The Relationship between Intuition and Trauma
Many artists that have spoken to describe their process as “tuning into a radio wave”. One artist told me that she did not even know what she was making until it is all done. Many effective creatives explain that it does not feel like they create art. Instead it feels like their art is simply coming through them.
Joseph Campbell used to say that the artist swims in the ocean that the psychotic drowns in. Art, wisdom, intuition, and our unresolved trauma responses come from a place in our brain that is beneath our ego, cognitive, and conscious mind. Older psychoanalysts like Carl Jung called these places the unconscious mind. More recently research calls them “implicit memories” “secondary” and “tertiary” cognitive processes and “somatic memories”.
Intuition and trauma are both have their origin in the subcortical brain. The subcortical brain is the oldest part of the brain that stores information that we can only be partially conscious of. When we feel things the subcortical brain tells us we often call them hutches gut feelings or instincts. Until we deal with trauma we cannot live authentically or trust our intuition. When we are traumatized our gut reactions and changes in mood are problematic and untrustworthy.
For example: Maybe I should have a suspicion of someone that everyone else trusts. My intuition is telling me something that I need to pay attention to to be safe. If I have trauma that makes me unconsciously afraid of men or people who wear red shirts, I might think that this intuition is only a trauma response. Maybe it is a trauma response and I label my aversion to someone intuition when really I am only projecting my trauma response on to them. Until I heal trauma I don not know when to trust my gut reactions.
Intuition refers to the ability to understand or know something without conscious reasoning or evidence. It often manifests as a gut feeling or a sense of knowing that emerges spontaneously. While intuition is not fully understood, research suggests that it involves the integration of various cognitive processes and information stored in the brain.
The subcortical brain regions, particularly the amygdala and the basal ganglia, have been implicated in intuition. The amygdala plays a critical role in processing emotions and detecting potential threats or dangers in the environment. It can rapidly assess incoming sensory information and trigger intuitive responses, guiding our behavior based on previous experiences and emotional associations.
The basal ganglia, a group of structures involved in motor control and habit formation, also contribute to intuition. They are responsible for integrating information from different brain areas and facilitating quick, automated responses. The basal ganglia help us make intuitive decisions by combining learned patterns, previous experiences, and emotional signals.
Trauma refers to an emotional or psychological response to an overwhelmingly distressing event or experience. It can result in long-lasting effects on an individual’s mental and emotional well-being. Traumatic experiences can range from single incidents, such as accidents or assaults, to prolonged situations like abuse or warfare.
The subcortical regions, particularly the amygdala and the hippocampus, are heavily involved in the processing and storage of traumatic memories. The amygdala plays a crucial role in the initial emotional response to trauma, helping to encode fear and stress-related information. It also contributes to the development of hypervigilance, heightened emotional reactions, and the formation of fear-based associations with trauma-related stimuli.
The hippocampus, another subcortical structure, is responsible for memory formation and consolidation. During traumatic events, the stress response can impact the functioning of the hippocampus, potentially leading to memory impairments or fragmented recollection of the traumatic event. This can contribute to symptoms like flashbacks or difficulties in integrating the traumatic experience into a coherent narrative.
The Effects of Trauma:
While both intuition and trauma involve the subcortical brain regions, they arise from different mechanisms. Intuition relies on the integration of cognitive processes, emotional associations, epigenetic memories, and learned patterns, while trauma involves the processing and storage of unconscious distressing memories and emotional responses. Understanding these distinct processes can provide insight into how the brain functions in various contexts.
Trauma can have a significant impact on intuition and hinder access to our authentic selves. When a person experiences trauma, whether it be a single distressing event or ongoing adverse experiences, it can disrupt the normal functioning of the brain and create barriers to intuitive abilities. Here’s how trauma can block intuition and impede connection with our authentic selves:
Hyperarousal and Hypervigilance:
Trauma often leads to a heightened state of arousal and hypervigilance, where individuals are constantly on guard for potential threats. This chronic state of anxiety and vigilance can consume mental and emotional resources, making it difficult for intuitive signals to surface. The constant focus on survival and self-protection overshadows the subtler intuitive insights that arise when we are more relaxed and attuned to our internal wisdom.
Dissociation and Fragmentation:
Traumatic experiences can lead to dissociation, a defense mechanism in which individuals detach from their emotions, sensations, or even their sense of self. Dissociation can fragment the normal flow of thoughts and feelings, creating a disconnection from intuitive cues. When trauma remains unhealed, the dissociative response may persist, making it challenging to access and trust intuitive information.
