I find in my practice that there is a great deal of confusion between these two concepts. Not surprising when Western culture has completely divorced itself from experiencing legitimate emotional suffering during the neuroplastic pruning processes of puberty.

Let’s try to distill these down and define our terms so when they show up later you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Logic is one of the gifts of being human, eg having a prefrontal cortex capable of executive function. It belongs to mind. It is our source of reason. Divorced from the sway and appeal of emotion it allows for a framework or perspective that is more ‘objective’ through its inherent lack of passion.

Intuition belongs to the body. Precisely where is harder to say, but expressions like “I have to follow my heart” or “I have a gut feeling we should choose X” are good exemplars.

Intuition is emotional and sensory at its core, but a common misperception is that it is also chaotic and alogical. This is hardly the case. Our intuitions do follow certain absolute and immutable rules, predictable patterns. What is different is that the constant laws of the emotional universe have different values, ie, logic tells us gravity is always 9.8m/s2, but in the realm of intuition the value is always 5. It is consistently 5, and 5 is never 9.8, but it will always be 5. There is a rhythm and predictability if present if you can get past the fact that it is not inherently Reasonable from a mind perspective.

Lastly, there is a crucial difference between intuition and instinct. Intuition, like reason, is uniquely human and requires consciousness. Instinct, however, is animal. Human instincts are primate, primal. It is our instincts which are reactive rather than proactive. Instincts are developed through our relationships with others; it’s no surprise that patients with developmental trauma are hypervigilant, prone to sensitive startle reflexes, and easily shaped enough to resemble those of a defective parent and be reenacted later in life. Instincts are learned through show, not tell, and this process happens from birth through childhood. I suspect there is diminishment of this beginning around age 8 when the frontal lobe begins to come online and certainly recedes more as adolescence happens and we begin our first real flirtations with developing a relationship to our intuition while (likely blindly/unconsciously) already reenacting the instinctual patterns of behavior witnessed from our parents.

Unlike logic, which can be studied and refined, and intuition, a living sensory and emotional relationship we can consciously build/develop, our first instincts are essentially immutable. Some people have lousy instincts. Remember that episode of Seinfeld when George got the girl and got a promotion all because he deliberately chose against his instincts? Yeah. Some of you should do that, particularly those where neither parent was securely attached to you.

More to come in this series, ranging from jargon, clinical terms, diagnoses, etc… Let’s fix the DSM together. And if we can’t fix it, well, we can at least make it competitive with the (similarly awful, but slightly less awful) relevant wikipedia pages.