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Excerpted from The Creative Spirit by Daniel Goleman, Paul Kaufman, and Michael Ray. Copyright © 1992 by Daniel Goleman. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Putnam, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.

"Our intuition draws directly on the vast storehouse of information which is an open book to the unconscious, but to some degree closed to consciousness."

  Daniel Goleman, The Creative Spirit, Part 3


Once you have mulled over all the relevant pieces and pushed your rational mind to the limits, you can let the problem simmer. This is the incubation stage, when you digest all you have gathered. Whereas preparation demands active work, incubation is more passive, a stage when much of what goes on occurs outside your focused awareness, in the mind’s unconscious. As the saying goes, you "sleep on it."

Although you may pluck the problem from this mental twilight zone from time to time and devote your full attention to it, your mind continues to seek a solution whether or not you are consciously thinking about the problem. Indeed, the answer may come to you in a dream, or in that dreamlike state as you are on the verge of sleep, or on first awakening in the morning.

We often underestimate the power of the unconscious mind. But it is far more suited to a creative insight than is the conscious mind. There are no self-censoring judgments in the unconscious, where ideas are free to recombine with other ideas in novel patterns and unpredictable associations in a kind of promiscuous fluidity.

Another strength of the unconscious mind is that it is the storehouse of everytihng you know, including things you can’t readily call into awareness. Cognitive scientists, who study how informaiton flows through the brain, tell us that all memory is unconscious before it becomes conscious, and that onely a very small fraction of what the mind takes in – less than one percent – ever reaches conscious awareness. In this sense, the unconscious mind is intellectually richer than the conscious part of the mind; it has more data from which to draw upon.

Further, the unconscious speaks to us in ways that go beyond words. What the unconscious mind knows includes the deep feelings and rich imagery that constitutes the intelligence of the senses. What the unconscious mind knows is often more apparent as a felt sense of correctness – a hunch. We call this kind of knowing intuition.

Our intuition draws directly on the vast storehouse of information which is an open book to the unconscious, but to some degree closed to consciousness. That is why, for instance, courses preparing students to take the Scholastic Aptitude Test advise that if we are stumped by a question, we should make as our guess the first answer that seems right. Indeed, experimental studies have found that people’s first hunches generally form the basis for better decisions than those decisions made after rationally working through the pros and cons. When we trust our intuition, we are really turning to the wisdom of the unconscious.

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