By: Rich Liotta, Ph.D.
I believe that most people know more than they acknowledge or utilize effectively in living their lives. This latent wisdom has been alluded to, partially, by various notions including “trust your gut” and “pay attention to your intuition.” It also appears in those moments when you just automatically respond to a situation successfully and later wonder, “How did I do that?” The fact is we often hide our latent wisdom from ourselves. We do not use the resources, skills, talents, and good judgment that we have learned in living our lives. We ignore our latent wisdom.
For example, if someone feels that they lack self-confidence they are most likely not tapping the knowledge they have inside most productively. Most people have had experiences where they behaved confidently, whether they acknowledged this to themselves or not. In this case the latent wisdom may be hidden in your experience. The first step is to discover memories of times where you behaved with confidence, certainty, and resolve (even if only briefly). Most people with low self-confidence can find such instances inside; and these examples must be acknowledged and recognized as the examples they are if they are to facilitate living more effectively now.
Our latent wisdom can be obscured by many things. Sometimes we focus on the counter-examples, those times when we did not behave confidently. So how we sort the data we have about ourselves is critical. Even the most confident people do not always behave confidently! Sometimes how we define or categorize our behavior to ourselves clouds the learning we could have taken from what we did, thought, or felt. We are left with a self-description, such as “I am not a confident person,” and forget the details of what we actually did. There are often lessens to be learned by remembering the details and considering other, kinder, interpretations. Often the conclusions we made about ourselves long ago are no longer valid; reexamine your assumptions and latent wisdom can emerge.
Latent wisdom is also often not noticed because people do not trust themselves, their perceptions, and their feelings. They may know but actively try to squelch the feeling. I have often seen this in people who rationalize being in a bad relationship. The failure to see the obvious, to miss the signs, and the failure to notice “the writing on the wall” often occurs in painful relationships. Here the latent wisdom that the other person will not change, for example, is hidden by our wish that things will change or that they will return to how they once seemed to be. Tenaciously holding onto to what we wish could be can distort reality and bury the wisdom within! The lies we tell ourselves, while well intended, mute the voice of reason and perspective. Look beyond that, hear your wise mind, and feel what you know and your latent wisdom can emerge.
Latent wisdom has many forms. It is usually expressed to consciousness by both a feeling and clarity of thought, though this may not be the only form it can take. Look for it inside yourself. Consider the fact that it is within you as you meditate, reflect, and discuss things with those close to you. Examine yourself from different perspectives. Consider whether your beliefs about yourself serve you. Consider what your feelings tell you and which passing thoughts may be worthy of attention. Shake the foundation, just a little, and be not surprised when latent wisdom reveals itself and becomes manifest wisdom.