I can classify all the major turning points in my life into one of two categories. I either went with my gut or I ignored it, both choices taught me valuable lessons about trusting your instincts.
One of my earliest memories of having a strong gut reaction was the first time I walked into a classmate’s house as a freshman in high school. The house was dark, musty and had that warm smell of all the food that had been cooked in the last ten years. As soon as I crossed the threshold I got this overwhelming feeling that bad things were going on in the house and this friendship I had struck with this girl was not a good idea.
Of course, by that time, through rigorous indoctrination at school and at home, I had learned to doubt most of my feelings. Instead of accepting my reactions and responding accordingly I had developed a complex system of assessment which began with questioning why I was even having the feeling and usually ended with a harsh denial of the validity of it.
I told myself I was crazy and made up excuses whenever I was invited to her house.
I guess you know where this story is going…six months later my friend was hospitalized after having a nervous breakdown and after making harassing phone calls to the new girlfriend of the boy I liked posing as me. Her story, as it turned out was rife with abuse, secrets and darkness.
What ended up taking months for my head to figure out...my gut knew in an instant.
When my gut has a good feeling, it is easier to go with it. Looking for apartments was easy as I let my brain take a break and trusted my instinct. Most of the time, I knew before opening a closet door or seeing the kitchen whether I would live there or not. When I saw a picture of my house, I knew that was where I was going to live before I stepped through the door. (And the house I bought was the ONLY house I ever looked at.)
Maybe it’s hard to believe that so many of our choices in life can be left up to our gut. How can it be more accurate than our logic which we have cultivated through education, self-help books and Oprah? How can it be right?
Even the location of our gut, somewhere in the belly region is a source of a lot of discomfort for us; let’s face it who really likes their stomach or abs. We are always trying to change it, to make it leaner, more defined, less soft and pliant, less, “gut like.”
As I get older, I question a great deal of the assumptions I have lived with most of my life. I don’t see much value in denying your feelings or measuring your right to have a reaction. I tire of the constant battle of the ego and/or brain over the gut and/or heart. I am interested in cultivating a life that relies more on my gut and less on my ego. After fifty years of having my back, I figure it might be time to let it take the lead.