Recovering addicts often resist participating 12-step programs for addiction because they seem to rely so heavily on the notion of “God.” Even though the programs often use the terms “higher power” or “God of your understanding” some people feel overwhelmed with what they feel as oppressive religiosity.
Other people who are already religious can come to resent the 12-step idea of a higher power or a spiritual awakening because they feel they already have a perfectly good religious framework for their lives and they don’t need to learn a new one.
No matter what the objection the person has to the concept of a higher power, they can often accept the notion of intuition as a way to conceive of the concept of higher power. (See the new Psych Central blog about intuition!) I support this idea because of the many strands of thinking that have come together around the idea of intuition in recent years.
What is intuition?
Intuition is real. It appears to have certain defining characteristics. It is generally written about as a kind of mental processing, a form of understanding or apprehending something
- Without verbal thought
- Without conscious problem solving, and
- Without the time required for normal thinking
In everyday life we experience intuition without realizing what it is. We have been trying to figure something out and all of a sudden as if out of nowhere the answer pops into our head.
Where is intuition?
Intuition is talked about by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Blink as a scientifically documented kind of mental processing which he calls rapid cognition whereby people can know something instantaneously and even act on it in a tiny fraction of the time that it would take to actually think about it.
Eckhart Tolle has a similar notion of non-verbal awareness when writes about tuning in to yourself as a process that is beyond words, concepts and thinking in the usual sense. He describes this meditative state as one that is “above” thought, transcending thought rather than “below thought” as when the thinking mind is numbed out with drugs. The meditative state of being present is very open to intuitive understanding whereas the drugged state is unavailable to intuition or much of anything else.
To the extent that it is localized, intuition can be conceived as a right brain activity. The famous book by Betty Edwards Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, suggests that drawing involves a kind of joining with the thing we draw that is a non-conceptual process.
Intuition as higher power works well for many people
Intuition as currently written about connects well with ancient spiritual traditions like Taoism which are alive today. Taoism says that “those who know don’t say and those who say don’t know.” In other words the notion of a higher power is one that is beyond words and cannot be talked about using words. This is unlike the traditions that revolve around a deity.
In recovery we become more connected with ourselves with other people and with the rest of “being.” Normal thought categorizes things into verbal boxes and separates me from you, us from them etc. Intuition is where we feel the oneness because we let go of all the trappings of our old egotistical ways of thinking.
Because it is non-conceptual, intuition is a form of thinking that is non-judgmental and therefore fits with our recovery process of becoming more accepting and living a surrendered life. As they say in recovery circles we “live life on life’s terms” instead to trying to control everything and making ourselves miserable.
How to use your intuition
Best of all, your intuition as your higher power is not something you need to search for. It is already there inside you. You don’t need to read a lot of spiritual writing if you don’t want to and you certainly don’t need to go to someplace to study and sit and meditate for hours. You just need to begin to listen to your own inner sense of things more closely.
Sometimes listening to your intuition means quieting noise from outside for periods of time and not filling up every spare moment with something to do or listen to or watch. The important point is that it is not a religious process or a belief in God in the usual sense. It is not listening to what something outside us tells us but listening to the wisdom that is already inside us . Find Dr. Hatch on Facebook at Sex Addictions Counseling or Twitter @SAResource