Gut feelings often don’t come from nowhere and neither do they come from the gut. The gut-brain connection makes it possible for emotional experiences to register as gastrointestinal stress. When feelings of anxiety, fear, or anything wrong catch one, you may experience stomach twinges, pain, or nausea. This is where the name ‘gut feeling’ comes from. Research links this phenomenon to flashes of intuition to certain brain processes such as evaluating and decoding emotional and other non-verbal cues. The brain carries out these processes automatically to help one prepare for any situation that may come up. Whether good or bad.
One psychologist professor had this to say about gut instincts: Intuition perceives possibilities in the present situation; however, it is perceived primarily through the unconscious and not concrete reality. It presents itself as an instinctive apprehension; an insight, with wholeness; and without awareness of how this psychic content appeared. For better and for worse, intuition intrinsically possesses a sense of conviction and certitude.
“What has been your most spine-tingling, bone-chilling, ‘I have a bad feeling about this experience?” One online user once asked and got numerous responses. One which stood out for me went like this:
‘When my kids went to bed, I used to go out to the barn where I had a bottle of whiskey stashed. I’d have a drink and ponder the day, think about my late wife, and attempt to decompress.
I suffered heavily from PTSD. Add to that, the recent loss of my wife, the stress of raising 2 children that didn’t know me, and the intense pain from severe burns I had received before leaving the Marine Corps – it’s safe to admit that I was extremely suicidal.
One particular night, I wrote out a long letter to my family, letters to my children, and placed them along with my will, financial documents, etc., on the kitchen table. I went out to the barn with a .40 caliber pistol and had every intention of getting drunk and eating a round. I was as low as I’ve ever been in my life.
All of the sudden, my dad walked into the barn. He lived 2 hours away, and we hadn’t spoken in a couple of weeks.
He picked up the handgun, cleared it, and dropped the magazine without a word. I asked him what he was doing there at 1030pm, and he said: “I had a bad feeling. Let’s talk.”
That’s the only time I’ve ever seen my dad cry. That’s the only time we’ve ever spoken in detail about our horrors of combat.
My dad saved my life that night, and I’ve made sure to live my life in such a way, as to make him proud of everything I do.’
If that is not gut instinct from the father, I do not know what is.
Signs of a gut feeling include, but are not limited to:
- Tension or tightness in your body.
- Goosebumps or prickling.
- Stomach butterflies/nausea.
- A sinking sensation in the pit of your stomach.
- Sweaty palms or feet.
- Thoughts that keep returning to a specific person or situation.
- Feelings of peace, safety, or happiness (after making a decision)
- A flash of clarity.
Gut feelings can be very real things grounded in observation and experience. Scenarios where trusting your gut feelings may be a safe bet include:
– When you can separate a gut instinct from wishful thinking.
– When you need to make a quick decision. When there is no room to weigh options, compare reviews, or get as many facts as possible, you out to pay close attention to your gut instinct.
– When you are trying to get in touch with your needs. Logic and reason can’t always compare with your intuitive knowledge of what you need and gut instinct will take the day in such a situation.
– When you lack data. A gut feeling can never replace cold, hard evidence but when there is not enough to guide you, emotions can play an important role in decisions.
Time and practice can hone your intuition, so give your gut feelings the consideration they deserve. Tuning in to your emotions and bodily cues can help you practice listening to your gut and learning when to trust it.
“Feelings do not always determine truth, but they can sometimes tell you what is true.”
― J.R. Rim