When one reaches a point of frustration and feeling obstructed, primal mental activity is activated and a solution of sorts occurs. The feeling or urge is an inborn determination and power that is coupled with prior experience. You are able to continue the task or complete the thought. It’s difficult to exactly nail down this experience. Some people claim that it is instinct.
The rational mind can know a great many facts and techniques which are helpful in the context of modern life. There is also a more subtle inner voice that acts as a personal advisor. If we listen to it we know to take an extra moment to reconsider rash decisions and faulty logic. The presence of instinct can lead to seeing through the fogs of instant gratification and propaganda. At the very least, instinct helps reveal other people’s true agendas–agendas that might not coincide with one’s own.
There comes a point when reason must temper instinct so as to be more personally effective. Whenever something doesn’t happen as anticipated or planned, the average person’s instinct is to blame someone or something else. The average person tends to blame much more often than she or he praises. The accusatory impulse arises not out of enmity; but more out of the instinct of self-preservation. When careful consideration and analysis are used in conjunction with instinct in such situations, a more nuanced vision of failure appears. This means that we are presented with not only a failure, but a lesson to learn. The application of reason in tempering instinct, brings about more effective problem solving and better cooperation from others.
It is important to be mindful of supposed instincts and sometimes do the opposite of what one is normally inclined to do. This happens in organized sports such as baseball. This is especially important when a player is up to bat. When the pitcher throws the ball, the batter instinctively wants to swat at it. There is a better than even chance that the bat will not connect with the ball if instinct alone compells the swing. This is especially the case when a clever pitcher hurls a curve ball. Instinct is triggered when the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand. In the skillful batter’s mind, reason tells the body to do the opposite of how instinct is inclined to respond. The pitcher-batter interaction becomes a game of instinct coupled with reason. The pitcher tries to anticipate how the batter will react while the batter tries to anticipate how the pitcher will throw the ball. Instinct reasserts itself as the ball quickly approaches the strike zone. The good batter either hits the ball if it is within the zone or aborts the swing if the ball is “off”. This snap judgment happens as the result of rehearsal, habit, and instinct.
Instinct is often mysterious. Sometimes when everyone else is doing a certain thing, a nudge or peculiar queasiness comes through the mind and body to do the opposite thing or to refrain from action altogether. When a person pays attention to that inner reticence, she dodges the proverbial bullet because something didn’t feel quite right. Following her instinct saved her from harm. This applies to other situations, as well. In the work environment, the accepted procedure for a certain scenario might conventionally require a particular response. However, an instinctive nudge tells her to respond in a different manner. Her instinctive, diplomatic action thus preserves the corporate-client relationship.
“It is no compliment to be the stupidly idolised master of a dog whose instinct it is to idolise, but it is a very distinct tribute to be chosen as the friend and confidant of a philosophic cat who is wholly his own master and could easily choose another companion if he found such a one more agreeable and interesting.”–H.P. Lovecraft
I pondered the H.P. Lovecraft quote this morning while Orange was sitting on my lap purring in response to me stroking his forehead. Orange seems to be a free spirit. He comes and goes as he pleases, yet his instincts tell him which humans are friendly, including his legal owner, and me. I wonder how much he differentiates the motives of the people at his home and mine. I wonder about the workings of his feline brain–what has he learned in addition to animal instinct? Did he teach me that he can be bribed to allow me to pet him; or did humans teach him to submit to being petted with a bribe? I’m guessing that it’s a combination of learning and cat instinct. In any case, he displays his instinct to seek out affection. One might claim that Orange is polyamorous.
In the end, it is wise to take calculated risks. Research and experimentation are of utmost importance. However, in the end, we tend to make final decisions based upon gut feelings and instincts. An effective, satisfying life requires knowledge, reason, vision, and heart.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Swiss alchemist, physician, lay theologian, and philosopher of the German Renaissance, Paracelsus. “Life is like music, it must be composed by ear, feeling and instinct, not by rule. Nevertheless one had better know the rules, for they sometimes guide in doubtful cases, though not often.”