I often remember a former colleague of mine who thought that gut-instinct not to be trusted. He once said “If you are a stupid person your intuition is probably stupid too”.

A bit harsh, and definitely not PC, but he had a point. If somebody is not capable of acting wisely, for whatever reason, then is it likely that some inner part of them could magically assert itself, bringing insight and acuity? It’s certainly possible, but it can’t be relied on to be universal and trustworthy.

He was – and I hope still is, I haven’t seen him for years – a wise and insightful therapist. But he had a no-nonsense approach to his work and, like many of the great minds in psychology, was down-to-earth and direct in his thinking and his language. Wooly concepts irritated him like a scratchy sweater. Pop psychology was having its moment in the 1980s, and it provided plenty of opportunities for comments like the one above.

The basic idea of getting in touch with our inner selves is sound. Learning to pay attention to the thoughts and feelings that lie just beneath the surface can be a life-saver in some situations, literally. But assuming when in the middle of a crisis for example, that our objectivity can be reclaimed simply by digging deeper…? What good is that when the person holding the spade is the one who has been making all the mistakes?

I’m not knocking insight. I’m making the point that it should be treated with caution when it comes out of the same box as the thoughts and behaviour that cause us problems. There is no guarantee, just because we call something ‘an inner voice’, ‘instict’ or ‘intuition’, that it should provide a safe route out of difficulty. Insight can only be judged with hindsight,

I’m a psychologist, coach, and therapist. All my work is aimed at enabling people to improve personal aspects of their lives and work.



  1. Philip Carr-Gomm February 19, 2016 at 7:32 am

    Good punch line Barry!????

  2. Steve March 22, 2018 at 3:06 pm

    If as a society we could be so reflective! Social media has given voice to each individual, but if everyone is right in there own mind (or gut), then the rest of the world is wrong. It seems that critical thinking is at risk of extinction and few can hold differing perspectives and see the larger picture. Intuition is basic and innocent until it’s contaminated or damaged by an abusive and untrusting protective figure; and now, by flooding of fake news and hours of gaming (or training of the developing mind in fantasy). Is intuition under attack? Is technology eroding the most basic, yet most critical, aspect of human decision-making. Mindfulness should be a core curriculum in every school at all ages to protect and hone this essential human asset. Thanks for the thought provoking article!

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