Intuition vs. Fear — Understanding the Differences and How to Trust Your Gut
Have you ever had a negative gut feeling that you ignored, only to later find out that ignoring it was the best decision you could have made? This is not an uncommon experience and it raises an important question: how do we know when to trust our intuition and when not to?
It is often said that intuition always points us in the right direction, but how do we differentiate between intuition and fear? This is especially challenging for people who are “head-driven” and tend to be out of touch with their gut feelings. They are so caught up in their analytical thoughts and rational considerations that it becomes difficult to understand what their gut feeling is trying to tell them.
To help distinguish between the two, it is important to understand that there are two types of feelings:
- The gut feeling based on fear, which are conditioned feelings that are determined by rational thinking, opinions, prejudices, experiences, outdated beliefs, and distorted perceptions.
- Intuition-based gut feeling, which are intuitive feelings that suddenly appear for inexplicable reasons. This inner voice, color, or image is like an instinct that “speaks” to us and cannot be explained rationally at first.
What is Intuition?
Intuition is the ability to understand something instinctively without the need for conscious rational reasoning. It links our body, emotions, and mind to the information we have absorbed from our experiences. This web of facts and emotions then produces feelings of invigoration or nervousness when intuition is telling us “yes!” and feelings of contraction or oppression when it advises us to “no!” Intuition works like a compass, allowing us to quickly assess the present and make the best possible decision.
Intuition is often misunderstood as divine inspiration because it violates the laws of logic, but it is in fact unconscious intelligence. Many great scientists and inventors, such as Albert Einstein and Newton, have benefited from the impulse of intuition. Although they used logical arguments to establish their theses, they followed an intuitive impulse at the beginning.
The Difference Between Fear and Intuition
There are ways to differentiate between gut feelings based on fear and those that signal intuition. The most important difference is that intuition focuses on the present moment, without worrying about the past and future. It is more unemotional and quieter compared to anxiety, which is associated with dark and heavy feelings. Intuition feels right without overly positive or negative feelings, while fear creates a loud, alarming, and stressful feeling. Fear is a primal human emotion that helps us recognize danger and react to it, but it usually comes with drama.
Why is it Hard to Listen to Our Intuition?
Since the time of the Enlightenment, reason and logic have been revered as desirable principles, while intuition was considered an option for those who could not use reason. Intuition was long considered suspect and unreliable, similar to female emotions as second-rate. In school, we are taught to “think if we want solutions.”
Moreover, to be able to listen to our intuition, we need silence and to look inward, which can be challenging in our daily flood of information and the many opinions in our environment.
Intuition: Neutral, unemotional, conveys a kind of “gut-centered” agreement or purposeful feeling, Focuses on the present, Ignores unresolved psychological wounds/legacies, Feels expansive, motivating, and broad
Anxiety: highly emotionally charged (anxious, heavy), Devaluing, fearful, or doubting thoughts (about self or others), Focuses on the future or past, Reflects on past and psychological wounds, Feels restrictive or belittling
So reliable intuition feels right, it has a compassionate, affirming tone. It confirms that you’re on track without feeling overly positive or negative about it.
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