Going with Your Gut: How to Tell the Difference Between Fear and Intuition

Going with Your Gut: How to Tell the Difference Between Fear and Intuition


This article first appeared on Happify.com.

We are fascinated by the concept of intuition. It bears a certain mystique to it, a connection to our subconscious stories and our inner knowing. Fear, on the other hand, we know all too well. It’s the voice of the inner critic that screams loudly in our ears every time we try and step out of our comfort zone.

And yet, we often confuse the two when we’re headed for the most important decisions of our lives. We often mistake the voice of fear for the wisdom of intuition and stop ourselves from the very actions that would allow us to rise to our full potential.

They are the Dr. Jekyll and the Mr. Hyde within us. And it’s important to learn to understand the two, so that we don’t succumb to Dr. Jekyll’s fate and permanently hide behind a veil of fear.

Here are 5 ways to tell the difference between fear and intuition:

Build Body Awareness

Intuition is a gentle inkling, a fleeting answer that happens in an instant, according to Malcolm Gladwell in his groundbreaking book, Blink. It’s easy to ignore, which is why people often fail to recognize it. Fear, on the other hand, is a relentless and loud unease, evolution’s way of making sure we stay safe from what may harm us. Except that in today’s world, most of our fears are not real, but psychological.

Integration vs. Catastrophization

Intuition integrates the neural networks from different parts of the brain. In his book,Brainstorm, Dr. Dan Siegel talks about these linkages and how they lead to the emergence of an inner wisdom and informed decision-making. Fear does none of that. It activates the amygdala as a neural shortcut that also leads to a racing heart and a catastrophizing mind.

They Emerge in Different Situations

Intuition rarely speaks up for the minor decisions of life, whereas fear can throw a fit whenever we are required to try something new and different. Intuition emerges for the larger decisions of life, when reason does not seem to provide conclusive answers. But fear simply says “no” to all that may potentially harm us, however remote and far-fetched the possibility.

Feel Comfortable, Not Relieved

Intuition points us in a direction that makes us feel comfortable, even if not certain. Fear, on the contrary, dictates a decision that makes us feel relieved, as though we just survived a threat to our very existence. Except that it becomes louder every time and curtails our way of showing up in the world like a shrink-wrap around us.

Befriend Them Both

Intuition may simply be experience. Daniel Kahneman, author of Thinking Fast and Slow, says that intuition is the growth that comes from taking on risks and opportunities and learning from successes and failures. None of that is possible if we shy away when faced with fear. Instead, we need to recognize the voice of fear, befriend it and allow it to trust the knowledge of experience, the voice of intuition. Over time, both learn to cohabitate in peaceful existence.

So don’t let your fear hide behind your intuition any longer. Don’t narrow your field of possibility and confine yourself to the limits of your comfort zone. Instead, stretch out under the spaciousness of the open skies, trusting your intuition and growing to your fullest potential.

How do fear and intuition show up in your life? Are you good at telling them apart?

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