Logic and the illusion of certainty
Have you ever called a psychic?
I used to be kinda addicted to it. So addicted, in fact, that I decided to teach myself so I could save some money. lol.
In my 10 years of cultivating my intuition through trainings, meditation, regular practice, etc. I’ve made an unfortunate discovery: being psychic doesn’t give you any more certainty than you have as a regular human.
When I started out on this journey, it was basically *to know* how things were going to work out. I wanted to see the future. Plain and simple.
The reason most of us distrust intuition, body-based wisdom and unconscious knowledge is because we believe it’s less “certain.”
There is a strong, deep-rooted belief in our culture that logical, mind-based knowledge is somehow more certain than other forms of wisdom.
I could get all technical, research-paper-y here on you and go into specifics - Da Vinci and pretty much all Western modern thinkers since have focused on the ability of the mind to influence or override the body; organized religion teaches us not to give in to the ‘base, lower impulses of the flesh,’ and years of schooling in any Western country teach us to prioritize what we can read, see, quantify and measure over and above what we feel, imagine or sense to be true.
In addition to recent research supporting the validity of intuition and unconscious wisdom as reliable sources of information, if you speak to pretty much anyone who actively prioritizes intuitive knowing in their life I bet they will tell you about the benefits they experience.
However this article isn’t about proving that intuition is reliable. It isn’t about convincing you, or anyone, that the unconscious is a foolproof source of information.
This article is here to challenge your belief that certainty or true ‘knowing,’ in an absolute sense, is a) attainable as a human, and b) desirable.
Okay so let’s dive into point a. (lol).
I’d like you to think of the last time you got into a fight with someone you love - romantic, friend, parent, child - whoever.
I’m pretty sure you were certain that you were right...or at least, certain that the other person was wrong!
Have you ever had one of those fights where you just keep going around in circles, repeating yourselves? And no matter what you say you’re convinced the other person isn’t listening to you at all? (They’re not, because they’re convinced you’re not listening to them either...which you’re not, because they’re not listening to YOU...and around we go).
After a day of distance and a good laugh, it becomes apparent that you each have very different “logic” operating in the situation. That is to say - what’s right to you, is different than what’s right to them. It’s not so much that you think they’re wrong - you just think YOU’RE right, but you can’t get them to see things through the same lens as you.
Logic is still a personal, flawed, hard-to-truly-quantify system. In fact, hedging our bets on logic can be even more dangerous, because it allows us to avoid personal responsibility - ‘I think this, I see it this way,’ and instead speak in absolutes - ‘this is the right way, doing that is wrong.’
Logic stops us from asking ourselves the deeper questions like, why do I feel this way? What is important about this to me? Questions which in moments of conflict pave the path to resolution and compromise.
Getting overly attached to logic and to certainty - knowing how it’ll all turn out - is risky in our collective world of relationships, where flexibility and curiosity about the other person’s perspective (as well as our own deeper motivations) are keys to lasting closeness.
Okay - now we’ve covered the limitations of logic! Let’s move on to point b. :)
What makes us distrust the intuition? Whether our beliefs are valid or not, it’s because we believe that intuition is less credible than logic. Why do we care so much whether it’s right or wrong?
Because we’re after certainty.
C’mon, Becca, you say. I never said certainty - but of course having some sense of what’s right and wrong, where I’m going, what my plan is - of course I want that!
Sure you do. So do I. And I’m not saying don’t make plans. I’m saying that having a plan is actually a lot less important than having the resilience to adjust when your plan doesn’t work out.
I believe intuition is worth cultivating because it forces us to confront our lack of certainty every day, in moment-to-moment ways, to embrace it and to choose to trust ourselves anyway.
Always seeking the ‘right’ answers, prioritizing logic and reason will only work as long as the problem you’re dealing with has a logical solution.
Lots of things in life don’t have logical solutions; life is messy, and complicated, and most of our choices have less to do with some abstract ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ and more to do with our personal preferences, desires and priorities.
Isn’t it more valuable, then, to cultivate our ability to listen to ourselves? What we want and need? To cultivate our trust in ourselves and our unconscious ‘knowing,’ and to have practice in committing ourselves to things without knowing how they will turn out?
Wanting certainty and wanting things to go our way are human impulses. They come down to fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of losing control - at the very bottom line, fear that we will lose our sense of safety in the world.
We all have it to varying degrees.
Cultivating unconscious wisdom gives us tools to sit with this fear in small doses. To befriend it - understand that it’s there to protect us, but sometimes it’s a little confused about the seriousness of a situation.
After all, it did evolve in our physiology to protect us from lions. Sometimes modern problems are a little smaller, but our brains don’t necessarily recognize the difference (lucky us).
So how can you make friends with this voice today? How can you comfort it, and build confidence in your own ability to live with it? These are questions worth considering.
Conscious breath is one of my favorite ways for cultivating this practice. I think of it as a monthly (or weekly...or daily) “reset” button for my nervous system and my fears. It’s also a concrete way for me to cultivate my resilience.
My confidence in myself and my ability to handle anything has skyrocketed because of conscious breath. I’m never really afraid anymore - not in my core.
When fears arise, which they toooootaaallly do, I am able to reassure them. Recognize them. Tend to them, but live my life without letting them influence my decisions.
Freedom from fear is possible - and it doesn’t have to mean never having a fear-based thought or feeling again. It just means having the tools to live your life anyways.
If you’re in NYC I’d love for you to join me at the next conscious breath workshop.