Analyzing Your Gut Instincts

by Karen Keller, Ph.D.

Are you properly analyzing your intuition?

Listen to your gut and learn what it’s telling you.

It’s no secret that I’m a huge proponent of listening to your intuition. I frequently write about how critical listening to our gut is for us to find success in our lives. While men may have gut feelings as well, I believe that a sixth sense or a keen intuition is a skill that women have that’s innate and only needs to be recognized and it can become one of the most valuable tools in our arsenal. So what happens if you aren’t really accustomed to listening to your intuition or you feel like you’ve sort of become derailed and your intuition doesn’t make any sense to you anymore? Well, that’s when practice makes perfect. Start asking yourself questions in order to analyze your gut and better learn to follow your natural instincts. 

Question: What is this nagging feeling I have hanging over me?

Answer: Oh boy, your gut is trying to tell you something. You may not know what it is right away, but your gut knows and it’s not going to stop pestering you until you address whatever it is that’s bothering you. Your intuition doesn’t go away just because you don’t want to hear what it has to say. 

Question: Is this my intuition or my brain?

Answer: Many times, when we’ve had bad results or been hurt by acting based on our intuition, our brain will try to fight back and tell us not to follow our heart. You’ve got to figure out whether your brain is trying to override your heart. 

Question: How the heck do I tell the difference between my heart and head?

Answer: It’s tricky, for sure, but in general, your brain learns from experience and wants to prevent you from making the same mistakes again. It will typically react in fear or trepidation. Your intuition is brave. It knows what it wants, regardless of past experiences. 

Question: How can I reconcile a conflict between my instincts and my learned behaviors?

Answer: It happens often that our gut says “YES!” and our brain says, “Hey now, stop what you’re doing right now!” What we can do to balance these two is actually compromise. To ignore your intuition would be a bad idea, but to throw yourself into a potentially dangerous situation would be foolish as well. Listen to that heart of your but proceed with caution instead of reckless abandon. 

Question: How can I communicate my intuition with others?

Answer: Sometimes our intuition may not have an answer that’s easy to communicate with others right off the bat. I recommend reading this post to figure out exactly how to communicate what your natural instincts are telling you.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan Tenet April 5, 2012 at 4:03 AM

Karen, you might really enjoy reading the book “What’s Behind Your Belly Button? A Psychological Perspective of the Intelligence of Human Nature and Gut Instinct” by M. Love and R. Sterling on Amazon. Goes deep psychologically on explaining what our gut instincts are and right along with your views. 

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Karen Keller, Ph.D. April 5, 2012 at 8:33 AM

Susan – thanks for the suggestion! I love reading and yes this is right up my alley. Thanks!

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mbraining January 25, 2013 at 11:49 PM

Hey Karen, great article on an important subject – intuition. Your ‘gut instincts’ and ‘heart intuitions’ are really important signals, but you know, they aren’t just metaphors. Neuroscience has shown we actually have complex, adaptive and functional neural networks or ‘brains’ in our heart and gut regions.

Informed by recent Neuroscience findings about the discovery of functional and complex neural networks or ‘brains’ in the heart and gut, we’ve completed 2.5 years of behavioral modeling research on the core competencies of these brains and how they communicate and integrate with the head brain. We’ve written about our findings and the models and techniques in our recently published book ‘mBraining’. See http://www.mbraining.com for more info.

For example, one of the many things we’ve uncovered in our work is that much of intuition is processed in both the heart and gut brains, and indeed the gut brain goes through a sleeping cycle each night that mimics and integrates with the equivalent of the head brain. When the head brain is dreaming during REM sleep, the gut brain is undergoing RGM (Rapid Gut Movement) sleep. The research indicates that it is during these periods, that intuitions are being communicated from the gut and heart, via the vagus channels, to the head. There are lots of distinctions and techniques that come out of these insights, and match completely what you’ve been writing and talking about.

I hope you find this backup to your own work as fascinating as we do.

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