The Natural Self and the Intellect

Our intellects tend to demand a lot out of our natural selves. But we can listen to our natural selves more, too, as well as question the reasoning behind our intellect’s actions.

As we’ve seen before, there’s a difference between the way you actually are and the way you want to be. One of the most common ways that this affects our everyday lives is in the difference between our natural self and our intellect.

The natural self is like a big blob of feelings. It doesn’t speak to us in words (thoughts), but in a flow of feelings. When we’re operating purely from this side our selves, this is usually called “the flow”.

Our intellect on the other hand has many ideas about what we should or need to do, regardless of what our feelings say. It treats our natural selves kind of like a pet, who sometimes “needs its leash pulled”.

We’ve all felt this difference before. When the alarm clock rings and we don’t want to get up, but force ourselves, our intellect is pulling our natural selves in a different direction. When we get scared, but force ourselves to do something anyway, same thing. Same thing if we smile even when we’re upset inside – our intellect tells us that we should smile, and we do.

But being forced to do things wears the natural self down. What it really longs for is to feel free – to do what it wants, and to follow its feelings. But it also recognizes that there’s more to life that it’s not considering, and will willingly bend to the demands of the intellect. Just like when we force ourselves to wake up and go somewhere that, if we don’t go, we think there will be bad consequences.

I mean, doesn’t it seem like it’s more often than not that our natural self gets in the way of our ability to get things done? I mean, man, wouldn’t it be good if sleep didn’t exist, or going to the bathroom, or eating – then we could really get some things done!

But those things do exist. So rather than asking how we can more efficiently do the things that we unfortunately, being human have to do (although some might argue!), I think there’s a better question: how do we form a better relationship with our natural selves?

On Being Natural (Again)

I mean, as a kid, didn’t you enjoy the things your natural self wanted to do? Like play, or nap, or wander around aimlessly with no reason at all to it. Our intellects didn’t seem to force us around so much back then! But then we heard things like “you need to earn a living”, or “real men don’t cry”, or any number of other things that scared us away from being our natural selves. That was my experience, at least. Pretty soon I was thrust into a world of thoughts and demands that didn’t make any sense, and I did my best to cope – changing my lifestyle bit by bit with each new piece of information.

Isn’t the whole idea of vacation, in a way, just a chance to get back to our natural selves for a while? To take a break from the waking up when we don’t want to, working when we don’t want to, doing activities when we don’t want to, etc? Not that we always don’t want to – but enough times of forcing ourselves to do things really wears us out.

The first step to reconnecting with your natural self is to tell your intellect (the one saying what you need to and should do) to step aside for aside for a moment, and then to listen.  Listen to your natural self. Your natural self speaks in feelings and images, so you need to listen carefully. What does it want? What does it need? What kind of things trouble it? Just be patient and stay with yourself. Your natural side might not even know how to respond. Reconnect with it, so it knows that it has a friend who won’t try to always demand things out of it all the time.

Another thing you can do that’s pretty fun is to let your natural self “take charge” for a while. What that means is to let your natural self completely take over your physical body for a while, to see how it acts, what kinds of things it’s drawn to, how it feels, etc. Don’t worry, it’s easy to stop it if it gets out of hand. The biggest change that I noticed is that you become extremely sensitive and quiet. It also stays in the feelings you normally don’t like, such as sadness. But the upside is that when you’re in this state and happy, you’ll know you’re genuinely happy.

That’s the benefit, after all, of being natural. You feel genuine, like you’re really doing, moment-to-moment, what you really want to do. You attend to your needs, rather than your ideas.

Lastly, you can talk with your intellect. Ask him about why he’s so demanding on certain issues, and help him to understand that you want your natural self to help get what they want, too. You can also be a mediator, of sorts, working between the both of them on the issues where your natural self is most torn away from what it really wants.

In the end, this article is about caring for your natural self. To recap, here are some ways you can do this:

  • Get to know your natural self. Ask those who have a problem with it to step aside, and talk with it directly. Listening is key.
  • Let your natural self take charge for a while. Notice how it feels.
  • Get to know your intellect. Why is it so demanding? What are its priorities?
  • Lastly, mediate the conflicts between your natural self and intellect. Listen to both sides and look for a reasonable solution.

Additional Exercise: Meet your Natural Self

Although I talk a lot about connecting with your natural self, it can be confusing how to go about doing that. The following exercise aims to help you do that. Follow along in your head or write the results of each step down.

  1. Think of a recent time when you forced yourself to do something you didn’t really want to do. (Example: I forced myself to wake up, rather than sleep in.)
  2. Imagine that the same situation is happening again right now. Try to choose what you really want to do instead. What gets in your way?
  3. This inner voice is likely your intellect, telling you what you should be doing. It might be a little different from what I’ve been talking about. That’s ok. Imagine the voice coming from an imaginary person. What do they look like?
  4. Now think about the part of you who just naturally wants to sleep in. What do they look like?
  5. Since last time the intellect had their way, try to find out what this other, natural side of you wants, and why? You may have a hard time understanding this, but that’s ok – you can always feel what it’s trying to communicate, then ask it if your understanding is correct. Do your best to understand it better.
  6. Once you feel that you know more now than you did last time, and have a better handle on the situation, return to the moment.

Now, while the situation you just went through was a re-imagining, hopefully it helped you to not only prepare for the next, real version of that situation, but strengthened your connection with your natural self as well. You might just have found out how beautiful it really is.

That’s all for now! Have fun out there.
-Oliver

P.S. I know this is the first post in three weeks or so, but I’ve had nothing to post. It’s not that I haven’t gone through anything, it’s that I still don’t understand a lot of what I’m going through. Just thought I’d let those of you who follow my blog know – I only post when I’ve got clarity on something, and when I feel like doing it. Thanks for hanging with me, and remember to subscribe if you want updates when actual new posts come out.

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4 thoughts on “The Natural Self and the Intellect

  1. ‘It treats our natural selves kind of like a pet, who sometimes needs its leash pulled..”..
    I liked your comparison….actually pets are all natural and need human intellect to protect them, since pets are totally dependent on their owners. Babies and small children are all natural. By become intellectual, that is, rational and reasonable, maturity develops and then independence! Voila, a fully functioning balanced human being!

  2. Seems reasonable, but unfortunately the Intellect can very, very often overstep its bounds and violate the interests of the natural self. One example of this is through the fear of death. The intellect listens for anything that might cause death, for instance not exercising enough. However, since it’s hard to know, intellectually, how much IS enough, it can drive one to exercise excessively and when you don’t even want to, arguing “Not enough! You need to do more!” All the while we feel like zombies, driven on by the side of ourselves who literally doesn’t know when enough is enough. All the signals from your natural self, in the form of those feelings of “I want to quit” or “I really want to do something else” get ignored.
    This is why we need to question the intellect, even as adults. It can come up with so many unreasonable rules, restrictions, and demands, that we start to forget about our natural selves, and, sometimes, our natural self just gives up on the vain battle to speak up for itself entirely! That’s why it’s so important to, on those occasions when it forgets its lack of rebellion and does speak up, we need to bring that voice to the forefront, so it once again can be heard, and we can attend to its needs, however petty or random or childish they may seem.
    Adults, all too often, see their natural self as something to be conquered, controlled, dominated, and taught. But really it’s something to be cherished. No matter how smart a person is, they can never have life all figured out, because their natural self, if they let it, will always surprise them. And when it feels true joy and freedom, so do they.
    So I guess my real lesson here is: the intellect doesn’t really “know better”, it just has different capabilities, like logic and reasoning. And, if this is an easier to remember take-away, I’ll say: “Listen to the child within”.

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