This is No. 3 in my 3-part series: #JustKnow. In this series, I’m stepping through what I would do if I were to start from scratch in the process of developing ‘just know’ smarts to cut through blocks in deciding what’s best. Here’s what you can expect in this series:
Part 1 and 2 explained why we need to be listening to intuition when making decisions. This article looks at the differences between intuition, gut feelings, and instinct.
According to Albert Einstein: “The only real valuable thing is intuition.”
But, what about trusting your intuition in relationships?
Why can’t I always trust my gut feelings? I had this dilemma for years.
I had felt intuitively smart in every area of my life… except with relationships…where it seemed… I was a dumbass. I made poor decisions. Why?
You hear: “Go with your gut”, “Listen to your gut”, all colloquial terms, much like: “follow your heart” or “stick with your hunches”.
Hadn’t I followed my gut feelings, my heart? It felt like I was acting from gut feelings. I felt sensations in my gut after all. But I was left with: “why should I trust my gut? Why does it lead me astray”.
Here’s the real story…
My gut instinct in relationships amounted to … fear.
The penny finally dropped. After years of soul searching, I finally realized I was being driven by fear…fear of rejection, fear of loss.
So, my gut feelings weren’t always right!
Here is another example of where my gut feelings were leading me astray:
I would get a bad gut feeling whenever I had to deliver a talk – I couldn’t dismiss it – whenever I had to take to that stage. It felt like I should just run and hide. I certainly felt a strong sensation in my gut. But it was coming from a place of fear and anxiety about failure, driving a sense of urgency to retreat – it was not intuitive thinking.
Let’s be honest:
This is fear vs intuition.
I discovered my stakes were high in the relationship department. The reason being I’d lost my mother at a young age, and I never completely processed that loss.
As a result: I had this internal, preconceived understanding of how things would work out when I got close to someone. Subconsciously, I was primed for ‘red alerts’ in that part of my life. Yep, it was a potential ‘danger’ zone.
It is easier to sit in denial with your delusions and pray God will intervene, not realizing he has. He gave you common sense and intuition, but you didn’t like how it made you feel. This is what true mental illness really is: Following your gut instinct through hell because you want to prove you are right, either to yourself or others. You sacrifice choosing to do right, in order to avoid pain. However, you don’t realize that you have been in pain for a really long time and believed this was how happiness felt. ― Shannon L. Alder
Here’s the thing…
When we perceive danger we are hardwired in a way that our intestines react. This is a primal connection, between the brain and the gut, that works to keep us safe from predators or other physical threats. It is part of our fight or flight response (4). This is instinct (vs intuition).
… the reason for the expression ‘gut feeling’.
The difference in modern society is that ‘danger’ is perceived from threats other than being eaten alive by a wild beast. These modern threats come with forming (and keeping) significant relationships, study, jobs, and financial status.
Gut sensations are common when stakes are high! When people feel they have something great to lose they are often emotionally charged. It is easy to confuse emotion with intuition because they can ‘feel it in their gut’.
Literally, a gut feeling is a ‘visceral emotional reaction to something’ (3).
Pure intuition differs to this (2). See below.
Learning to recognize the trustworthy voice of intuition over that tainted by anxiety, fear, and wishful thinking is a major step in ‘just knowing’ what’s best for you.
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. ― Steve Jobs
Want to know how to know when to trust your intuition? Then, start with understanding these differences:
|Pure Intuition||Gut Feelings or Instinct|
|Sense of calm and a ‘knowing’||Feeling of compulsion or wanting to flee|
|Confident and trusting||Insecurity|
|Devoid of strong physical sensation||Physical sensation – a twang in the gut|
|Neutral – not driven by attachment||Driven by attachment|
|Inner voice of guidance||Reaction to ‘red alert’|
|Led by true Self||Led by Ego|
|Cognitive process||Behavioral process|
|Higher intelligence||Immediate reaction without forethought|
Though different, the two may work together:
Your intuition might quickly process observations and relay a message to which your instincts will respond.
The best part? Having a presence of mind in the midst of chaos is a precursor to inviting and acting on intuitive thought. This was Napoleon’s secret to success (see Answering the How to ‘Just Know’ What’s Right for You).
But here’s the kicker:
You need to check your ego is not running amuck. Feeding on anxiety, fear, and wishful thinking, and operating from a place of competition and comparison, the ego will limit your intuition. Learn more at: How to Distinguish Your Ego from Your True Self.
Tip: Find new interests to broaden your outlook on things, move past your limitations, and look for opportunities for ah-ha moments.
Pure intuition gets better with practice. See How to Develop a Strong Intuition for the Tough Questions. I hope this has helped with knowing instinct vs intuition for when you need it.
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