Trust and Safety Issues:
Trauma can erode an individual’s trust in themselves, others, and the world around them. When trust is compromised, it becomes difficult to rely on one’s own intuition. The fear and uncertainty associated with trauma can lead to a constant questioning of one’s instincts and an inability to discern between genuine intuitive guidance and perceived threats.
Distorted Beliefs and Self-Perception:
Trauma can shape an individual’s beliefs about themselves, others, and the world. Negative self-perceptions, feelings of guilt, shame, or worthlessness can cloud intuition and distort one’s authentic self-expression. These distorted beliefs can create self-doubt, undermine confidence, and inhibit the ability to trust one’s intuitive insights.
Unprocessed Emotions and Traumatic Memories:
Traumatic experiences often involve overwhelming emotions that may remain unprocessed if not adequately addressed. Unresolved emotions can create internal turmoil and make it challenging to connect with intuition. Additionally, traumatic memories, particularly when fragmented or repressed, can disrupt the integration of past experiences, hindering the formation of coherent intuitive responses.
Trauma responses and intuition both have connections to the unconscious or implicit memory, often influencing our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors without conscious awareness. Here’s an elaboration on how trauma responses and intuition originate from the unconscious or implicit memory, and why healing trauma is crucial for accessing our embodied wisdom and authentic self:
Trauma Responses and Unconscious Memory:
Traumatic experiences leave profound imprints on our unconscious memory systems. The unconscious mind stores information and experiences that may not be readily accessible to conscious awareness but can still impact us on various levels. Trauma-related memories, emotions, and sensory cues become embedded in the unconscious, shaping our reactions and behavior even when we’re not consciously aware of their influence.
Trauma responses, such as hypervigilance, avoidance, or emotional triggers, are often automatic and instinctive. They arise from the unconscious memory, triggered by sensory cues or reminders associated with the traumatic event. These responses can occur without conscious understanding or control, making them difficult to manage or modify until the underlying trauma is addressed.
Intuition and Unconscious Knowledge:
Intuition is closely linked to the unconscious or implicit knowledge we possess. It’s a form of knowing that arises without conscious reasoning or explicit awareness of how we acquired the information. Intuitive insights often stem from the integration of various cognitive processes, learned patterns, and emotional associations stored in the unconscious mind.
Our unconscious knowledge encompasses a vast range of experiences, observations, and memories that shape our intuition. It can include implicit learnings from past events, nonverbal cues, body language, and subtle signals that our conscious mind may overlook. Intuitive responses draw upon this rich reservoir of information, guiding us towards insights and decisions that may go beyond logical analysis.
Accessing Embodied Wisdom and Authentic Self:
Healing trauma is essential for accessing our embodied wisdom and authentic self because unhealed trauma can create barriers to trusting and embracing our intuitive responses. Trauma can fragment our sense of self, distort our beliefs, and erode our self-trust, making it challenging to access and rely on our intuitive guidance.
Unresolved trauma can perpetuate a state of hypervigilance, fear, and emotional reactivity, overpowering the quieter, intuitive voice within us. Trust in our intuition requires a sense of safety, self-assuredness, and inner calm that can be compromised by unhealed trauma. By addressing and healing trauma, we can gradually dismantle these barriers, restoring a sense of wholeness and trust in our intuitive abilities.
Now that we have access to QEEG brain mapping technology we can see what is going on in the brain instead of trying to diagnosis it from the outside. Conditions like CPTSD, childhood neglect ADHD and fibromyalgia look the same on a brain map. If a scan can see that these have a correlation on the inside of the brain, can we admit that they are related, perhaps causal conditions? This has validated the intuition of many trauma therapists who long suspected that trauma and PTSD were the fuel under the genetic expression of trauma.
Healing trauma allows us to integrate fragmented experiences, process unresolved emotions, and develop a healthier relationship with our unconscious and intuitive knowledge. It opens up space for the authentic self to emerge, fostering a deeper connection with our inner wisdom, values, and desires. By healing trauma, we clear the path to accessing and embracing our innate intuitive responses, leading to a more authentic and empowered way of being.
Healing trauma is a complex and individual journey, but it can pave the way for reclaiming intuition and reconnecting with one’s authentic self. Through trauma therapy, self-reflection, and supportive interventions, individuals can gradually address the barriers created by trauma, process the emotional wounds, and rebuild trust in themselves and their intuition. As healing progresses, intuitive abilities can reemerge, facilitating a deeper understanding of oneself and promoting a more authentic way of being in the world.
Without healing trauma it is hard to live an authentic life or be comfortable with vulnerability. Intuition is an important ingredient of a whole and actualized life. Clearing the confusion and misdirection caused by trauma can help us to wield intuition as an effective tool in our lives.