Intuition seems to be an all-encompassing term/explanation for anything we don’t fully understand. Anything that we can’t logically explain within our current knowledge base becomes an “intuitive-hit”. Now don’t get me wrong, I do believe in divine intuitions and gut feelings, absolutely. But I also think the vast majority of what we term as intuition is simply a set of relationships that on some level we do understand, but not well enough to be able to explain it.
We Know More Than We Think
Every single experience is processed and stored within our brains’ vast capacity for memory. To some degree, even if we cannot accurately or completely recall events, information from all interactions is stored within the deepest (or not so deep) recesses of our mind.
This information gathered over time, through experience helps us to form opinions, make judgment calls, see patterns, create associations and understand relationships and many more things – whether or not it’s a conscious process.
Let’s paint a scenario for just a moment. You have never seen your patient, you’ve never heard your patient, and you’ve never touched them or even shared a room with them. They’re sitting in the next room across from you right now. Only a thin piece of plaster-board separates you. You have to develop an individualized treatment plan for them right now, with an understanding of what ails them and their foremost complaints are.
This is a scenario that requires true divine intuition. And I daresay there aren’t all that many people alive today who’d be able to effectively create such a treatment plan in the above situation. It’s up to you whether or not you believe that’s possible at all.
In The Absence Of Divine Intuition:
As soon as you see someone, hear them and most certainly as soon as you place your hands on them, you are gathering information. Your brain is receiving a huge amount of cues from your senses, and included in that information are:
Notes on how a person sounds
With this information we might be able to tell if someone is experiencing a cold/congestion. We may also be able to discern cultural heritage, and understand certain cultural norms that might play an impact within the way he/she moves or works. Their choice of words can also impart an understanding of mental nature, both in the moment and in the larger context of their lives – and with this information we might be able to discern the degree of mental, emotion and physical stress that one is under.
Notes on visual cues that we receive by seeing them
The way someone enters a room, with the bags they carry, the shoes they wear, the clothes they wear and the pattern of gait immediately begins to inform us about characteristic ways this person moves throughout their day and therefore can visually represent certain “blockages”, tensions, imbalances of movement and muscular activity. The way they sit will also tell us many things about the state of their physiology (and sometimes mentality), such as their hamstring length/mobility along with their natural spinal curves. Do they cross their legs or have them out in front of them, equal distance between ankles and femur heads? These are just a few of the more apparent characteristic pieces of information our mind is collecting.
Notes on kinesthetic cues from when we begin our treatment
Is their tissue ‘reactive’ in the first few touches, or does the tissue settle right into the mode of relaxation? Your brain is also taking notes on how your pressure transfers and translates through the body to distant locations (or how it doesn’t). You’ll also be collecting information on the degree of ‘space’ between layers of tissue or the ease with which different layers of connective tissue move across one another. When moved through a particular range of motion the body can quickly tell you when a stretch has begun, when it’s the perfect level of stretch and then when it’s too much. We’re also noting and feeling our patients breathing cycle and noting down its nature and how that changes within different postures or massage scenarios, and therefore if the inspiratory muscles are working properly.
Without going on forever, you can now start to see the information you’re already gathering and processing, even if you don’t consciously realize it. If anatomy and physiology isn’t something you’ve necessarily studied in isolation before, what you have been doing your entire life is moving and watching others move. So whether or not you have a detailed understanding of what you’re seeing, your brain has already been building connections and understanding patterns with movement and tension/restriction for many years.
From that [sometimes unconscious] knowledge we derive an understanding of how we can get greater therapeutic effect out of every technique. It may not make total sense yet but your brain has made these connections from it’s own store of information and knowledge, whether formally studied or not.
What Does It Mean?
It means that you know more than you think you do. It means that you should take ownership of that knowledge, rather than give the credit to some divine power. I also means you have a much larger responsibility – to pay attention, to be diligent in your work, and to seek even greater understanding of what it is you’re doing.
It’s relatively simple, and much less esoteric than many would have you believe: Increase your conscious knowledge of the human body/mind/spirit. The more vast the pool of knowledge, and the more consciously we study, the more our “intuitions” actually make logical and reasoned sense. The difference is, now we can explain it to others, to our patients, to our colleagues in other health professions and we can extrapolate what we found to make recommendations to keep people healthy, to keep them moving and living better in-between treatments.
Some may suggest that this is over-intellectualizing the process, but I think it’s incredibly important to acknowledge our own capacity of discernment and the input that comes from past experiences. In the same breath it’s important to acknowledge our own limitations in conscious knowledge so that we don’t get carried away or move beyond our scope. We may not even be actively “thinking about it”, yet this information is inevitably being drawn from our minds at every moment of our lives in order to take action in any capacity.
Enjoy the process of developing your intuition. Enjoy your study.
If you liked this article or if it challenged your thinking, you might also get a kick out of these: “Massage & Intimacy: The Issues, The Discussion & The Solution” & “Yes, Your IT-Band Is Tight…But It Should Be.“.