Logic is linear and sequential. It goes from a to b to c. Each fact or thought or event or experience can be organized in a straight line, each data point relating to the next to form a sequence. You might use logic as you drive away from your house for some period of time: in your mind you create a sequence of the tasks you just completed, going over one after the other, each one related to the tasks you performed to leave the house. You turned on (or off) lights or appliances, you locked doors, put the dog out (or brought the dog in), and put your phone in your pocket or briefcase or bag.
Intuition, on the other hand, might deliver a sudden insight as you drive away: I forgot my phone! (Or forgot to turn a light off or on or forgot to put the dog in or out.) The insight is discrete. It does not require a lead up and is not necessarily related to the thoughts that preceded it. It simply appears in the mind, whole and complete.
Both logic and intuition are valuable ways that our minds naturally work. Logic allows us to order the elements of our experience and of our world. It allows us to follow a chain of events, prioritize elements of the chain in order to determine any possible cause-and-effect relationships and eliminate elements that are not relevant.
When we go to a healthcare practitioner, we use an amazing amount of logic, education and experience in order to choose what information we share with the practitioner. We might have educated ourselves ahead of time. Even though watching a television show might precede the visit, we do not necessarily include watching the show in the sequence we report to the practitioner. If we go to the doctor because of a dog bite, we might report the incident with the dog and not necessarily the incident with the neighbor that preceded the incident with the dog.
Intuition, on the other hand, may cause us to mention something logic did not identify as relevant. There was a story years ago in the Denver Post about a woman who had been sick for more than ten days with what she thought was the flu. She was getting worse rather than better and her daughter eventually insisted that the woman go to the ER. She did and while reporting her symptoms logically, thought to mention that she was embarrassed to say that she might have bad breath—she had been unable to open her mouth to brush her teeth before coming to the hospital. Whether intuition or lucky accident caused her to report that, the doctor treating her knew immediately that she was suffering from tetanus, otherwise called lockjaw, a rare but very serious infection that can prove fatal.
Intuition might also provide the practitioner with sudden insight, asking a question or making a connection that might seem unexpected—even unrelated—to the conversational sequence.
Intuition and logic work together. If we develop both, we are able to both receive insight and put order into our thoughts, words and actions. We all know people who have seemingly developed intuition without also developing logic. These people can seem overly touchy-feely or ungrounded, impractical and even scattered. We can imagine a trip to a healthcare practitioner taking a great deal of time as they include details that the practitioner might find entirely irrelevant to the subject at hand.
Those who have done the opposite, developing logic without also developing the ability to receive and process insight, can seem flat, unimaginative, unable to “get” certain aspects of their own experience or the experience of others. A trip to the doctor for depression could easily result in them failing to report their depression!
In my experience intuition runs on the same circuits the emotions run on. Allowing emotional flow without getting bogged down in some emotions or flying off the handle with others can lead to the ability to observe both the flow of emotion and the flow of intuitive insight.
We do not either have intuition or not have intuition. The question is, do we recognize and allow intuitive insight to inform our experience—do we allow it to complement logic? And then do we have the wisdom and confidence to weigh the two types of information and act accordingly?
The most important difference between logic and intuition is that our educational system—and our interactions with others—reinforces our use of logic. Unless we were born with a strong tendency to use intuition, and we sought or received education, mentoring and encouragement in doing so, there is very little in our experience that reinforces our use of intuition.
We can change this. Recognizing and using intuition, cultivating the non-linear and non-sequential thoughts and feelings we might experience, and then allowing those thoughts and feelings to complement logic, can give us the ability to recognize and process different types of information—from felt sense to spoken word; from inner vision to external observation; from knowledge obtained from books and articles to knowledge gained from real world experience and sudden insight. Learning more about what intuition is and how to use it allows us to apprehend aspects of an experience that were unavailable to us previously, creating a wider range of experience and, eventually, a more whole and satisfying sense of our own humanity and the humanity of others.