-intuitive and feel out of control, then maybe give yourself some comfort in structure. Develop a few systems which help you feel protected, so that you know where you are.
What new rules will you develop today? How will you evolve? What growth are you contemplating? How will you support yourself while you undertake it?
We humans are both logical and intuitive. Logic is like a team of internal policemen that keeps you in check. Intuition is like a team of internal artists that enriches your life. Notice whether you are mainly logical, or mainly intuitive. Perhaps recognise that you need both in your life: your policemen and your artists; your careful self-control, and your madder inspiration.
Don’t let either side win you over completely. We are better off when we are both fixed and free, have both structure and fluidity.