The quirky urge. A funny tingle. That little voice in your head. These are your gut feelings talking. Intuition really does come from the gut. There are times when trusting your gut is the smartest move—and times you’d better think twice. But what are they telling you, and should you listen?
It’s one of those moments you “know” better. It’s like a sense of certainty when driving down a dark alley that you really must make a left turn. Or comfort a co-worker who insists she’s fine. Or quitting your job and moving to Paris.
Recently, I’ve ignored a gut instinct, and went with my mind, proceeding without caution or care for my own well-being. I remember my gut instinct telling me a firm no on this occasion. I didn’t listen to the murmurers of my gut, listening instead to the apparent logic and calculations of my mind. Although the outcome from proceeding against my gut instinct, were a hurt feelings and an blow to my personal confidence, I’ve learned another one of life’s lessons. Listen to your gut instinct.
How do you make the most of your own innate wisdom? If only you could tap into those insights more often, right? Turns out you can, especially if you learn to identify which signals to focus on — whether they’re sweaty palms, a funny feeling in your stomach, or a sudden and inexplicable certainty that something is up, most gut instincts are accompanied by some kind of physical sensation. The feelings you might experience during a positive and affirming instincts are often accompanied by:
- A sense of warmth
- Ability to breathe more easily
- Sharp clarity of hearing or vision
- A wave of goose bumps, tingles or “fluttery” sensations
- Relaxation in the gut and shoulders
Negative or warning instincts are often accompanied by:
- Icy cold hands and feet; an overall chill
- Twinging or clenching pain in gut or chest
- Nausea or acid stomach
- A sense of being on “high alert”
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Onset of headache
Now it’s time to declare an end to the battle between your gut and mind. Let’s explore how the internalised experiences from which gut feelings arise best interact with the deliberate calculations of the conscious mind.
You’re ready to take down your Trivial Pursuit opponents by memorising everything you’ve ever seen/heard/read. Well, don’t get too cocky — sometimes knowing less about a question helps you pick the correct answer. Intuition does the guesswork. Case in point: A kid is asked whether Spain or Portugal has a bigger population. He guesses Spain, simply because he’s never even heard of Portugal. And he is right; there is a reason he isn’t yet aware of Spain’s less powerful and less populous neighbour. There is wisdom in the child’s lack of knowledge.
Many of us are sure we could never be deceived, and yet our gut instincts about people are usually off. There are no set rules to follow in order to improve your fib-spotting, but you can ask yourself questions, such as whether the person you are sizing up is deviating from his or her typical repertoire of behaviours. If your daughter is using strange gestures and an odd tone of voice, she may indeed be hiding something. Simply put, if you are highly motivated to understand people, your intuitions about them will be better. I will emphasises the importance of not prematurely closing your mind when it comes to intuitions about people and their motivations. Whether it’s telling your friend that you suspect she’s getting divorced for the wrong reasons or confronting your boyfriend about what you think are fabrications.
Listening to your body’s subtle signals is a critical part of exercising your intuitive sense. Your body is a powerful intuitive communicator, intuition allows you to receive the first warning signs when anything is off in your body so that you can address it. If you have a gut feeling about your body — that something is toxic, weak or ‘off’ — listen to it. Too many people ignore their sense that something isn’t right with their bodies, and subsequently find that small problems have become big ones.
Very Real Danger
Sometimes our intuition gives rise to an acute feeling of fear. A primal emotion that exists to keep us safe, genuine fear is intended to be brief, not to hang around for a long period of time. If you’ve ever gotten a feeling when walking down the street at night, your gut tells you to ‘stay away from that person,’ and you find you’ve cross the street, beyond our conscious awareness, we’ve read minuscule untaught signals, that point us to pay attention to something… or someone, and find that we act upon them. Don’t ignore it. We have unconscious radars that can alert us to people and places that could put our safety in danger.
While gut instincts have evolved to help us avoid danger, we human beings have an equally powerful capacity to sense when our fellow human beings need our assistance. Compassion is one of our most primal emotions. We have developed an innate ability to read other faces and their emotional signals, and so we don’t always need to wait for a verbal cue before we reach out to help someone.
It’s counter-intuitive, but the less you analyse the pros and cons when it comes to the big decisions in life, the more likely you will make a decision you are happy with in the long term. When it comes to big and often complex decisions – like whether to buy a house, leave a job, change career or get hitched – our risk aversive rational mind can lead us to over think, over analyse and make poorer decisions than if we just follow our intuition and do what ‘feels right.’ Indeed, fear of making a wrong decision can keep us from making a right one! Of all the reasons to use your gut instincts is to make big decisions, this may be the best. It leads to the choices that are most fully satisfying — decisions that can improve the quality of your life.
Last of all: Love
We’ve all heard stories of couples who “just knew” the moment they met that something serious was going to develop between them. The heart has reasons which reason does not know, but maybe the “heart” is governed by the unconscious emotional pattern matching what produces gut intuition. The phenomenon is an overall feeling that someone would be “good for you,”. It’s tapping into your unconscious and triggering prior emotional experiences from your past, and making a suggestive instinct that this person is good for you.
Just remember that your intuition’s power depends on the breadth of your experience.