If you had asked me 17 years ago if I was using intuition in my work with clients, I would have probably said that I used it to sense the best way to approach a client who might be dejected or struggling, or to trust that their demeanor, body language, posture, etc. might be saying something they were not currently aware of. Basically, I think I used it when I was unclear or unsure, or felt a strong pull to go in one direction or another.
I think most therapists, teachers, and bodyworkers; in fact most people use their intuition this way. They get flashes of knowing, or maybe they get a sense of something or someone and over time become confident with that twinge that tells them “Go with this!” Had some odd things not happened to me back then I suspect this is as far as I would have taken my explorations of intuition. But some odd things did happen. The most significant of which is what happened in the spring of 1988.
I was walking down the hall to my waiting room with a client I had just ended a session with and he was joking with me. I was in a good mood but when I opened the door to my waiting room to greet a new client who had come for career counseling (not therapy) I got a chill of anxiety (dread?) way down deep in my stomach - a real sense of panic.
This feeling bewildered me because what I felt did not match the picture of the person in front of me. This was a young man in his late 20’s, handsome, well dressed and broadly smiling. The feeling stayed with me until we reached my office and finally dissipated as we began to talk about his career. About 10 minutes into the discussion of his career a very strong bizarre image came to me of Julie Andrews dressed as she was in “Mary Poppins” walking through a graveyard at night, whistling. The feeling of the image was the feeling you get when you see graveyards in horror movies and I felt that dread again. I pushed myself to refocus my attention on the career discussion but the image lingered and after a while the song being whistled in the image was all I could hear and I recognized it as “Whistle a Happy Tune.”
With about fifteen minutes left to the session I decided to wrap it up and discuss some career related exercises he might do. As I began to say this to him, he took in and let out a deep breath and said there was something he had to tell me. At this point he looked very pained and frightened and proceeded to say that just prior to coming to our meeting he had come from a clinic where he had just been told he had AIDS. He confessed that the fear that this was going to be the diagnosis was the real reason he had made an appointment with me. We sat for another forty minutes while he talked about his fear of hospitalization and death and how deeply frightened he felt about his diagnosis. He also spoke of how ashamed he was of revealing this illness and that it was his usual style to “put on a brave face” in any fear situation and that this strategy was too difficult now.
After he left I remembered some of the words to “Whistle a Happy Tune.
Whenever I feel afraid, I hold myself erect
And whistle a happy tune
So no one will suspect I'm afraid
The whole experience, from the feeling of dread, to the image, to the song, to my client's confession and the depth of the work left me shaken. It seemed like something in me sensed my client's predicament and persisted quite forcefully in trying to tell me, despite my attempts to label it as something else (my own anxiety, stray or annoying thoughts), push it into the background or dismiss it. On reflection it was clear to me that Julie Andrews, as “Mary Poppins” is the essence of “putting on a brave face.” “Whistling through a graveyard” is an old expression my mother used to use to suggest someone was trying (unsuccessfully) to cope with and/or deny his or her fear. It was particularly apt here for my client's fear of death. The song speaks for itself (but apparently not to someone as dense as me until the last minute.)
This incident did finally inspire me to systematically investigate the nature of intuitive knowing (my focus as a therapist and teacher was primarily on the different forms of person to person and self intuition but over the years has expanded to decision making, skill learning and creativity). What I learned in nearly 18 years of exploration can be summarized in a few short statements:
• We know vastly more than we know we know. Most of our understanding of the world, others and ourselves is or has become implicit, intuitive and directed by our ‘Felt Sense’ of things. Our intuitive workshops are designed to give participants systematic access to this ‘Felt Understanding’ and to the three major forms of intuitive knowing: somatic, imagery/symbolic, and auditory.
• Although we are in a constant implicit intuitive dialog with the world, others and ourselves we often dismiss the hints, suggestions, warnings, creative opportunities and directions our intuition offers because these offerings come in forms that are enigmatic or opaque (viz., bizarre imagery, confusing body experiences, songs, stray thoughts, dreams, etc.). Learning how to understand what our intuition reveals to us in body tensions, imagery, symbolic experience and inner voicing is another important goal of our intuitive workshops.
• Intuition is often thought of as a kind of mental insight. In fact it is a multileveled holistic body-mind-emotion understanding (a Somatic Intuition). It requires a paradoxical process of 'disciplined surrender' to usefully integrate this form of knowing into our conscious logical knowing. The Introductory Workshop in Somatic Intuition and the Somatic Intuition Program are focused on using this process of disciplined surrender for self-awareness, creativity, life choice, communication and person-to-person understanding.
We hope you will join us.
Ron DeAngelo, Ph.D
400 East 55th Street
New York, NY 10022
(917) 561-1877 call or email at Ekru1@aol.com
122 West 26th Street, Rm. 702
New York, New York 10001
(212) 691-6482 or email at