Intuition is a loaded word. People generally love it or hate it. They have it, or they don’t.
If you’re someone who frequently relies on your gut instincts, then you’ve got this key element to clinical success, but be sure to read on to learn how to transform this sense into a truly Functional skill.
And if you’re wrinkling your nose at the the idea that intuition has a place in the clinic, I assure you that Functional Intuition is a far cry from a psychic reading at the carnaval.
Functional Intuition arises only when you have extensive clinical practice under your belt.
Functional Intuition comes when you’ve studied the sciences, worked with the systems, practiced the art of counseling, and your knowledge and experience have integrated to become wisdom.
Functional Intuition is akin to what athletes and artists call the Zone, and what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience) calls the “Flow State”. It’s a state of being that emerges in masters—those who have dedicated thousands of hours to their practice.
Once you’ve learned and practiced the skills of your craft enough, your unconscious mind begins to make connections so quickly that your conscious mind cannot keep up. This is when you know something without understanding why you know.
Csikszentmihalyi states that Flow happens when your skill level matches the challenge you’re faced with. You can create Flow in a situation of low challenge only if you have a low level of skill. Otherwise you get bored.
Similarly, and more commonly, you can create a state of Flow when you have a high level of skill and you’re faced with a high degree of challenge. This is what we see with masterful musicians, athletes, and clinicians.
If you’re faced with a challenge that is above your level of skill, however, instead of Flow, you’ll experience anxiety.
The image below illustrates this relationship between skill, challenge, and state of being:
While it may seem out of your reach to become the Mozart of diet and lifestyle counseling, my guess is that you’ve likely had more moments of Functional Intuition than you think.
If you’ve ever had a hunch that your client has a sensitivity to dairy because of her puffy eyes and challenges with constipation, or that the late nights your patient spends writing his novel on his laptop, propped up in his bed, are impacting his sex drive, even though these clues were mentioned only tangentially, then you’re in the Flow.
Or perhaps you noticed on your patient’s Intake Form that they’d traveled out of the country and you decide to delve more into the experience, even though they’re coming to you for the seemingly unrelated challenge of undiagnosed chronic gas and bloating.
Bingo. You’ve tapped into Flow and Functional Intuition.
Just as baseball players invite moments of being in the Zone by going to batting practice, and painters create the Flow State by spending hours at the canvas working with colors and shapes, the trick to creating Functional Intuition is practice.
The more you practice using the Functional Nutrition Matrix, the more you’ll intuitively make connections between your client’s Story, Soup, and Skill (their history, their physiological function or dysfunction and what they need to do to invite remedy.) You’ll get what you might have previously called a hunch, and you’ll just know something.
The more time you spend in the Art of the Practice, the more easily you’ll be able to practice Functional Empathy—building the bridge between you and your client, and you’ll feel empowered instead of drained after sessions.
And the more time you spend talking with people about what you do, and what Functional Nutrition really is, the more the words will just flow, and the less caught up in your head you’ll be when someone asks you how you can help them finally feel better.
Practice really does make perfect. A perfect state of Functional Intuition will allow you to help the people you’re eager to help, and to guide them towards resolution.
Functional nutritionist and educator Andrea Nakayama (FNLP, MSN, CNC, CNE, CHHC) is leading patients and practitioners around the world in a revolution to reclaim ownership over our own health. Her passion for food as personalized medicine was born from the loss of her young husband to a brain tumor in 2002. She’s now regularly consulted as the nutrition expert for the toughest clinical cases in the practices of many world-renowned doctors, and trains a thousand practitioners online each year in her methodologies at Functional Nutrition Lab. Learn more about Andrea here.