June, 1950 was the height of the “McCarthy era,” a time in which an overzealous U.S. Senator used his office to bully fellow Americans from all walks of life whom he suspected of being communist sympathizers. Artists, musicians and university professors had their livelihoods destroyed and suffered public humiliation when they were blacklisted by McCarthy and his cronies for alleged “un-American activities.”
Amidst this paranoia, one person had the courage to openly challenge McCarthy’s vicious practices. That person was a woman, Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith. Ms. Smith displayed extraordinary leadership by issuing a “Declaration of Conscience” against McCarthy that ultimately led to his being silenced. In her declaration, Ms. Smith decried what she called “the Four Horsemen of Calumny—fear, ignorance, bigotry and smear.”
What empowered Margaret Chase Smith to stand against fear-mongering and political expediency? New insights from psychological science—insights that have practical applications and are currently in use in our clinic and a few others in Peoria—suggest that leadership as displayed valiantly by Ms. Smith is the product of intuitive intelligence rooted in the heart.
Intuitive intelligence can be defined as “knowing without knowing how you know.” It is a skill which all humans possess, but that only a few develop. The scientific basis for intuitive intelligence lies in new discoveries about the heart’s power to influence thought. The heart’s potency consists largely in its ability to exert an electromagnetic “pull” on the brain. While both brain and heart generate such energy, the heart’s electromagnetic signals are 40 to 60 times stronger than the brain’s. Deeply held, heart-based emotions, translated into electromagnetic information, influence both what we attend to moment by moment and what we remember over time.
The ability to detach from a situation, reflect upon its essence and then speak convincingly “from the heart” about it characterizes intuitive intelligence of the kind shown by Ms. Smith against McCarthy’s intimidations. Such skill is integral not only to courageous leadership, but to creative problem-solving as well. We can all think of moments of stillness and peace when the “outside-the-box” flash of an imaginative solution to some difficulty occurred to us, but intuitive problem-solving is not always the ingenious breakthrough. Some of our most creative answers come in the form of disarmingly unadorned common sense.
Consider the case of a homemaker who had been sold a defective product but got the runaround from the large manufacturer of the device when she sought satisfaction. Our intrepid lady stepped back, calmed her frustrations and “asked her heart” for a solution. A short time later the answer occurred to her. She purchased shares of the company’s stock, then called “corporate” and explained that she was a shareholder who was concerned about lack of responsiveness to customers with complaints. She added that it was her intention to bring this problem to the attention of top management at the next shareholder’s meeting. She got speedy resolution of her product problem and a total refund.
The development of intuitive intelligence is surprisingly straightforward. In our clinic, we use a simple method together with an easy-to-learn biofeedback program to teach people how to assess intuitive insights for outstanding leadership and problem-solving in fast-paced business and family environments. To start developing the mindset for intuitive intelligence, consider a simple method developed by the HeartMath Institute (www.heartmath.com). Set aside ten or fifteen minutes of quiet time daily to do the following:
- Quiet yourself with slow, deep breaths and become aware of your heart (if you can’t visualize your heart it may help to place your hand over it in “pledge of allegiance” fashion).
- Take a deep breath in and imagine your heart expanding as it fills with good, clean air. Then breathe out, imagining that you are doing so through the solar plexus (the area just beneath your breastbone). Repeat seven “heart expanding” in-breaths and the corresponding out-breaths through the solar plexus.
- In your mind’s eye, picture a person, event or place in nature that fosters feelings of appreciation. Really allow yourself to feel these feelings. Then “breathe your heart up” to connect with the feelings, letting them fill your mind and heart.
- Think of an issue or problem that has you stymied and “freeze-frame” it, separating out your fears and frustrations.
- Finally, “soak” the problem in your appreciative feelings and quietly ask your heart what needs to be done with the problem. If you discover that you are becoming distracted, repeat the method.
By maintaining an open, appreciative frame of mind, you can prepare your mind for your heart to offer intuitive solutions to the issue.
Heart-based problem-solving methods may seem counterintuitive! This is because we have gotten used to rational, linear analysis, which involves gathering data and arranging it logically before analyzing it for patterns. Solutions then come from new pattern arrangements. This method still works, but we now have computers that do this faster than the brightest of human beings. Those who would lead and creatively problem-solve will develop heart-generated intuitions to complement machine intelligence.
Margaret Chase Smith calmed her heart in the face of McCarthy’s brow-beating, reflected on his actions and listened to her heart in determining to stand up to him. Her quiet valor changed the course of history. Whether in relationships or in your home or organization, you can do so as well if you learn to “let it come from the heart.” TPW