We often know within seconds when someone or something makes us feel sick to our stomachs. Yet, we don’t often make the proper connection when we have a gut reaction to a relationship, a situation, or a professional decision that has to be made. We don’t know how or when to trust our gut. If we did, we could spare ourselves grief from major disappointments to true heartaches.
Unfortunately, though, it takes most of us many years and too many experiences before we catch on, before we understand what and who is affecting us in negative ways and for what reasons. Not trusting our instincts causes us to fight with our personal doubts and confused self-images.
Too often the people who were supposed to be our role models (parents, teachers, other adults or family members) - wittingly or not – diminished our sense of self. They questioned our motives, doubted our ability to make wise choices, and did not offer the unconditional love we needed to feel good enough about ourselves in order to have moved through the various stages of our development with dignity and fortitude.
Yet, what many of us don't realize once we reach adulthood is that, as adults, we have choices which weren’t available to us when we were children. We can either opt to hold on to what others have told us and thereby lose our sense of self, or we can move forward, finding the resources that will best help us to succeed.
What none of can do is change the past! What happened, what other people said or did and what we have said or done is part of our history. Yet, what we are able to do is to change how the past continues to impact upon the present, so that it will not limit our choices or reflect poorly on our decisions. And how we can do that is to make those images we hold in our heads smaller, turn down the volume of old tapes we hear so that they’re no longer distinguishable and come through as senseless noise. That’s how we can start to dis-empower any person(s) or experience(s) that have affected us negatively. In so doing, we re-train our brains to act and react differently. We teach ourselves how not to repeat destructive patterns, how to learn from our mistakes and, most importantly, how to trust our gut reactions – knowing that they are telling us something and that we need to pay attention.
A young female patient recently shared an incident with me that addresses exactly what I’m talking about: Seated opposite a date in a restaurant, she found his entire demeanor – the topics he chose to discuss and even the way in which he held his fork and ate his food – to be repellent. She began to lose her appetite to the point where she had to excuse herself and go to the ladies room to catch her breath and splash cold water on her face. No, she wasn’t ill. What she was experiencing was a “gut reaction” loaded with negative feelings of dislike for the young man. Not wanting to feel what she was feeling, she assumed that her malaise and belly ache were probably due to the food in front of her. She never assumed that her physical discomfort was directly related to the guy seated across from her. Quite the contrary! She was embarrassed and hated herself for feeling ill and having to excuse herself.
If she knew herself better, she would have understood that her friendly unconscious was giving her an urgent message. It was most definitely not the restaurant’s food that was upsetting her. But, desperately wanting to enjoy herself, her “gut” got in her way, so much so that she went out with him a second and even a third time before she could admit to herself and to him how ill-suited they were for one another.
But there's a societal problem here, as well. Too often, the pressure for women, in particular, to meet Mr.Right robs them of the ability to know what’s right. Right for them! The bottom line is that one’s gut reaction is never to be underestimated. It may, at times, be too quick to judge, and occasionally it may trick us into believing something that’s not true. But, most of the time, it is our best friend.
Think about it: When you’re enjoying someone’s company, you even forget about what might be hurting you at the moment. When you’re at a job that truly suits your talents, you don’t count the hours and minutes of your work day. Time flies and before you know it, you’re working over-time.
What I’m saying is that despite whatever destructive messages you may have been given during your formative years, you owe it to your adult self to change them, to give yourself messages that others weren’t equipped to give you or that they gave you in ways that you couldn’t understand or appreciate. As an adult, you are now in the driver’s seat.
Not everything will always be in your control, and that is true for all of us. But, trusting your gut is something you are able to control. It is a big clue to becoming your best person, your own best friend. It will let you know when you shouldn’t go out with someone a second time, when being with that person caused you pain. And you’ll stop making other personal or professional decisions which others might wish you to make but that you know – in your gut – are not right for you.
If any of this resonates with you and is beginning to help you to better understand something or someone who’s challenging you at this time in your life, I'd be happy to dialogue with you or, at very least, to hear your story.