How to Distinguish Intuition From Imagination

It’d be great if there was an ‘exact science’ formula for knowing what is your intuition and what is your imagination, but I don’t think there is one. However, there are a few factors to keep in mind when trying to distinguish between intuition and other things.

#1: Practice and Feedback

Practising intuitives have it easier when it comes to distinguishing between imagination and intuition and this is because they get more feedback than anyone. They get their intuitive insights validated (or not, as the case may be!)

So, if you want to develop your confidence and clearly know the difference between your intuition and your imagination, do what practising psychics do to gain confidence in their abilities – (1) practice as much as possible and (2) get feedback on your intuitive insights.

You don’t need to be doing professional readings for others in order to get feedback on your intuitive insights – you just need to apply them in your own life and see the results. For example, if a voice inside impulses you to take some sort of action, notice how that voice sounds, what it feels like, and then see what the results are.

But, the catch here is that you must practice detachment in seeing the results of applying your intuition.

What many people do is apply their intuitive insights, and if it doesn’t immediately get proved correct, they get discouraged – try not to approach your intuitive development like that. If the information is not proved correct immediately, don’t worry. Every time you apply your intuitive input and see the results, you get a little bit closer to knowing what your unique intuitive voice sounds like or what your intuitive nudge feels like, so even when you’re wrong, you learn something. But in order to get very far in your intuitive development, you’ve got to be open to being wrong. All developing intuitives get it wrong sometimes.

If you would like more practice using your intuition, why not sign up for my Intuitive Experiments booklet – this is a fantastic free resource for new intuitives that involves you having a go at ‘reading’ a stranger and then finding out whether you were right or not.

If you do this, I recommend keeping an intuitive notebook where you note down your insights and whether they were correct or not, and also HOW you received the insights (i.e. through which clair gift?) This way you can notice patterns over time and see the bigger picture around whether you are making progress or not.

#2: Notice the feeling that accompanies your intuition

All intuitive information comes with a special energetic ‘signature’ that you can make out after a while. The more you practice receiving intuition, the more you can identify the feeling that comes with real intuition.

In a reading, when I am getting accurate intuitive information, I know in my gut that it’s real and correct – I can feel it. When I first started out doing readings, when I picked up on really specific things, I’d try and tone down the specific-ness of it, because I was afraid of being wrong. But I had that gut feeling which was telling me it was right on. The energetic signature of the gut feeling was something between excitement and certainty. And through feedback from clients, I came to realize that the gut feeling of certainty/excitement was a sign of accuracy. But if I never got feedback from clients, I still wouldn’t know what that feeling meant.

The ‘energetic signature’ you perceive when your intuition is accurate may not be the same as mine (and not everyone gets this ‘feeling’), but if you practise receiving and applying intuition, you’ll probably know what I’m referring to. Next time you get intuitive input, go inside and ask yourself ‘how does this feel to me?’

In addition to getting feelings in my gut, I also get feedback on the accuracy of my intuition through my emotions. If I get some information, but it ‘feels’ wrong or off to me, (and it’s not a good feeling), then I know it’s not on the right track. When I’m passing on information that I know is accurate, then I feel good and I feel uplifted. If any information is not accurate, it feels discordant in me just before I open my mouth to say it.

Like me, you may get gut feelings as part of your intuition, or you may not. It all depends on whether clairsentience is one of your intuitive gifts.

#3: Imagination is active, Intuition is passive

Another key difference between imagination and intuition is that imagination is an active process and intuition is a passive process.

When you’re imagining something, the imagination is exerting itself actively. Whereas intuition is what you get when you clear the mind, through meditation, and you make yourself a conduit. You become passive. So if you’re afraid that your imagination is feeding you input when you want your intuition to have more of a say, work on getting your mind under control.

When you get a flash of something – and you’re not sure whether it’s your intuition or your mind being overly active, just stop and quieten your mind. You can do this by focusing on your breath for a minute or two and by just not paying any attention to the thoughts which arise – focus on your breath above all. This really helps to put your mind out of action for a minute while you hear what your intuition has to say about it. Intuition often arises in the gaps between your conscious thoughts, so if your mind is very busy you may need to create more gaps in order to hear your true intuitive voice.

When it’s probably not your intuition:

  • The voice that’s talking to you makes you feel bad, discourages or belittles you
  • When the voice tells you something that sounds contradictory or confusing. Intuitive information should be concise, clear and should slot into your mental frame of reference
  • When the voice tells you to obey it. Intuition is without an agenda. Your higher self and guides will offer their perspective but you’re not required to live your life by that perspective or take into account the input, as you have free will. (Note: this may not apply if you are in danger of losing your life.)

And if in doubt, don’t worry – a true and relevant intuitive message will usually repeat itself if you don’t get it the first time.

Meet Anna

Hi, I’m Anna Sayce! My purpose here on this website is to provide practical techniques and information to help empaths to understand, and fix the root of their energetic overwhelm & also to help sensitives to embrace and develop their intuitive gifts. I believe that developing our spiritual & intuitive side is very powerful and allows us to improve our own lives, and if we wish, even make the world a better place for others. Discover more >


  1. Adrianne

    Hi Anna, Great article with lots of helpful tips! I feel like it is hard to make a distinction between imagination and intuition and I consider them to be about the same – but I think this may be a semantics thing. As far as distinguishing “accurate” feedback, your tip about active and passive is what I use mostly as well as tuning in to accompanying feelings. Mine are pretty similar to yours – an intuitive hit feels like excitement/ knowingness.

    I like to think of imagination as a major conduit through which intuition can come – as in, even if I feel I am “just imagining” something it’s still “real” to a certain extent. Even if it’s something that seems to be proven incorrect in physical reality it can still give me insight into my inner reality/ the spiritual plane of reality. I think a lot of people tend discount their imagination too much and not see it’s value as force for creativity and guidance. Thanks for sharing your experiences with this!


