You know that weird ‘knowing’ – when you meet someone who seems lovely to everyone, but it doesn’t feel quite like that to you. Or when you are choosing between two paths and one of them is right and the other is wrong, but there is no logical explanation for why no matter how much you look into it! You then find out that you were correct all along, and that niggle in your stomach guided you in the right direction…
You know that weird feeling in your stomach… Maybe it’s butterflies or maybe it’s the nerves. We say it’s intuition, the ‘gut feeling’ – we all have it sometimes.
We say ‘Trust your gut’.
But why do we even say that?
Trusting your gut means following the physical sensations your body gives you to make a decision.
In the era of science, where we look for evidence in everything, some of us may think the ‘gut feeling’ is not to be followed (why the heck would you follow a ‘feeling’ when you can use your thinking brain, right?). But hang on, the gut feeling is a thing that is backed up by science!
It’s all down to the gut-brain axis! Your gut is a bit like your second brain. The gut-feeling happens when the neurons in your gut communicate with those in your brain.The gut-brain connection makes it possible for emotional experiences to register as gastrointestinal sensations, like twinges, nausea, pain, tightness, ‘butterflies’ etc, which then travel to your brain to help you interpret those as thoughts and emotions.
So… Why Should You Listen to Your Gut?
1. Your Gut Feeling Could Be Based On Your Previous Experiences!
Intuitions or gut feelings occur when your brain makes a substantial match or mismatch between past and current experiences. Life is full of patterns, so yes, a lot of time we know how things are going to go… Even if we don’t remember specific examples of the events!
For example, perhaps someone’s exceptionally kind behaviour does not appeal to you because you have experienced this exact behaviour from a person who turned out to be abusive. Whether you remember this event or not, your gut feeling may help you make an instant decision about how you want to deal with this situation…
2. Your Brain Scans The Environment In Ways You Don’t Notice!
This is a classic instance of ‘your brain being smarter than you think’… We all make unconscious observations, our brain registers things we don’t even think we know!
For example, you decide to take a walk to work today instead of driving there. As you walk, you see the road closures and neverending traffic jams. How did you predict that? Well, you didn’t do that consciously. But there might have been the road closure notices that you saw with a corner of your eye, something that your brain memorised outside of your awareness. Trust your brain!
3. Not Everything Needs To Be Decided Through Analytical thinking! Your Creativity Lies in Your Intuition.
In case you haven’t been told this recently… Not everything needs to make sense! We are so obsessed with having concepts and putting a meaning to every single thing around us… Sometimes you can just let things go and just be. Sounds freeing, right?
‘Sometimes I don’t need to know what it is. I just need to know it is’.
Intuition is a huge part of creativity! The word ‘intuition’ means “the ability to understand something instinctively, without the need for conscious reasoning” (Oxford English Dictionary Online). It means you are able to be spontaneous, curious, and forget about concepts for a little while, only to create new ones! Have you ever come up with an idea that was completely out of the box, or was filling a big gap? It’s likely you let your gut feelings lead the way. That’s amazing!
Are there times when you should be careful about following your gut?
The answer is yes, sometimes.
This may need digging a little deeper. Because our bodies hold so much memory that is outside of our awareness, it may be difficult to differentiate our past trauma from our gut feeling.
We have learned responses to things and we fall into patterns that are unhelpful due to previous painful experiences. Sometimes what we think we want is not what is actually need, because of our much deeper wounds that we seek to heal through repetition.
For example, you meet someone who has some physical or behavioural resemblance to someone whom you have history with and you suddenly think you are either deeply connected or vice versa, want to immediately cut contact with them. This may mean that subconsciously you would like to find ways to ‘dot the is’ with the past. But, this is not exactly a gut instinct or intuition… This may be a trauma response.
How Do I Know If It’s a Trauma Response Rather Than a Gut Feeling?
1. It’s based on urgency and fear
2. Is supporting your old assumptions or stereotypical perceptions
3. You know you have felt like this many times and want a resolution.
So… How is a Gut Feeling Different?
Gut feeling is more of a calm niggling coming from your body that is not based on your old fears, stereotypes or irrational beliefs. It’s spontaneous, creative, and doesn’t take you into a survival mode.
Do you think you listen to your gut? If not, perhaps you should give it a go and see where it takes you – new opportunities, different relationships, or newly found self-confidence… perhaps?