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Dinner Conversations: What is Impulse?

What is impulse? Is it intuition or instinct? Or something else all together?

Lately, I have been pondering over the question of impulse, and what it is to be impulsive. If I were to be honest, I would never describe myself as one that follows their impulses. I am orderly and organised, and although occasionally listening to my impulse (in moments of much needed inspiration), I tend to fall into a pattern of planning, processing and progressing. However, after sharing a thought-provoking and utterly mind-blowing dinner with a friend on Friday night, the question of “Impulse: Intuition versus Instinct” was a topic of conversation we kept returning to.

The etymological root of the word impulse – an act of impelling: a thrust, a push, a pressure against and a shock – gives the word a meaning of ‘stimulus in the mind arising from some state or feeling’. Similarly, the word instinct is first recorded in the 1560s for the notion of a ‘natural prompting’. This act of drawing together likens the words impulse and instinct, however it is the meaning of intuition that demands deliberation. Intuition is described as a looking at and a consideration. This definition lends itself to an understanding of the concept of ‘what is it to look, see, perceive and observe’ and theories of The Gaze, but why is it that I thought (and my friend did too) that instinct and intuition were one in the same? Why could we not differentiate between their meanings and account for the feelings that we would describe as arising in such moments? And more interestingly, why is it that we struggled when trying to describe how impulse, instinct and intuition play a part in our creative processes? (My friend Matt is a visual artist). Therefore, as we set these three words and ideas up side-by-side, an intriguing thread for the reasons of their inter-mingled meanings demanded an un-packing.

When describing my creative process, I often become illiterate as finding the words to explain what I do or in fact, what I think I do is quite a challenge. In learning how to do this (at present), the meanings of impulse, instinct and intuition are constantly at the forefront of the thoughts swirling around in my mind. And in fact, are presently determining how I go about exploring in my creative development sessions. Whilst, I cannot disable my natural urges (instincts perhaps?) to want to plan each and every moment of rehearsal time, I am now beginning to allow myself to bring both an organisational set of skills to the session together with my ability to trust my impulses, especially when improvising. In doing so, I am discovering a lot more about not only my creative process but also my personality, as I kill one bird with two very differently stones – a pebble and a boulder!

So where does this leave me?

Well, perhaps by reflecting upon the concepts of impulse, instinct and intuition and choosing to nurture their impact in my creative process, I will be able to in turn, better equip myself in order to continue challenging my way of being and my way of creating.

This is not a final answer, but a work-in-progress. More thoughts are to come. I know and they will.

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