Instinct, foresight, hunch, or insight are some of the common words we use to refer to gut feeling. If you are more informed about psychology, you may be using clairvoyance, ESP, or sixth sense for the same sensation.
Gut feeling is something we still find difficult to explain fully or has too many explanations. We are unable to come up with an answer as to why we have them in the first place and how we should deal with it.
How to differentiate it from anxiety and overthinking? And the all-important question of how to know if your gut feeling is wrong. When is trusting your gut feeling about someone right?
This article is an attempt to make some sense of it and come up with some answers to these questions.
What is a gut feeling?
Intuition or gut feeling is coming up with answers without a logical explanation or conscious thinking. At times, when we are faced with choices and our logical mind gives us more than one confusing or contradictory answer, our intuition tells us which option to choose. That is a gut feeling.
Some describe it as an internal voice or a voice in the head that is telling us what to choose or do or think. The confusing aspect of intuition is that you don’t know when it will make its appearance. It doesn’t show up for all our decisions.
However, when you have a gut feeling about someone, you know it through these physical signs of intuition.
- Prickly or tingling sensation
- Tightening of muscles
- Flash of clarity
- Butterflies in the stomach
- Nausea or a churning sensation in the gut
- Sweaty palms
- Recurring thoughts
Sometimes this feeling is overwhelmingly strong but at other times, it is weak and acts as just a suggestion.
If you are aware of your intuitive powers and tuned in, it would be easier for you to detect them.
Why should you trust your intuition?
To answer this, you should first understand the basis of intuitions. Though we do not have any concrete information, the most plausible explanations that experts have come with are these.
1. It is the suggestion of our subconscious mind.
As you are aware, our mind has two divisions – conscious and subconscious. The conscious mind is the part of it that we are aware of and use to store memories and make logical decisions.
The subconscious mind is the invisible or the hidden part of the mind that is a treasure trove of all information that you have ever been aware of in your entire life. When you are faced with a choice, your subconscious mind absorbs more data from the environment and uses it to come up with what we call a gut feeling.
2. It is a forecast or prognosis based on experience.
With the immense data available at its disposal, the subconscious mind is better equipped to make accurate predictions.
The subconscious mind produces an intuitive feeling based on far more information than the logical answers of the conscious mind. As we are not aware of the existence of this information in our minds, we tend to doubt it and write it off as nonsense or worthless.
There are exercises to improve your intuitive thinking ability. This will help in making them more accurate. Instead of dismissing them as absurd, it would be beneficial to at least listen to these suggestions and give them due consideration.
Moreover, your gut feelings are infinitely faster than your conscious mind. All the more reason why you should pay heed to them.
For more details, see our guide on how to know when your intuition is talking to you.
Can your instinct be wrong? Why?
Yes, of course, it can go wrong. And the reason is simple enough. All our decisions making are based on information available to us, including intuitions. In the case of intuitions, this information is hidden in the subconscious mind. That is the only difference.
When the information upon which the intuition is based is incorrect or mistaken or unreliable, the conclusions are bound to be inaccurate.
Another major reason for misleading gut feelings is the role of emotions. At times, our judgments, predictions, or suggestions are clouded by the presence of powerful emotions. They prevent our subconscious mind from evaluating the information impartially and truthfully. And this can lead to false insights.
Sometimes your subconscious mind refuses to take into account all the data stored in the conscious mind. It tends to deceive itself. It overrules and overlooks the logical answers and imposes its own suggestion. And this can go wrong at times as detailed above.
The real instinct should be a balanced one, based on inputs from both the conscious and subconscious minds.
Gut instinct vs Overthinking
When your intuition tells you to be careful or warns you of dangers ahead, how do you know that it is not you overthinking things or your anxiety speaking?
Yes, anxiety or overthinking indeed comes disguised as a gut feeling. You can have a bad gut feeling something is wrong. Or a bad gut feeling about someone. Is it your gut feeling or anxiety?
If you understand the physical signs of intuition, differentiating between the two is not that hard.
Intuition is something that pops up in your mind instantly without any logical explanation. On the other hand, overthinking, as the word suggests, comes after much deliberation. In fact, too much thinking. Anxiety is also similar. It also involves analysis and reflections.
When you are anxious, you tend to weigh the pros and cons multiple times and come up with the safest and easiest suggestion. The more you deliberate on the subject, your suggestion may keep changing, often oscillating between two extremes.
However, your intuition always remains the same. As it is based on data, even if it is hidden in the subconscious mind, gut feelings do not change as long as you keep emotions out of it.
How to tell if your intuition is right?
As long as our gut feeling agrees with logical reasoning, there is no question of confusion or conflict. You can go right ahead with the suggestion without hesitation.
The problem arises when they clash with each other. When one tells us to go ahead with the plan while the other warns us of dangers ahead and advises us not to proceed further in the strongest of terms, it is a dilemma for us.
Both can go wrong at times. So, the question now is which one is right and which one is wrong.
Consider the intuition first. Examine carefully whether it is giving you the right signals. Have emotions clouded your instincts? Or is overthinking deceiving you in the form of a gut feeling? Did you overlook any valid information to arrive at this feeling? Are your past experiences casting shadows on the present one?
Dig into the depths of your mind to understand why your instinct conflicts with your logical decision? Did you miss any valid facts or misinterpret them?
If you feel you have not erred in your intuition, turn toward the logical answer and analyze it to find out where you went wrong with it.
Somewhere, someplace, you will find an anomaly and you will end up correcting one of them to agree with the other.
However, even after much deliberation, you are unable to reach an agreement, consider them together. Weigh the pros and cons of each and go with the best option.
Both logical reasonings and gut feelings have a vital role to play in our decision-making. Both can be right or wrong at times. We can improve our skills in both to avoid bad decisions.
Despite our best efforts, we can end up with gut feelings contradicting our logical minds. The ideal solution would be a mix of both. Your conscious mind needs to be trained well to handle them impartially, leaving out emotions and other distractions. And that is what you should be aiming for.