Don't Trust Your Intuition

“I’m just feelin’ it, so I’m going to go with it.”

When the topic of intuition comes up, I find that people often fall into two camps: either they don’t listen to or trust their intuition, or they trust it too much. Interestingly, this realm of “intuition” seems to be the province of women. Tapping into, listening to, acting upon, or speaking about intuition is a gendered topic, perhaps because “knowledge from the brain” is considered masculine and “knowledge from the body” is considered feminine. Unfortunately, these gender restrictions impair us all, as we all have inner wisdom ready to guide us.
I believe intuition reveals in layers, and the more we can gain deep knowledge about ourselves, the more we can understand the nuances of our inner voice. Intuition often shows up as a gut feeling and knowing. Having a “feeling” about something may be your intuition. However, patterned behaviors based on fears and past negative experiences can also show up as a gut feeling. It may be an anxiety reaction or your ego defending itself and needing to feel right. These are clearly different in origin.
I’ve found that my intuition is quite strong and accurate when I’m fully present and aware in a situation, and when I’m in a state of open-heartedness or compassion. However, if I’m feeling threatened emotionally or one of my emotional triggers has been activated, I react from defensiveness and hurt, not from intuition. It seems to be a difference between being receptive or being reactive. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell the difference.
What can we do to develop this discernment? Research strongly points to the practice of mindfulness meditation. Daily practices of sitting quietly, with focus on breath, the present moment, and observing thoughts and bodily sensations without judgment, develops an important part of our prefrontal cortex. Creating more neural connections in this brain area strengthens impulse control, awareness, insight, empathy, and…intuition. I recommend starting with 10 minutes of quiet awareness as a daily commitment. It’s pretty amazing that “doing nothing” can offer all these skills! If you’d like more information on putting this into practice, read "Learning to Trust Yourself" or visit the resources on the Mindsight Website.

Learning to Trust Yourself

Do you trust your intuition in your decision-making? Do you feel like you can separate your heart-centered intentions from self-sabotaging behavior: the former based on deep self-knowledge and the latter based on fears and old patterns? I have had several conversations recently with people trying to discern this difference and make healthier choices in their relationships.

We all experience different versions of living from fear and our conditioned responses. Maybe a piece of the puzzle is not wanting to take full responsibility for decisions, because if things go wrong, you have someone else to blame. Or perhaps the complexity of emotions feel too nuanced and confusing compared to black & white business decisions, and it's easier to pretend they don't exist. Another possibility is that your inner gremlin of self-doubt is running the show and insisting that you can't be trusted with decisions.

The key is learning to quiet the mind and the automatic patterns, feel an opening in compassion, and just sit with the question in hand. It is a slow process of learning to trust your inner knowledge. It involves being aware of your emotions, your reactions, and your patterns. Through choosing quiet time each day, whether through meditation or deep breathing, and knowing that you are OK with whatever thoughts and feelings arise, you can learn to discern what moves you forward and what holds you back. Taking the time to write down this process can be a powerful addition on the path of learning to trust yourself. But you won't be perfect with this, and that's OK.

Jennifer Gunsaullus, Ph.D.

Sex Therapy & Relationship Counseling in San Diego