Recently the Washington Post reviewed a new book Dangerous Instincts, by Monica Hesse writing about Mary Ellen O’Toole. (View Article Here) For 30 years O’Toole worked for the FBI. She interviewed the Unibomber, worked on abduction cases and investigated torturers, serial killers and serious crazies of all types, including the Green River Killer, who disposed of 49 women in Washington State during the 1980s and ‘90s. She says the most dangerous criminals often came across as harmless, and that people should not trust their intuition about these psychopaths: Interviewing neighbors, she finds statements like: “He was low-key. He was nice. He didn’t swear. He was a churchgoer.” Or, “I just looked at him, and I could tell he was a good guy.” Don’t trust your intuition, O”Toole concludes. It may be seriously flawed.
Since my book, The Art of Intuition: Cultivating Your Inner Wisdom, Tarcher, 2011), takes the opposite position — ALWAYS Trust your intuition– I feel obliged to argue.
First, O’Toole is not totally wrong. Sure, some people have better intuition than others. But intuition can be developed. The more you listen to your intuition, the more you will hear. The more you trust and act on it, the more you will have. The problem is in discerning intuition from intellect–your own weird thinking.
I propose that what O’Toole is talking about is our tendency to over-ride our intuition by reason and analysis. Imagine: an FBI agent comes up to you, asking about your next- door neighbor who has just gone on a AKI-assault-gun rampage; and what are you going to say? He may have given you the heebie-jeebies, but that’s not going to give the FBI information. Now Reason and Logic step to the plate: “Gosh,” you say. “I don’t know. He seemed perfectly ordinary, a little quiet maybe. He was soft-spoken, always smiled at me. Went to church with his mother.” No point adding that underneath this facade you felt him smouldering—you have no evidence for that gut reaction, (except the hindsight, now, of his spray-gun killings and the bloody bodies lying in their gore on the sidewalk). Interviewed by the police or FBI, you’d naturally override the intuition, which tells them nothing except that you disliked him.
The case for intuition is still open.
But I’ll trust mine every time. We call it premonition, prescience, second sight, clairvoyance, a hunch, a gut feeling, the bolt from the blue (and scientific tests show that intuition arrives with physical signals: the gut churns, the hair rises on your arms or neck, your skin goes cold with sweat, your heart beats faster). Intuition is the signal from your higher Self. The problem is, it will tell you WHAT, but never WHY. (Why does he give me the chills? Why should I run right now? It’s easy, therefore, to override the message. (Nothing wrong with him. No danger hiding in that bush).
O’Toole asserts that intuition is flawed because so often the people she interviewed thought the serial killer “nice.” But let’s ask another question: How many friends did the killer have before he shot up Virginia Tech, before he kidnapped a child, or tortured women in his homemade basement dungeon, or became the Beltway Bandit, hunting his unaware victims with telescopic scopes?
Frankly, if he had a lot of friends then I’ll revisit my views on intuition; but I’ll lay bets that while the neighbor may have reported the killer as “a quiet guy, low key, he didn’t swear,” he probably in practice kept his distance: just an intuition. Just an inner guidance that maybe he didn’t like him and for no reason he could put his finger on, and therefore no reason to report that to the FBI.
Last words: TRUST AND CULTIVATE YOUR INTUITION. It may save your life.