We take in far more data than we can consciously process. What rises up as intuition may be in no way irrational, and arguably not even that woo-woo – it’s just a different way of using our brains. Also it turns out that our thinking is far more distributed through our bodies and not just a brain thing, so the idea of a gut feeling may be highly valid as a form of thinking that is actually happening.
There are questions to ask around intuition if you want to establish what kind of relationship yours has with the rest of reality. It’s important to keep track of how those gut feelings relate to what actually happens. Humans are very good at persuading themselves they were right all along, so you do have to be self aware to do this.
How do you tell between anxiety and intuition? Or wishful thinking and intuition? Also, rather critically, how do you tell if your intuition is right but you’re being systematically lied to? How do you hang on to your intuition in face of gaslighting? Especially if you’re dealing with someone who is using the woo-woo as part of their tool set? What do you do if you’ve trusted someone, and that one mistake leaves you wide open to having your confidence in yourself entirely sabotaged? These are not easy things to figure out, and I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all answer here.
The most important thing is to keep checking in with yourself. Cross reference what you feel with what you know from other sources. Compare and contrast. How anxiety manifests in your body is likely to be different from what it’s like to have a gut feeling that something is wrong. The same goes for wishful thinking. Only if you want to avoid self-delusion will you be able to pick these things apart. There’s no helping the person who is hell bent on asserting that their intuition means things regardless of all evidence to the contrary. I’ve been in those situations too, and if someone is adamant that they know what you’re ‘really’ thinking or feeling, and won’t hear otherwise, there may be nothing you can do. It may be a case of deciding to put up with it, or deciding to quit. I honestly recommend quitting.
It’s also important to remember that you have the right to say ‘no’ in most situations without the obligation to explain exactly why you feel that way. Over-explaining can itself be an abuse legacy, or a sign of an unsafe situation. If your ‘no’ isn’t acceptable on its own, and you have to justify what is a gut feeling, and saying ‘this doesn’t feel right for me’ is not going to be a good enough excuse… you may well not be in a safe situation. If you can act on your gut feelings without having to justify yourself, it speaks well of your circumstances.
It’s ok to do that – if it works for you. Navigating life intuitively is just as workable and reasonable as trying to make evidence based decisions. We are all only ever guessing and there are always more variables than we know of. None of us can ever be totally certain about exactly how our choices will play out. Some of us do our best thinking by being as logical as possible, and some of us do our best thinking unconsciously. Some of us blend the two to good effect.
Watch out for people who try to play to your ‘intuition’ to persuade you of things that aren’t true. Conspiracy theories often depend on engaging your feelings to override your knowledge, logic and wisdom. If someone tells you that you are so intuitive that you’ll get why they are right… mistrust them.
An it harm none, do what you will – and if that means your choices look a bit irrational to other people, that’s ok. We’re not obliged to make sense to each other. Kindness is also far more important than making sense. Do what works for you.