Intuition: what almost killed the cat and what’s bringing her back

Intuition is a funny thing. You’d think it would make life easier, but it’s not always the case.

I remember being little and getting annoyed when my mother could guess what the actors on TV were going to say or a plot twist before it happened. What a party pooper!

I do the same thing now. I saw a movie called The Sound of Metal with Riz Ahmed the other day. In it he experiences sudden and profound hearing loss. Within about 20 minutes I knew how the story would proceed and end. The movie was still compelling to watch because of the exploration of the character’s humanity.

In general, though, this type of intuition tends to make life predictable and boring. Stories that rely on plot twists don’t interest me. It’s one of the reasons I never got into true crime. I’m very hard on screenwriters for making obvious choices. Rhyming patterns are also dead giveaways and make lazy lyricists intolerable when you can guess what’s coming up. I once walked out of a friend’s show because I couldn’t take the lyrics popping up in my head before he sang them.

Intuition has made me very impatient and intolerant of others in general.

Imagine what school must have felt like to an impulsive, intuitive, socially clueless child. The teacher would begin a new lesson and I’d already know it. Sometimes it was because I’d already seen some aspect of the lesson on a TV show or read it in a book in my free time. I could use inductive reasoning (very autistic) to put the puzzle pieces together and fill in the rest. But sometimes, and I couldn’t tell you how, it was as if whole swaths of information just unfurled in front of me and I instantly knew something I had no way of knowing. It’s the spooky woo woo that creeps people out. I used to think it was how everyone experienced life.

And then I’d have to sit there while the teacher went on and on. When they posed questions to the class, I didn’t even bother to raise my hand. I’d just roll my eyes and say the answer to no one in particular. I didn’t get joy out of being right because 1. I got in trouble a lot for misbehaving; and 2. the other kids couldn’t stand me.

This went on into college. On more than one occasion I had professors challenge me because I looked bored. They’d stop a lecture and ask me a question. I hadn’t read the class materials, but I knew the answers. It always pissed them off. I ended up dropping more classes than I took because I could have taught them.

Having to wait around for people to catch up still irks me. Most people operate on very limited, very obvious algorithms that pump out only so many responses. They like to believe they’re original…they might even be lauded by other unoriginal people for their tepid creativity…but they fall into repeated types. Given enough data, I can predict entire conversations before they’ve happened. Social media makes this even more obvious when people repeatedly posture and post their knee jerk reactions to things. Most people’s commentaries are so obvious I could generate them in their voice and tell you what they would say and do in any given circumstance.

Part of the reason I ha(d)ve such little tolerance for others is that I grew up in a family of intuitive women on my mother’s side. They say things that are spot on without having any actual knowledge of what might be going on hundreds of miles away. It makes them witchy. But they don’t always get things right because their theory of mind is faulty so they ascribe nefarious intentions to innocent behavior. This is a natural product of knowing that people lie and being continually disappointed and hurt, but not having been taught compassion or understanding of human frailty. They assume a lot and have little curiosity. It comes off as cruelty.

Having intuition without understanding is like being colorblind or losing your sense of smell. You can usually get by, but your gaffs could lead to real harm. Here are just some off the top of my head:

1. Dangerous behaviors: boredom can lead to unnecessary risk-seeking behavior. A lot of gifted, intuitive people become addicted to all sorts of things to get through the dull days or to feel something novel. Sex, drugs and rock n roll are great, but anything can become a vice.

2. Isolation, cynicism and cruelty: everyone else is dumb and no one understands. Might as well stew in bitterness. We call these people Ayn Rand fans or, more generally, libertarians.

3. Mediocrity: if left unchecked, it can lead to an over-inflated ego and permanent plateaus. Entitled intuitives will rest on easily-obtained laurels and pump out mediocre garbage that just adds to the noise instead of actually trying. The world today is flooded with cheap, unsophisticated treacle for undiscerning audiences.

4. Perfection, procrastination: when one just intuits things correctly, they might not have the valuable experience of struggling through a problem. When intuition doesn’t come, the person doesn’t have tools to persevere. If it isn’t perfect, they just won’t do it at all…or they’ll drag out a task until the last minute and torture themselves. Being intuitive means that others wrongly come to expect this level of excellence all the time in every context and anything short of perfection is called “laziness.”

5. Imposter syndrome: things come “too easily.” They feel unearned. What follows is massive self-doubt and a paranoia of eventual discovery of one’s fraud.

6. Rejection-sensitive dysphoria: intuition isn’t always right, or it’s poorly expressed, or it is right but others aren’t able to understand it and they fear and reject what they are incapable of understanding. Intuition is so integral to a person that criticizing it naturally feels like a personal attack. It can get to the point where someone will perceive an attack even when it was not intended.

I’ve dealt with all of these pitfalls to varying degrees. I live at the intersection of giftedness, autism and woo woo. Call it intuition central. I’m building understanding by being as honest as I can with myself about myself, learning to have magnanimity and patience for people who do not have my gifts (I struggle so hard with this one), and finding other developing intuitives to share the journey with.

Finding other intuitive souls isn’t easy. But it’s been a lot easier in NYC than it ever was in Tucson. Not because of the bigger population, but because we all came here looking for the same thing. You will find us in a room full of people (or the Covid/virtual equivalent), having our own conversations and even finishing each other’s sentences. We can sense when to help others and when to ask for help. We can explore our strangeness without fear of judgment or rejection. We love challenging convention but not to the point of being anti-social. We revel in obscure and sometimes off-putting humor. We enjoy games that involve strategy from chess to baseball to online dating. More than anything, we allow each other to just be.

None of us are perfect. And maybe because we are intuitive, we challenge each other in uncomfortable ways. Sometimes just by provoking reactions that clue the other into things they need to examine and work on. The friendships are not always pleasant. But they’re rewarding. And if nothing else, they are full of surprises.

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