An article came up in my newsfeed about how to trust your instinct. It had some great tips:
- Listen to your body
- Understand your brain chemistry
- Focus on your first response
- Challenge your instinct
- Don’t ignore it
These are all things I heavily advocate. (As can be seen by that post I did the other day about brain chemistry and love.)
What the article doesn’t focus on is all the work that needs to go on first for most people. What I tend to call “shoveling out all the crap the world has thrown on you.”
Grab Your Shovel
Unless you started trying to really be true to yourself at an early age (say, 10), you’ve spent a whole lot of time living up (and down) to other people’s expectations. Those expectations come at us from all directions–friends, family, media, pop-culture–and color our perception of just how “right” we are.
This causes two things:
- Internal dissonance between what we feel and what we think we should feel
- A whole lot of bad habits when it comes to listening to ourselves over anyone else
All of this crap–and make no mistake, that’s exactly what it is: the excrement of what the world around us has already digested and expelled–blocks us from being able to do any of the things listed in that article on intuition.
We can’t effectively listen to our bodies if we’re always feeling “wrong” because of the food we eat or the company we keep or the stress from our jobs.
We can’t understand our brain chemistry well enough until we get a handle on all the stimuli that are messing with it to begin with–need to separate the biological from the psychological.
We can’t focus on our first response when we’ve been second-guessing ourselves for half of our lives. In many cases, our “first” responses that we notice aren’t at all our actual first responses… they’re just the ones we think we should be feeling.
We can’t challenge our instinct when we think our own perceptions don’t matter.
And if we can’t even recognize instinct when it shows up, how can we possible choose to not ignore it?
Clearing out all that crap can take years. It most certainly takes a concentrated effort over some span of time.
But even then, we tend to get in our own way.
Thinking It’s Not Worth It
If we don’t think that effort is worth it, we’re not going to do it.
After all, challenging all those things we’re told to expect, all those things we’re told are “normal” to think and feel, trying to accept “abnormal” things as true for us–that’s hard and uncomfortable work.
Very often, it gets in the way of day to day life. It causes us to question our jobs, our families, our relationships with friends and lovers. It forces us to take a long, hard look at ourselves.
Really, when most people do that, they’re not too happy with what they see at first.
And, when you’re not happy with yourself, you start to think that you’re not worth working on. Then you just want to forget all about all those flaws and unpleasant things and go back to how things were.
You know, when you were just vaguely unhappy and couldn’t really point the finger anywhere.
Because now, dammit, that finger’s pointing right at you and it’s not pleasant at all.
That feeling is your shovel.
That’s When You’re Most Empowered
Use that discomfort to propel yourself forward instead of running from it.
Pick one thing that’s making you unhappy and begin to dissect it, to manipulate it, to change it into what you want it to be.
Through that process, as iterative as it is, you’ll begin to uncover your real feelings. You’ll dig out the patterns that are truly your own and be able to discard the ones that were just other people’s expectations of you. You’ll learn the difference between having a bad breakfast sandwich and that gut feeling that’ll make you go left instead of right and somehow avoid an accident.
Most of all, once you’re in touch with your instinct, you’ll be able to better follow your heart.
Once you’re free from the expected patterns of relationships, the bad habits of bad choices brought on by ideas that don’t work for you, you’ll be able to love more freely and more honestly.
You’ll be happier.
When you’re happier, you stand a better chance of meeting just the right person.
And even if you don’t… you’re still happier. With yourself.