Following our intuition is so important and self-protective. Even though some poo-poo the idea and only believe what they can see and prove in the moment, intuition is actually a purer form of knowledge because it hasn’t been filtered through our cognitive biases. (For more on why you should trust your intuition, see chapter 13 of Secrets of the Resilient Empath.)
Anyways, I’m probably preaching to the choir thus far, right? Many of us believe that our intuition is powerful, and yet sometimes we think we’re following our gut knowing but it just doesn’t work out. Of course, our intuition isn’t infallible, but often the reason why things go off course is not that our intuition was wrong. It’s because the pull we were following was NOT intuition!
Here’s the thing: Sometimes we feel like we “just know” and we assume it’s our intuition talking. But we can also feel pulled to do things for reasons that have nothing to do with our intuition. Here’s a list of a few intuition imposters. I hope it will help you recognize what is intuition and what it isn’t, so you can prevent these things from biting you in the butt later!
- Feeling pulled toward the familiar: Humans crave what we know and tend to repeat the same patterns throughout our lives. For some of us, that means we are pulled towards the homey comfort of chaos. The person or experience you feel very drawn to is not necessarily the one that will be healthiest for you, but it may be the one that feels the most like home. Take heart though, when we recognize these patterns, we have the opportunity to interrupt them.
- Being infatuated with newness and excitement: This infatuation can happen with people, things, and opportunities. We feel like we must rush towards obtaining the object of our desire, we just know it! But just because someone or something makes your heart go pitter-pat doesn’t mean it’s your intuition talking.
- Feeling desperate to solve a problem and seeing someone or something as THE solution: When we feel desperate our mind, even subconsciously, is always looking for a way out. Which can be good. But, the survival stress triggered by desperation also brings up our wounded parts which start chiming in with some potentially really bad ideas to make the anxiety subside. When we’re desperate, we can end up unknowingly choosing things based on the experience of very young parts. Looking back we usually say “What was I thinking?!?” Well, it was probably just a little, frightened, inexperienced part of us making the call. And while this is very understandable, it usually does not end well, does it?
- Feeling fearful and buying into the idea that “fear tells us what to do next”: This is a popular idea in the personal growth/business/motivation fields. It’s thought that when we feel afraid, we just need to plow through to get to the next level. It sounds cool and may work for some in some instances. But really, fear is a messenger telling us something doesn’t feel safe. And our system’s entire purpose is to keep us safe and alive. For those of us with trauma histories and/or a lot of stored survival stress, pushing back against fear is like smashing into a brick wall. When you try, it’s basically inevitable that you will self sabotage and get nowhere. The part of you that is afraid needs to be addressed with compassion before you can move forward.
So these are a few ways emotional experiences can masquerade as intuition. As I touched on, if you’re feeling any of these things, they might be linked to a younger part of you wanting to find a way to feel safe or avoid pain. These parts are not logical, so we may confuse the pure emotional pull and lack of logic with intuition.
Remember this: Even though sometimes intuition does trigger mobilization in the system (such as when there is an immediate danger), intuition is in itself not exciting or overly emotional.
Intuition is just information our system has gathered from the environment and weaved together with prior knowledge. It’s calm and clear, like staring into a pool of water where you can see down to the bottom.
If you’re feeling a lot of activation in your system, including desperation, fear, or the urge to burn things down in your life and start fresh… it probably is NOT your intuition talking.
Be willing to step back and sort it out before jumping into the deep end in the name of intuition. Your future self may thank you.
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