Each of us has wisdom that is unconscious. Some of this wisdom may be innate or learning we have forgotten. We have knowledge that we can use, and sometimes do, but it is not with conscious contemplation or thought.
The best of this unconscious wisdom is spontaneous wisdom. This appears in those moments when you just spontaneously respond to a situation successfully and later wonder, “How did I do that?” Your automatic processes respond, with their vast knowledge and experience, and you spontaneously do or say the right thing. It activates in an instant, such as when you without thought swerve your car to miss a hazard. Spontaneous wisdom is working when, of all the choices you could have made, in that moment you made the right one.
Spontaneous wisdom takes over when you are in flow and doing effectively without conscious deliberation. It also manifest when you know something so well that expressing what you know requires no deliberation. Automatic wisdom sometimes takes over when consciously you just can’t figure something out. Suggestions such as “trust your gut” and “pay attention to your intuition” steer you toward automatic wisdom.
Our spontaneous wisdom, intuition, and ability to make quick decisions are wonderful assets. They are a back-up and supporter of more conscious processes. Celebrate your spontaneous wisdom!
On the other hand, another kind of unconscious wisdom is our latent wisdom. Wisdom we have but do not use. Wisdom and experience we have that can help with immediate problems, but it remains hidden. Most people know more than they know they know and thus don’t utilize this wisdom effectively in living their lives. We often 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 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 recognize instances like these occurring. These memories 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 only on 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 obscures 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 lessons 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 the wish that things will change. Tenaciously holding onto to what we wish could be distorts reality. The lies we tell ourselves, while well intended, mute the voice of reason and perspective. In effect the wisdom is inside buried, latent and inactive. Look beyond that, hear your wise mind, and feel what you know, and your latent wisdom can emerge.
Uncovering your latent wisdom is about discovering what you already know. Latent wisdom is usually expressed to consciousness by a feeling and clarity of thought. Sometimes it is moment of revelation where suddenly you feel you know something new and profound. Simultaneously you have the sense that you knew it all along!
Celebrate your spontaneous wisdom & Discover your latent wisdom:
Celebrate and appreciate your expressions of spontaneous wisdom. Look inside yourself for wisdom that may be latent. Embrace the process of discovery! 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 and intuitions may be worthy of attention. Shake the foundation just a little, and do not be surprised when latent wisdom reveals itself and becomes useable wisdom that will enrich your life.
~Rich Liotta, Ph.D.
Note: Some of the content of this post was originally published in June 2009 (Latent Wisdom…). It was updated with some new content on its currently-listed publication date.