Your Inner Compass: Trusting Your Instincts

November 6, 2013

Speaker: Sharsheret’s Clinical Supervisor Shera Dubitsky, MEd, MA

Many of our callers have identified challenges regarding relying on their intuition when making medical, familial and social, career, and overall quality of life decisions.  Attributing meaning to your instincts can help you move forward in decision making.

You are consciously and unconsciously taking in information all the time.  As you experience life and amass information, you begin to recognize patterns.  Your brain unconsciously organizes these patterns into blocks of information – which is a process that social scientist, Herbert Simon, called chunking.  Over time your brain chunks and links more and more patterns, and stores these clusters of knowledge into long-term memory.  It may seem as if intuition arises from some mysterious inner source, yet, it actually comes from this stored information in our subconscious.  Everybody has experienced that “hmmm” sensation – a familiar feeling or thought that waits for you to ascribe meaning.  We often ignore this sensation until we look back in hindsight and think “I kind of had a sense that this would happen, but I chose to ignore it.”

What gets in your way of trusting your instincts?

  • Many of us are accustomed to thinking in dualities where one answer is right and the other option is wrong.  Most of our experiences won’t fit into a simple dichotomy.  The challenge with thinking “either-or” is that you spend a lot of time convincing yourself that life is one particular way.  Even when you settle on one answer, it doesn’t mean the other option was totally off.
  • Another obstacle to listening to your intuition is your fear of what will happen if you chose incorrectly. It’s this fear that may drive you to ignore that nagging feeling.
  • When people second guess your decision, you may question your own judgment.  Remember that when you turn to trusted friends and family, they may be basing their opinions on their own subconscious stored information and experience that may be irrelevant to you.

How do you move forward when experiencing a gut feeling?

  • If you find yourself making the following statements:  “I know I should, BUT…..” or “I know the doctor said, BUT…;” it means that your inner voice is speaking to you and you need to dig deeper to interpret the meaning.
  • Separate intuition from wishful thinking.  Write down your choices and circle the one you wish was true and the one you think is your gut feeling.   Are they the same?  Is the option that is wishful realistic?
  • Set a deadline for decision making.  Often times, the inner voice or nagging sensation will strengthen as you get closer to the time limit, and this can push you to face your gut feeling and determine its meaning. 
  • Confirm your choice with an expert who can help you balance your thoughts against reality.
  • Continue to question the reason behind of your gut feeling until you feel settled or comfortable with your understanding of its intent.

While moving forward with your gut feeling, every decision is a leap of faith. You don’t know what the outcome will be when making your decision. If the results of your decision are unfavorable, take what you learned, and make another choice. Just keep moving forward.

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