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Trusting Our Gut: Why Don't We?
How many time have we all said, “God I wish I’d trusted my gut.” We receive information all the time that is hard for us to logically interpret. This information comes in the form of feelings, non-specific knowing, and just a sense of “this is right” or “this is wrong.” But why don’t we listen to our gut? Why don’t we listen to this accurate information that is always on our side? I have some ideas below of why this was true in my own life and what I often hear from my clients and students. We all have the ability to draw on this amazing field of information at any time and the information is always on our side, even if we may not want to hear what it has to say.
So why don’t we listen?
There are many reasons, but just a few examples from my experience. . .
1. Initially, warning signs often aren’t a “big deal”: I’ve found over the years that red flags and warning signs almost always start as something that seems insignificant. It might be the inflections of someone’s voice or the way they look away from you when you discuss something important. It might just be a feeling of tension or mild anxiety in your body. But more than likely you’ll tell yourself, “It’s not a big deal, everyone has a bad day, I’m too sensitive, it’s probably my mistake” stuff like that. And, that could be true. What I do when I get one of these subtle impressions is create what I call a “mental bookmark” of it. I notice it, I’m aware of it, and I file it away. Someone could absolutely just be off that day so you might get a very impression at a different time. But if you keep filing bookmarks, listen to them. You’re probably right.
2. You want to be polite rather than listen to your intuition: This was a big one for me. I always “felt bad” that I might hurt someone if I listened to my instincts. They might feel rejected or they might feel “I don’t like them.” Sensitive people often feel it’s their responsibility to make everyone around them feel ok all the time. We want to be good and well-mannered people and keep harmony. But often we do that at the expense of our better judgment. We’d rather indulge someone rather than set a boundary. We’d rather say “it’s ok it’s fine” than look rude by walking away. But this always comes at the steep price of self-betrayal. Appearing polite is never worth the energy deficit created by self-betrayal. (I’m going to write a whole blog soon on self-betrayal, as it’s a whole topic unto itself.)
3. You’re afraid if you listen to your intuition you won’t get what you want: Often times we run right over our instincts and intuitions because we are desperate to have something we want. We want a relationship so we force a relationship that “looks good on paper” with someone we know instinctually isn’t healthy or right for us. We want money so we force an investment that our instincts are warning us against. But when you listen to your gut, you always know what to do. You realize that you always knew what to do. That’s not saying you shouldn’t use your intellect and discernment as well, of course you should, it’s saying listen to all the information available to you.
4. You don’t trust or listen to your body: Your body will tell you all you need to know. You can trust your body. Learn to listen to the sensory field of your body. Learn to trust the signals that you get. Learn to feel the openness of a true “yes” and the tension of a clear “no.” You do know the difference, but it sometimes takes some practice to trust and listen to it.
5. You go to the peanut gallery for advice on everything instead of your council: There are 4 people on planet Earth I go to for advice about my perceptions. These are 4 friends I have known for years, who know me very well, and whose opinion I trust implicitly. I call this my “council.” When I’m unclear, I go to one of them and ask what they think. I know they have my best interests at heart and will be brutally honest with me even if it’s not what I want to hear. I don’t listen to everyone in the peanut gallery because I don’t know them or their motivations and they don’t really know me. They will offer a multitude of often contradicting opinions that will cloud intuition. I listen to people I trust. But, even with these trusted advisors, the buck still stops with me. I still have to make the final judgment, but chances are armed with good advice that judgment will feel clearer and more focused.
6. You think listening to yourself is being mean to others: This is a big one for those of us in spiritual circles. We often become confused about what “being loving” really is. We often think it’s loving to try harder to be nice when someone is mean, to say we forgive in the middle of a harmful interaction, or to be the “bigger person” and apologize for things that aren’t even our fault. But there is nothing spiritual about subjugating yourself, your dignity, your self-respect, and your self-worth out of “faux-spiritual” guilt. And if we’re going to trot out the ideas of non-violence and love, then those ideas must extend to ourselves. You can walk away with love, but when you need to, walk away.
7. You overthink and consider your intuition frivolous nonsense: In modern times we’ve all been educated in a very analytical system of thought. We’re taught from day one to weigh options, consider pros and cons, and rely heavily if not exclusively on logic for our decision-making. Of course logic and discernment are necessary, we couldn’t use our intuition effectively without them. But the information we get in our “gut instincts” is equally if not even more important. It’s the first information we get and it has been untainted by our “shoulds and shouldn’ts.” It’s the difference between a relationship that “looks good on paper” and a relationship that is genuine and heart centered. It’s the difference between taking the job because it “would be insane not to” as opposed to building a vocation that is joyful and fulfilling. If you listen to highly successful people, people who really make an impact in the world and lead big lives, they will all say that they trust their gut instincts. They weigh the options, consider advice, use logic, and they trust their gut. They use all the information available. Trust yourself.