.The Gut Feeling.

Trust your instincts. Go with your gut! Regardless of the vernacular, I love to romanticize intuition. The feeling, which many call “a deep knowing”, is characterized by understanding something with little to no explanation. It is why some people avoid specific alleyways, why others turn down seemingly perfect jobs, or why two lovers marry after six months: Some just know. But what about the times when I don’t have that level of clarity? What if I ask my intuition for guidance and get nothing, or worse, conflicting answers? Is it as simple as looking inward? How can I decipher something so illogical and yet so crucial?

A couple of times, I was debating whether to stay in a relationship or not. Breaking up sounded horrible, but it felt good. Something told me that the relationship just wasn’t right. But this feeling was quieter than anxiety and rather a hum of a clothes dryer as opposed to a shrieking kettle and thus hard to trust. Over time, it downright tormented me. I wanted to know whether the voice I was hearing was fear, anxiety, my gut, my brain, or simply something else. In talking through the predicament with a friend, she asked, “What does your gut say?” Though well-intentioned, the question led to a different type of torment. Intuition became my obsession. I read books, research articles and more but everything always led me back to the same conclusion: My relationship was not working. This bothered me, and I so badly wanted to prove it wrong, a contradiction of emotions that fueled my anxiety, making it more difficult to take action.

The dictionary’s definition of intuition is “being able to understand something immediately, without any conscious reasoning.” I interpret this as no pro-con lists, no asking friends for guidance because I just know. The feeling is sometimes difficult to distinguish from fear, which is defined as “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain or a threat.” Though technically quite different, both feelings stem from a place of protection and can be experienced in similar ways, like for example fear of abandonment. So how can I tell the difference? Am I leaving because I am afraid or because it is the right thing to do?

I stumbled across an article by psychologists at the University of New South Wales in Australia who ran a series of experiments in an effort to quantify intuition and analyzed how much “nonconscious emotional information” dictates our decision making. The study illustrated that intuition increases one’s accuracy in interpreting and outcome, but it also revealed that similar to using logic or reason, we become better at using intuition over time. The psychologists suggest that the best way to reintegrate intuition is to have a dialogue with it, to pay attention to our random, seemingly nonsensical hunches that tell us when something is wrong when to call a friend, or even when to wear a certain outfit.

Eventually, the gut feeling regarding my relationship became too strong to ignore, and we broke up. But once I was out of the relationship, I worried that it had been the wrong decision to leave, and strived to rekindle that sense of knowing that led me to end the relationship in the first place. Shouldn’t I have had more clarity after I researched the f*** out of intuition? Apparently not. And during moments of crisis, it can be harder to hear intuition speak because I was obsessed with making the right decision and choice.

So, I guess intuition is steady and rational, while the response to it might not be. Decision-making such as calling our texting an ex, might also spur anxiety, which can ultimately separate from the calm hum of intuitive thought. In this case, I guess it might be best to take action and know that intuition will come when and where it needs to. I may not be 100 percent sure about a decision but sometimes 70 percent is enough to pull me to a save shore where uncertainty is okay. It is not about having all the answers, but rather using the information I have to make the best decision I can.

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