I can’t stand the phrase, “trust your gut.” Not only does “gut” remind me of digestive issues and crime scenes from Law & Order, but as a chronic over-thinker it creates more questions than it answers. I mean, how the hell do I do that? Is it even safe? Won't I end up alone, unemployed, eating off-brand Halloween candy in my PJs every afternoon?
And that crazy thought is exactly why I want to share:
- Why we don't listen to our instincts
- How to spot the difference between a thought and a gut feeling
- How to strengthen your intuition (no pushups required!)
Why we Silence our Gut
In a culture that teaches us to ignore our instincts and “think things through,” we often ignore our feelings as being trivial or something to push down into the basement where we keep painful memories, resentments, and old sporting equipment. Sometimes our desire to "make things work" or "play it safe" comes from past experiences or societal norms. But how do we know if those guiding thoughts are our gut or our fear talking?
The truth is that instincts aren’t thoughts, they originate from something much deeper-they come from our feelings. But we are so conditioned to have thought-based reactions to feelings that we talk ourselves out of honoring our intuition before we can process it.
Why? Because feelings and emotions are scary. They are often considered to be liabilities, rather than a compass leading us to our truth, our future, or the nearest gas station.
A thought and a feeling are not the same thing.
Sounds obvious, but we often jump from one to another so quickly that it’s seemingly impossible to separate. For example, “I can’t believe she smacked me across the face with a can of RC cola!” is a thought. The anger you feel toward her is a feeling.
Ultimately, if you can’t describe it as a sensation, it’s a thought, not an instinct.
If you really want to trust your intuition, you need to silence all the “shoulds,” “it’s safer tos,” and “common sense” that you’ve created to play it safe. Because the truth is that those constructs are the manifestations of all your excuses to continue playing small. So how do you tap into that mysterious, omniscient, more-powerful-than-a-mind-blowing-orgasm, place? Strengthen the connection.
- Think back to a happy time or a person who played a positive role in your life. What sensations do you feel? Happy? Grounded? Relaxed?
- Think back to a time that sucked. Or, a person that played a negative role in your life. Imagine the moment when you realized this wasn’t what you wanted. What sensations do you feel? Stomach sinking? Heart pounding? Itchy trigger finger?
- Let’s get present: Think of a new person or situation in your life you’re unsure of. What feelings arise? Don’t judge or rationalize them away before you feel them. Sit with it. Are they similar to the positive event (#1) or the negative event (#2)?
No matter the outcome, you’re strengthening your connection to yourself. And whether you take action on those feelings or not, you’re likely to find that over time, the situation will play out according to those instincts. Because we tend to focus on thoughts or think our feelings away, strengthening your ability to listen to your gut will allow you to tap into your truth. And, as the saying goes, “The truth will set you free.”
How do you tune into your intuition? Share your story in the Comments section below!