Guest blog by Judith Orloff, M.D.
I'm a psychiatrist and intuitive in Los Angeles. What I do isn't my job. It's my life's passion. With patients and in workshops, I listen with my intellect and my intuition, a potent inner wisdom that goes beyond the literal. I experience it as a flash of insight, a gut feeling, a hunch, a dream. By blending intuition with orthodox medical knowledge I can offer my patients and workshop participants the best of both worlds.
Now, listening to intuition is sacred to me, but learning to trust it has taken years. I've described the details in my memoir Second Sight which is meant to assure anyone whoever thought they were weird or crazy for having intuitive experiences, that they are not! This brief synopsis gives you a taste of the book.
I grew up in Beverly Hills the only daughter of two-physician parents with twenty-five physicians in my family. From age nine, I had dreams and intuitions that would come true. I could predicts illness, earthquakes, even the suicide of one of my parent's friends. This confused and alarmed me, as it did my parents who were entrenched in the hard-core rational world of science. At first they tried to write my intuitions off as coincidence. Finally, though, after I dreamed my mother's mentor would loose a political election--which to my horror, came true--she took me aside and told me, "Never mention another dream or intuition in our house again!" I'll never forget the look in my dear mother's exasperated, frightened eyes, nothing I ever wanted to see again. So from that day on, I kept my intuitions to myself. I grew up ashamed of my abilities, sure there was something wrong with me.
Luckily, I've had many angels in human form who've pointed me to my true calling as physician. In the sixties I got heavily involved with drugs in an attempt to block my intuitions out- obviously not something I'm recommending to you! Following a nearly fatal car accident at age sixteen when I tumbled over a treacherous 1500 foot cliff in Malibu Canyon, my parents forced me to see a psychiatrist. This man was the first person who ever "saw" me--not who he wanted me to be, but who I was. He taught me to begin to value the gift of intuition, and referred me to Dr. Thelma Moss, a intuition researcher at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute. She was to become my mentor and guide to developing my intuitive side.
While working in Thelma's lab I had an amazingly specific dream which announced, "You're going to become an MD, a psychiatrist, to help legitimize intuition in medicine." When I awoke, I felt like someone was playing a practical joke on me. I'd never liked science, and I was bored around all my parent's doctor-friends. I was a hippie living in an old converted brick Laundromat with my artist-boyfriend in Venice Beach, working in the May Company's towel department. (I've had a great love of towels and sheets since!) The last thing I envisioned doing was medicine. But because I was beginning to trust my intuition, I enrolled in a junior college just to see how it would go. So one course became two, became fourteen years of medical training--USC medical school and a UCLA psychiatric internship and residency.
The irony was, that during my medical training I strayed far from the intuitive world again. Traditional psychiatry equates visions with psychosis. Working in the UCLA emergency room, I'd keep seeing psychotics who were wheeled in screaming, strapped to gurneys, accompanied by cops with billy clubs. These patients professed to hear God and to be able predict things. They also felt their food was poisoned, and that the FBI was on their tail. No one tried to sort through this mishmash of claims. Typically, patients would shot up with with Thorazine, hospitalized on lock-down inpatient units until their "symptoms" subsided. Seeing this so many times I doubted whether it was safe or appropriate to integrate my intuitions in medicine.
When I opened my Los Angeles psychiatric practice in 1983, I had every intention of it being traditional; I'd use medications, psychotherapy, but I didn't intend for intuition to play a role. My practice was extremely successful. Since I was a workaholic and also loved helping people, I had twelve hour days, though very little personal life. But then I had a heart-wrenching wake-up call that changed everything. It was an intuition that a patient, on antidepressants, was going to make a suicide attempt. Because she was doing so well--nothing supported my hunch--I dismissed it. Within a week she overdosed on the antidepressants I'd prescribed and ended up in a coma for nearly a month. (Had she not survived I would've been devastated.) The hardest part, though, was that I thought I'd harmed her by not utilizing a vital piece of intuitive information. This was intolerable for me. From then on, I knew, as a responsible physician, I had to integrate my intuitions into my work.
After this episode, my journey to bring intuition into my medical practice began. I didn't know how I'd do it, but I put out a silent prayer to the universe to help me. Soon, I began meeting people, more angels, who showed me the way. Gradually I grew comfortable with my intuition, set out to write "Second Sight." This took me seven years to complete because I had so much fear about coming out of the closet as an intuitive. I was afraid of what my physician-peers would think, that they'd mock me or blackball me from the profession. My mother warned, "They'll think you're weird. It'll jeopardize your medical career." Ah Mother: I loved her, but thank god I didn't listen. Finding my voice as a psychiatrist and intuitive has been my path to freedom.
Sure, there's a risk when you stretch yourself, but the rewards are enormous. Now, I'm blessed to travel around the country giving workshops on intuition to auditoriums full of extraordinary people--health care professionals and general audiences alike--who long to embrace their inner voice. I'm heartened to see that many physicians are eager to deal with patients in the new way I offer. Recently I gave an intuitive healing workshop at the American Psychiatric Association convention, a annual gathering of the most conservative psychiatrists in the world. I'm pleased to report the response was wonderful.
I'm sad to report that my mother didn't live long enough to see this. In 1993 she died of a lymphoma. But, on her deathbed, she decided to tell me our "family secrets." She told me, "I want to pass the power onto you." I was astounded to learn that I came from a lineage of intuitive healers on her side of the family--my Jewish grandmother who did laying on of hands in a shed behind the pharmacy she and Grandpop ran in Philadelphia. East coast aunts and cousins I'd never met since I grew up in California. Also, my mother, herself, had a strong inner voice which told her how to treat patients for over forty years. She'd listened to this voice and secretly used her innate healing powers to keep her lymphoma in remission for many years. "Why didn't you tell me?" I asked her. She said simply, "I wanted you to lead a normal, happy life, not to be thought of as weird like your grandmother was." Oh Mother... I'll always be grateful for what she shared, but, still... she'd waited so long. Even so, I believe in the wisdom of the paths we've been given. Mine has been to fight for what I believed in despite what my parents or anyone said. An invaluable but rugged lesson in empowerment.
These days, no matter what I'm going through, especially when my heart is torn in a million pieces my intuition has sustained me. I hope that my journey in "Second Sight" can help you. One thing I'm certain of: if you follow your intuitive voice, you can't go wrong. Stay true to it. Intuition is about empowerment, not having to conform to someone else's notion of who you should be. It's about being true to yourself, and all the goodness that comes from that.