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  • Writer's pictureKim Howlett

All about intuition

It seems like the theme of sessions this week is how to find one's intuitions and to trust our gut more. Not only client sessions, but also, it seems, on various media that I've stumbled over on the internet lately.

How do we tell the difference between gut instinct or intuition, and anxiety?

How do we know if we're jumping to conclusions, or if we really need to pay attention to what our gut is telling us?

Catherine Pittman from Saint Mary's College likes to validate anxiety by pointing out that 'we are the descendants of the scared people.' Without anxiety, we might not have chosen to run from the sabretooth tiger and become a tasty snack! In modern times, if we didn't have anxiety, we wouldn't study for tests, prep for job interviews, or do relationship repair with someone we love.

Where am I going with this?

Gut instinct and anxiety bleed over into one another. Part of the function of anxiety is protection, and that's also typically the purpose of gut instinct. As such, it can be really difficult to tell where one starts and the other begins.

If you think of anxiety and intuition as if they were people, anxiety would be the one that's loud, demanding, and constantly up in your face about everything. It's the friend that wears loud colors, is overdramatic, and exaggerates what's actually going on to get your attention. Sometimes that anxiety is spot on, just like the loud friend, and actually gives us good advice but generally we need to use a critical eye when we listen to what our loud friend is telling us.

Intuition is the quiet one that hangs back and often yields the stage. You know it's present, but anxiety can distract from intuition. This is the gal that is wise beyond her years, doesn't need your attention all the time but is always there for you when you call in the middle of the night, and makes you feel good about your decisions.

Have you ever been out with your friends and your loud friend wants to go there, do this, but what about that? We can't do this because XYZ. What if that? You nod to your loud friend and look at your quiet friend in the rearview mirror, that's sitting quietly in the backseat. She's been catching your eye for the past few minutes and you know she's got something she wants to say.

"What do you think, Intuition? We've got all these options."

Intuition, ever subtle, replies back.

"Those are good points, but we keep ignoring this one thing."

Sometimes we end up getting caught up with our loud friend and disregarding what Intuition says. Sometimes we need to step back, telling Anxiety to shut up a minute, and weigh everything everyone has told us.

In DBT speak, this is called Wise Mind. In third-wave CBT, it's related back to generally being mindful and getting in touch and just paying attention to what's going on for your internally. Listening to the internal conversations you have with yourself. Looking for patterns.

Bustle has a great article on the differences between our loud and quiet friends. They also discuss how to honor and listen to our quiet friend.

When have you ignored your quiet friend? When is a time that your quiet friend has been spot on?

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