Instinct & Intellect (#64)

Instinct is a problem solver, intellect is a problem seeker — only together do we act with purpose.

A color pencil drawing of the human brain, outlined in black on a blue background
Instinct & Intellect, JLP

We are the ultimate problem solvers. Stemming from our mammalian brain's desire for survival, our instinctual self initially organized around the most basic fight or flight response. Life critical functions, like breathing, require little to no conscious effort and are operated autonomously by our instinct. Our intuition is seeded by our experiences and is expressed in feelings and the weight or heaviness of events. We build models of how the world operates and the impact it has upon us. Instinct is personal, having been shaped by both our hereditary and individual journeys. Instinct is organic, vital, fluid, a revisionist, and compulsive. Our instinct acts as an internal jury, pronouncing verdicts on what we choose to believe or not. Instinct allows us to find inspiration and purpose, it is the source of creativity and art.

As we develop through early youth we become aware of another aspect of our brains, our intellect. While instinct is a problem solver, our intellect is a problem seeker, a natural explorer and discoverer. Intellect provides us scientific understanding. It is conscious, removed, analytical, factual, mechanical, rigorous, and rational. Intellect is blind. Today's human brain structure is dominated by our intellect. The neocortex accounts for five-sixths of our brains, creating an imbalance, suppressing our instinctual portions. Intellect has created societal rules, governments, and religions, all of which place additional pressure on how we should act and feel.

"The intellect by itself is the seat of trouble" - Anaïs Nin

Our instincts and our intellect are often in conflict — within our selves and with others. Since intuition is made of lived experiences it is harder to convey them rationally to others. We desire both reason (intellect) and passion (instinct). Without a proper balance we lack a defined purpose to our actions, we find we are frustrated and more angry, our creativity wanes. When properly linked, our intellect can provide necessary guidance for creativity and artistic expression while our instincts can help rationalize our scientific progress and provided meaning to our discoveries.

The Paradox Pairs series is an exploration of the contradictory forces that surround us.  A deeper study finds that these forces often complement each other if we can learn to tap into the strength of each. See the entire series by using the Paradox Pairs Index.