“Are you an analyzer or go-with-your-gut-er?” I asked my Instagram followers a while back (about a year ago).
The responses were fast in coming:
“I try to understand my gut...”
“I try to go with my gut.”
“Always go with my gut feeling.”
“I think I’m a mix.”
“Gut is generally way wiser.”
And they tended to default to gut-ers.
Most of us, whether we realize it or not, usually have a “gut” feeling about something, and, based on the informal poll on my IG account, it sounded like most people tended to default to listening to their gut (or at least thought that was the “right” thing to do).
But, in my work with my clients, I often find that what’s speaking from their gut isn’t actually their intuition. It’s the other thing that lives in the gut.
The Gut Analogy
The more science in general (and myself in particular) learns about the microbiome and the human gut, the more fascinated I am by the analogy of the “gut”.
So allow me to share a fascinating tidbit of information that I learned about our gut (the physical one). As much as we eat to feed ourselves, we also eat to feed our microbiome. The organisms that make up the microbiome send messages to your brain, asking for the foods they need.
But here’s the thing: our gut flora is comprised of a variety of types of organisms; some which need to be tended to with care in order to thrive, and some which will easily grow and flourish if allowed to do so uninhibited. The easily-growing ones are kind of like weeds: they can easily overtake your gut flora, and will also have not-great outcomes - such as candida (also known as yeast or thrush) which can be responsible for a whole host of negative health outcomes.
So if you have a gut that’s got a candida overgrowth, the messages your gut will be sending you is for the types of foods they like: overprocessed, low-nutrient foods.
Whereas, if you have a healthy, balanced microbiome, including the beneficial bacteria (those are the probiotics you want!), then your gut will tell you that it wants more real foods - particularly vegetables - because that’s what those bacteria eat.
So should you listen to your gut when deciding what to feed yourself?
Certainly. But know who’s talking.
The “Yeast” of Your Thoughts
To bring that analogy over into the gut of thoughts and intuition, there’s a candida/yeast/thrush there, too. And, like bacterial candida, when allowed to grow unchecked, it can definitely take over our rational and intuitive decision making.
It’s called FEAR.
Fear, in moderation, is good and healthy. Hashem created us with fear to keep us alive, and at the bottom of most (if not all) fears is the fear of death:
“If I say the wrong thing to my friend, then she won’t like me, and then I’ll be isolated and a social pariah and die.”
Of course, it sounds like an extreme example, and, of course, this isn’t what’s happening in your conscious mind: this is what’s happening subconsciously, underneath the surface.
And when we tune in to our “gut” and try to listen to what the right course of action is, oftentimes, we think that we’re following our intuition when we’re actually listening to the voice of fear.
How do you know which one is talking?
The best way to know if your intuition is coming from fear or if it’s coming from your true intuition is to check in with your body. As we discussed in this post, the thoughts in our minds turn into emotional and physical feelings.
So when you find yourself making a gut-based decision, check in with your body and ask yourself: what do I feel right now?
Do you feel restricted or expanded?
Do you feel tense or calm?
Sometimes, we feel fear from making change (since no one likes change!), but if you tune in, you’ll notice that the fear is different. Notice...
Do you feel stressed and anxious or excited and anxious?
Does it feel right?
Don’t let fear decide
Fear is neither rational nor intuitive; it takes you back to your basic, animalistic keep-you-safe mechanism. Now that’s all extraordinarily helpful when you’re trying to actually keep yourself alive, but may be less so in your typical day-to-day life.
In your typical day-to-day life, fear is never a good source of decision-making. Fear keeps you constricted (ever notice everything constricts when you feel fear?), and is the opposite of the open, expanded feeling that will enable you to make the decision that is truly in line with your values, priorities and life.
You get to choose what you think. You get to choose which voice you want to believe, and you can learn to discriminate between the fear-gut and the true-intuition-gut.
Let me know what you think in the comments below.