When I was taking a recent yoga teacher training, the presenters were talking about listening to and following your intuition.Shortly after, another student’s hand shot up and asked, “well, what about if you have anxiety? I have a friend who suffers from anxiety and when we’re out somewhere, I’ll know that everything’s safe but his brain and body are telling him that it’s not. How would he distinguish between intuition and anxiety?”
See, when we have anxiety, it can be difficult to trust our instincts or “gut feelings.” How do we know if the “gut feeling” we’re having about someone breaking into the house is just our anxious mind making up stories, or if someone is actually going to break in?
A few years ago, I was terrified of being attacked. I never felt safe, even in my home. I’d make sure all the doors were locked a million times. I’d lock the bedroom door from the inside before dialing 9-1-1 on my phone. I didn’t press send, but I wanted to have it ready just in case. When my partner left in the morning, I’d remind him every day, “don’t forget to lock the bedroom door.”
I was seeing a wonderful counselor at the time. I told him I didn’t know the difference between healthy, productive caution and unhealthy fear. What was normal in order to protect myself? He shared that all my precautions weren’t healthy.
“Well, what if it’s intuition and I ignore it and then I actually do get attacked?” I asked.
“You can’t feel intuition when you’re in a fear state. Intuition comes from a state of calm knowing,” he replied.
And it hit me. I’m actually blocking intuition when I get caught in my fear cycles.
Every time I’ve had an intuitive feeling that ended up being absolutely correct, it came from a state of calm. I wasn’t gripped with the physical sensations of fear. It was just a nudge, a deep understanding.
A few months ago, I let my dog out in the backyard to play. After a few minutes, something in me calmly and assertively said, “you need to go check on him.” It turns out that the gate had gotten open and my dog had run away. I was able to find him quickly since my intuition had spoken to me.
- Intuition is an unemotional, neutral, deep and spiritual knowing. It feels kind and clear.
- Fear is very emotional and cognitive. It’s coming from a place of thought, rather than a knowing. It feels horrible and gripping.
So now, when I’m lying in bed wondering whether I should go check if the garage is closed or if the stove is turned off, I breathe deeply. I check in with my body. Am I gripped with fear? Is there a tightness around my chest? Is there a dropping in my stomach? If so, I’m probably caught in anxious ruminating. I continue to breathe, turning inward, and if my body starts to calm, then I ask what’s needed. Then, I see if any actions need to be taken.
Intuition vs. fear can be tricky on the horizon of a big life change, like if you’re trying to decide whether to get married or have a baby or buy a new house or start a new business.
How do we know whether it’s anxiety or intuition telling us what to do?
I wait until I’m calm to assess. I wait until anxiety isn’t at the forefront. I wait until I feel stable and peaceful- those little moments that pop up inbetween the anxious obsessions. Then, how do I feel? THAT’S what’s true. THAT’S what’s real.
And then I may go back into anxious thought patterns: What if we get a divorce? What if he’s not the one for me?
So I remind myself, over and over again, that this is NOT intuition. This is anxiety. I remind myself of how I felt when I was calm. That is what’s true.
If you have a hard time with fear vs. intuition, ask yourself: how do I feel about this when I’m not gripped with anxiety? How do I feel about this when I’m calm? That’s what’s true. That’s what’s real.
Intuition comes from a body and mind not gripped with fear. Intuition has nothing to do with fear. It is our calm, peaceful higher self gently nudging us.
Slow down. Breathe. Turn inward. That’s where the answers are. That’s where they’ve always been.
What do you guys do to tell the difference between fear and intuition?