How many times are you told to listen to your gut? It is supposed to be the seat of your instinct: that biological tendency to react in a particular way. It’s subliminal, meaning that it doesn’t come from conscious thought, but a sense of ‘knowing’.
Often we ignore it at our peril. But also, at times, we pay too much attention to it at our peril. Why? Because it may not be what it seems: You have a part of your psyche which protects you from harm. Sometimes it can be so protective that it in itself causes harm because it makes decisions based on fear rather than from a sense of your highest good.
If you have ever not gone for that dream job because ‘where you are isn’t so bad’; or you haven’t had the important conversation with someone because ‘the time isn’t right’; or you didn’t ask someone for a date in case you got a ‘no’, you will know what I’m talking about. It is the part of you that is ruled by fear of success, failure, rejection and more. This isn’t your true instinct but your fear. And it can be pretty good at convincing you otherwise – giving you a lot of excuses why you think this way. But it blocks your ability to grow, to widen your comfort zone, to become the best version of yourself and to live a full life.
Getting in touch with your gut
So, what can you do about it? Here are four techniques to help you:
- Ask yourself whether this instinct is based on fear or your long-term interests? Your true instinct, unmasked by fear, is ruled by what I call ‘your higher self’. This is the part of you which is wise, kind and courageous. Which balances risk with progress. Which understands that sometimes you need to go through discomfort to achieve what you truly want for yourself. Don’t take the first answer as true necessarily – remember your fear is at play and it will want to convince you that your decision is perfectly reasonable. Be curious about it and, if the answer remains the same, ask yourself ‘if I did have some fear around this, what would it be?’ This will help you to access that part of you that knows better than your fear.
- Identify the fear and challenge it. Often our fear bears little resemblance to actual risk, so explore it a little more. Out of 10, how real is the risk? Then ask what you can do to mitigate the risk. And explore whether not going ahead will create a greater risk than going ahead. Then explore what you can do to make sure the best outcome happens.
- Make the distinction. Think about a time when you felt scared and you had good reason to. Where did you feel it in your body? What did it feel like? Are there any sounds or words that came with it? Then, think about a time when you felt absolutely certain about something. Where did you feel that in your body? What did it feel like? Are there any sounds or words that came with it? You now have a clearer distinction between fear and instinct so that you can recognise it more easily in the future.
- Explore your instincts. When you get a hunch about something, ask yourself whether it comes from that part of you that tells you if you are frightened? Or that part of you that just knows? (See number 3). What is the evidence for and against it? Is it masking a fear? And, if so, what would it be? The more you do this, the easier, and more accurate, it will be.
If you would like more help with any of these concepts, you might want to think about booking a session so we can work together. In the meantime, enjoy developing an instinct which really works for you rather than against you. You’ll be glad you did.
(C) Tricia Woolfrey 2018