Can I Trust My Gut?
It’s hard to believe we are at the last of the four part series already. We’ll wrap up today with a brief review of what we’ve covered and a discussion about “trusting” your gut.
- What did you learn as you paid more attention to your inner wisdom?
- Did you develop new skills for managing gut reactions?
- Was the exercise of quickly writing down what you’re aware of during a gut reaction helpful?
- We’re you able to make use of the self soothing suggestion afterwards?
- Did the practice of being an observer of the feelings and thoughts resonate with you?
- Were you able to create space between yourself as observer and the experiences you share the “container” with?
Let’s move on and explore the question “Can I trust my gut?” I will do my best to explore this without digressing into a lengthy discussion on trust. As many of you know, I have lots to say about trust LOL 🙂
What do you mean by Trust?
Let’s say you’re interviewing for a new job and you’re asking:
“Can I trust that this negative reaction to the job offer, means I shouldn’t take the job?”
It is reasonable to “trust” that you are having a negative gut reaction. Just try not to jump to conclusions about what it means. Is it about the offer in particular, or the job, or some other aspect of it? Maybe you really love your current job or you wish you weren’t moving. Or maybe there is something about the offer that you need to negotiate and you don’t like negotiating. The reaction could be to something that means you shouldn’t take the job – you’ll have more confidence in it if you fully explore where it is coming from. Then place the negative gut reaction in context with the other information, both positive and negative, that you have about the job and the offer?
“Trust is a Choice”
When you ask, can I trust this, whatever it is you wonder if you can trust, I encourage you to recognize “trust” as a choice. In the example above, what you’re really asking is, “can I trust my decision with all of the information I currently have?” The negative gut reaction and what caused it, are included in the information.
“but what if I trust it and make a mistake?”
If you took the job and it turned out to be awful, you might think you were wrong to trust your gut. But remember you were “trusting that you made the best decision you could.” You didn’t ignore your gut reaction OR your interpretation of what it meant. You included it, with the weight you felt it should have, in your decision. Unfortunately, the job turned out to be awful 🙁 🙁 🙁
Now, not only are you in an awful job, but you’re also worried that you can’t trust your gut AND you’re probably beating yourself thinking you made a mistake. Please remember, if you had the information about the job you have now, back when you had to make your decision, you NEVER WOULD have taken it. You didn’t say yes knowing it would be like this. You had no idea it would be like this – how could you have known?
this is why so many people think they can’t trust their gut!
It is also why the question “what do you mean by trust?” is so important. Commonly, without even knowing we’re doing it, what we really want to trust is “that nothing bad will happen.” Like when you want to trust your partner won’t hurt you again. Oops, I won’t digress, that’s a topic for another day, but it does make the point more clearly 🙂
Let’s come back to the job example, and stay crystal clear on exactly what you were trusting. You were trusting that, you made the best decision you could with the information you had. Not your interpretation that the negative reaction to the job offer meant you shouldn’t take the job. Right? Stay crystal clear on this point.
what you can trust…
You can trust your ability to make decisions – especially when you know that there is information you can’t possible know at the time – like what the people are like in the new job.
what you can’t trust…
You can’t trust your ability to predict the future. And you can’t trust that if you do it all “right” bad things won’t happen. The job being awful was not within your control.
but don’t take my word for it 🙂
You don’t have to trust my explanation either. In fact, if you believe that your gut reaction to the job offer meant that you shouldn’t have taken the job, go back to the information your decision was based on. Did you decide that the gut reaction was to some aspect of the offer, like not wanting to move? Did you decide to accept the job because it was in your field, the hours and pay were good and you were tired of interviewing. Or was it that you never figured out what the gut reaction was about?
Hind Sight is 20/20 🙁 🙁 🙁
Or is it, that after experiencing the toxic work culture in the new job, you’re wondering if the reaction was to working in an office more than you were used to? Are you thinking you should have known it would be like that? This is that nasty beast of hindsight attacking you! Don’t listen to that – remember this – you didn’t know about the toxic work culture when you made the decision – remember? If you had any idea it was like that you NEVER WOULD have taken the job.
we blame ourselves
Of course, this is just an example, but it’s common for women (based on over 20 years in practice) to blame themselves for not knowing things they had no way of knowing. Especially when you want to trust, someone like your partner of 10 years (whom you love very much) won’t hurt you again, like he/she did in the past. I chose not to use a relationship example here because it is too painful and potentially triggering for this type of communication. However, it is more often relationship experiences like this that cause women (in particular) to question whether they can trust their gut. Please don’t let my lapse into relationship examples become you’re focus (yes I will practice what I preach too) just use it to make sense of this discussion if it resonates with you and move on.
You are allowed to make a mistake – aren’t you?
Back to the job example, the reality is, you probably did consider what it would be like to be in an office more than you were used to. You probably did know it was a risk, but something else made you willing to take that risk. And it was a risk. Taking a new job, in a new city always is. Maybe it was the pay and the hours and working in your field again, along with being tired of interviewing. I still don’t think you made a mistake in “trusting your decision with the information you had at the time.”
I know I’m relentless 🙂 🙂
It’s only in hindsight that you think you made a mistake and that you should have “trusted your gut more.” Even if you did make a mistake – so what – you made a mistake – that’s all.
You ARE allowed to make mistakes AREN’T YOU?
“no crystal ball…”
Overall, the question “can I trust” is an effort to protect yourself. It’s not a bad thing. Being aware of your vulnerability and your desire to protect yourself is a good thing. Whether you choose to trust your decisions, your partner’s words, or that the contractor fixed the wiring properly like he said he did, choosing to trust is risky business. Trust is a choice. A choice you make, knowing the risks and knowing you could get hurt. And you make it – without a crystal ball – anyway.
Communication from your inner wisdom in all the forms we have discussed this month, combined with the other information you have, really are the only things you have when choosing to trust or not to trust. As a woman much wiser than me once said, “we hope for the best and plan for the worst.”
How’s that for Wisdom on this last Wisdom Wednesday?
Now I have a real treat for you. Below is one of my favourite videos called
“Why Trust is Worth it“
It just over 3 minutes and is well worth the watch
Please share this post with anyone that might enjoy it or benefit from it.
Just be sure to give me credit as the author.
Elizabeth Lacey specializes in Women’s Emotional Health Counselling with in-person, phone, online and Walk & Talk Therapy Sessions.
Elizabeth Lacey MSW RSW
London ON CA