May 6, 2013

How Reliable Is The Gut...

A gut feeling can propel you forward or send you running scared.  So, what's the difference between intuition and fear?  The word intuition comes from the Latin word intueri, which means knowledge from within.  Basically, we are made up of a right brain, which is our emotional, creative, innovative characteristics.  Then we have the left brain, which give us our mathematical and factual qualities.  Most people have a propensity for one or the other.  Although, there are those special people out there who have the gift of being blessed with an equally strong right and left brain.

We hear about a woman's intuition, yet it almost seems like a myth that somehow made its way through the years as truth.  So, I ask you, myth or fact?  Turns out it's a fact.  We all (men and women) inherently have an internal mechanism that causes us to be alerted before our cognitive brain can assess and reason a situation.  According to Dr. Alexandre Linhares, who is a leading expert in the study of intuition, if you have the propensity to have more knowledge with people and relationships, your instincts will be more acute with people. Although, if you are a people person with so-so financial expertise, then your gut may not be as spot on with your 401K, for example.

I know you have all had that initial introduction to someone, and you walk away knowing immediately that you could be friends or, unfortunately, the opposite.  I have an example.  I have often talked about moving all over the country.  We have had the privilege of living in some of the loveliest neighborhoods, but there was one person (who shall remain nameless), and I immediately  knew there was something off during our first interaction.  It was not her words or her actions.  In fact, I eventually thought it was me because I could never quite put my finger on it.  Until one day!  I was at the market, and she was there with another woman. We spoke briefly.  It was a pleasant, how's it going, conversation.  We parted ways and I pushed my cart to the checkout line, only to realize that I had forgotten something.  She, on the other hand, wrapped around thinking that I was long gone.  As I grabbed my forgotten item, she unknowingly was standing in the next aisle and had no idea I was a tower of cereal away from her.  I stood paralyzed as I heard her tell her friend how much she loved annoying me by purposely walking her dog by my house because it caused my dog to descend into a barking frenzy. That, my friends, is intuition.  And I knew it within the first two minutes of our first conversation.  As a result, I have honored that gut feeling ever since that day in the market.

While our gut may guide us forward, what's the difference between intuition and fear?  They are very different, but it is entirely possible to misinterpret fear for intuition.  Say, for example, you are in a dark alley at midnight.  Chances are you have a gut feeling that you are unsafe.  Why?  Because we all intellectually know that nothing good can come from walking in a dark alley at midnight.  Essentially, the difference is that intuition is that split second feeling that comes before we give the situation any further consideration.  So, the dark alley is quite possibly fear more than true intuition.

A recent study asked half of the participants to make an immediate choice prior to rationalizing or explaining their selection.  The other half were given the opportunity to think through their decision.   A month later they were asked again about their choices, and those who made the split second decision were consistently happier with their choice than their counterparts who were given the opportunity to consider their decision.

I am, by no means, suggesting that we all fly by the seat of our pants, but I do think there is something to be said for the gut.  So, the next time your intuition taps you on the shoulder, go with it...


  1. Excellent question about intuition or fear. They are very different but I feel sometimes you can have them running along side you at the same time. You can have a gut reaction and therefore react with fear based upon that perception.

    I have learned some serious lessons when it comes to listening to my gut instincts, even when I can't put my finger on what exactly is happening. Very similar to what you mentioned in your post. My gut instinct is always right and whenever I have ignored it, I end up getting myself into some very hot water. I've kicked myself much too many times now.

    I'm not sure about the recent study you mentioned because for me, there is a difference in making a split second decision (during a controlled study) and taking your time to decide, but a gut instinct just comes out of the blue for no reason and doesn't appear for the purposes of a study. Hope this bit makes sense.

  2. As always, I love it when you post comments! You always have such an interesting perspective. Jules

  3. Intuition is very powerful! I live by it. It has always served me and has never been wrong yet. I have never been one to stay in fear or be motivated by fear, so intuition and fear are very different for me. I personally can't have fear and intuition at the same time. Intuition, or my inner voice, is directed by a Higher Power. Fear blocks intuition for me. So I am either accessing intuition or I am in fear one or the other. Great Topic and Blog!!

    1. Tori~Thanks for your note. Very insightful. I appreciate that you enjoy my blog. Jules