Listen to your intuitive mind

There is much documented and increasingly more written about the need for people to be “whole brained”.  Much of this relates to the right and left halves of the brain – the right being more holistic and simultaneous and the left being more logical and sequential.  Less is written about the lower, or limbic part of the brain relative to the upper, or cerebral part.  However, as with the right and left halves, the upper and lower parts of the brain perform different functions.

In broad terms, the upper part of the brain is our intellectual processing centre.  It deals with logic and with big-picture thinking.  The lower part of our brain deals with our more visceral instincts.  It uses intuition and emotional connections to make decisions.

We all have stories to tell about our own intuition, some of which have deeper consequences than others - we just “know” an interview candidate can do a job and we “sense” danger in a darkened roadway.  

Some people may dismiss these intuitive thoughts as being illogical, but they are not a part of our make-up without reason.  When information comes to us through our five senses it is routed to our brains along two pathways, one goes to our intellectual processing centre and one runs to our intuitive processing centre.  This latter route processes information much more quickly than the slower intellectual route so, for example, if we touch something hot, we will have instinctively moved our hand out of the way well before our intellectual brain has thought about what to do.

It is not that one part of our brain is better or more useful than the other, both are important.  The concern however is that in our logical, structured and intellectual world, we often dismiss our intuitive thoughts as being illogical or irrational.  However, A 2006 UCL study found that you are more likely to perform well if you do not think too hard and instead trust your instincts. The research, published online in the journal ‘Current Biology’, shows that, in some cases, instinctive snap decisions are more reliable than decisions taken using higher-level cognitive processes.

If only I had trusted my instinct as I started to hear alarm bells ringing ever louder in the weeks before my first wedding.  I became a champion rationaliser, and it was only when we divorced 2 years later that I really admitted the cost of me wanting my intellect to overrule my instinct.

The message is clear; be open and listen to your instinct as well as to your intellect.  Most importantly, use the whole of your brain for balance.


To contact Gill McKay, please email her at

For more information on the mind and on your brain visit the MyBrain International web site.