  2. Anna

    Hi Adrianne,

    That’s a good point. We tend to see our imaginings as separate from real intuition, but I guess like dreams they could have some insights too.

  3. tasha

    It’s hard, because for me, my intuitions and imaginings feel very similar. My imaginings often feel certain and insistent. For example, yesterday, I got a hit that a client I was observing had a wedding ring on (I’m blind, so couldn’t see him) and that was bang on, but then, a few hours later, I thought my roommate had a woman in her family who was an alcoholic and ode a bike, but that was way off. Both experiences felt very similar. I guess I need to be more patient with myself, since I’ve just discovered these abilities. Also, I’d say I’m resistent to meditation; I get bored really easily, but maybe I just need to find something that works for me.

    • Anna

      Hi Tasha,

      After you get an impression, it might be a good idea to do some deep breathing to raise your vibration and then see if you get the same impression, or if it feels ‘off’ to you. You need to clear your mind after you get an impression, to check on whether it is true or not. I cover this extensively in my Intuitive Awakening Course.

  4. Steve Lang

    Just retired from police work after 30 years and used both imagination and being intuitive every day during my career. I taught it to the younger guys thinking if they got one nugget they could use, it might save their life. It saved mine many times in very violent situations. I plan on developing a curriculum to teach this to the public (Survival Mindset) It works! I am living proof and have thousands of first hand stories to back it up. The possibilities are endless.

  5. SilverAngel

    Hello Anna, Thanx 4your article, i will definitely be putting your suggestions, in2 action. I related alot with your article, and your abilities seem very very alike mine….i am in the process of learning to control my abilities, instead of them controlling me. Have your gut feelings felt bad enough sometimes 2feel like a curse??….I’ve wondered why??, and been totally confused??,hit rock bottom a few times, along with depression, and i’m fiiiinally, now that i’ve admitted 2myself and above all BELIEVE that i am psychic, now the opposite, has happened, and i love them, because they make me, who i am!!..and i enjoy trying 2work them out..even tho’ i’ve had my frustrated times, but once ya’ start making a little progress,i found it gets better….fiiiinally!! I’m still having trouble figuring them out tho’, and my feelings lately..especially at night, tend 2tell me when my heads going 2run away with me, and get paranoid….so now, at these times, i start 2have a bad feeling, then my head starts thinking about the worse case scenario,(because my guts feeling bad), that could possibly happen, which then makes me wonder if the thoughts that i am thinking, are going to happen, because of my psychism, and i wonder if they are my imagination, or psychism real….I so so hope, at the tiimes that they arn’t real, and i have 2try so so hard 2control my head of late, because i sometimes have knowledge bombs, where things start making sense, and i know a good part of how the Universe can work, and how if thinking in the right Frequency, then we can make things happen….(love 2figure that 1 out more huh lol) then i get scared that my fears could come true….I feel such in a bind!!!!
    Does anyone have any suggestions for me??

  6. Jeremy

    Love this! Im currently doing free reading in Pavlinaland. It’s my dream job and im doing my very best to practice. This is very helpful Thank you!

  7. Robert Woods

    I am a five (Oberver) in the Enneagram which I have come to understand is my
    default personality. If, I don’t take responsibility and unconsciously act, I will respond as a #5. Since I have freewill, I can consciously, responsibly respond .

    What I have come to realize is my heart (intutition) is unlimited energy, and an open
    mind will only focus and frame.


  8. Hannah Prudent

    Hi Anna,

    I don’t know much about psychic abilities, but something strange happened to me a few hours ago and it has me scratching my head about whether it was an active imagination or an actual psychic flash.

    A bit of background, my father was a pilot and was tragically killed in a plane crash more than a decade ago. I was in my last year of high school, and my mother was no longer in the picture, so we were very close. We were all that each other had. We were very much alike, except I lacked his temperament, thank God…

    Earlier this week, someone asked me why the plane went down, and I said that it was too hard for me to talk about. The truth is, there were poor weather conditions, it was an old plane, but I was really griefstricken when I saw the toxicology report. And even though there were other factors, I really blame the drugs he had in his system. Cut to a week later after my conversation with this person, I’m driving and I’m thinking about our conversation. My mind takes me back to when I lived with my father, and I think about what I could have said to him. I think about antagonizing him for his drug use (which I had no idea about). Then suddenly I am overcome with a very vivid vision of what the inside of the plane looked like seconds before the crash. Interestingly, my vision is fixated on a passenger. He is absolutely terrified and he’s holding on to the plane door. I can hear my father yelling, “Shit!! Shit!!!” As he’s flipping gears in the cockpit. I discuss this with 3 people, 2 who tell me it’s my imagination, and one who isn’t so quick to dismiss it. She said it’s possible I was fixated on the passenger because he had the strongest energy. My father was trying to stay calm in order to save the plane and all the passenger could do was freak out.

    I feel like my father gave me this vision as a punishment for antagonizing him in my thoughts. Can you help me decipher if this was a real vision or my imagination?

  9. Anna

    Hi Anna,
    I am able to do automatic writing quite easily. I also can communicate with spirit guides with my thoughts anytime I want…..clear audience I believe is the name for it. I want believe this is a gift, but I have had so much false information given to me, through automatic writing or my thoughts. I ask if spirits are of love and light and at times they are not, but even if they say they are, false information is given to me. For example….I’ve been told for the last two years that I will meet a man and he will be the man I spend the rest of my life with. Are spirits just telling me what I want to hear?? Or am I. just communicating with the wrong ones. I do believe I have a gift but I need to learn how to communicate with the right
    spirit guides. The ones that are here for my highest good.


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