Gut Reaction

Wisdom Wednesday


Last week, in the first Wisdom Wednesday post, I invited you to tune into your “inner wisdom.” To observe it and to create a habit of paying attention to it. Take a moment now to recall what your observed during the week.

Today we’ll go a bit deeper into it using one of it’s better known descriptions the “Gut Reaction.”  I’ll offer some ways to make sense of this form of inner wisdom and some ways to manage it, especially when it brings emotional intensity with it.

you are an observer

Using the image of a “container” for thoughts and feelings, throughout this post, I will encourage you to try on the idea of your SELF as “an observer” or your current gut reaction.


A “gut reaction” is a communication from your inner wisdom. Most people are familiar with this term. It is usually a little more intense than other ways your inner wisdom communicates with you.

For the exercise that follows, please recall a time you had a gut reaction. Maybe you had one in the past week when you were more intentionally paying attention to your inner wisdom.
Please use an example that is on the lower end of “emotional intensity” for you. 

Have you had a gut reaction to recently?

You know, it’s that physical reaction in your body, usually followed by a emotional reaction. It happens quickly. You might not even know what triggered it. It’s hard to ignore it because it pushes its way into your awareness. It might come from something happening around you or to you, or from something someone says to you.

For Example:

While waiting for family members that are running late, at a holiday get together, you and your relatives are talking and catching up. The conversation turns to problems one of the couples (that haven’t arrived yet) are having in their marriage. You are close with the couple and know how hurt they would be hearing this inaccurate and exaggerated description of their problems.  A family member asks you about the couple and before you can answer, the couple arrives. 

Managing a Gut Reaction

After reading this example or recalling one of your own,
I am assuming you are having a “gut reaction.” If it is higher than the low end of intensity, please pause and practice some self care and return to this exercise with an example that is less intense for you when you are ready.

For the purpose of this exercise, we intentionally chose an example that is not overly intense, but somewhat uncomfortable. So the instructions that follow might seem like “a bit much” for a low intensity reaction. Just know, that it is easier to understand and try out a new concept with a less intense reaction. If these suggestions resonate with you I encourage you to continue “making them your own” so that when the more intense reactions come you will have some familiarity with the practice and be more able to use it. 

Exercise: Mind Dump

Please get a piece of paper and something to write with and briefly but quickly (quickly so you aren’t as likely to censor/question yourself) do a “mind dump” by jotting down words, feelings, images or anything that captures your “gut reaction.” 

Once that is complete, put the paper down and in your “minds eye” take a step back from the thoughts, feelings and experiences. Yes, they do feel very close to you inside the container you share with them.  By taking this step back you can create some breathing room between them and you. 

It’s important to state, that you are not trying to get rid of them, in fact, I don’t think it’s a good idea to get rid of them even though they are currently unpleasant (more on this next week). You are learning how to be in the presence of them and to create enough distance from them that you can settle yourself. Once you’ve got some space, breathe and get grounded within yourself, a few feet away from the feelings. 

Self Care & Getting Grounded

This part is done in real time, not just in your mind’s eye. Take your “mind dump paper” and place it far enough way from you that you can reach out and get it, but a distance that gives you some space from it.  

Now sit on a chair and feel its support under you. Plant your feet firmly on the floor. Make contact with your feet on the floor and your back on the chair so that you feel supported where you sit.  Then, settle into the support and take a deep inhale. Then a slow, long and strong exhale out your mouth. Maintain contact with your feet, seat and back. Then cross your arms over your body in a hug (release this at any point, if it doesn’t feel right for you). With each exhale be intentional about releasing the unpleasant “stuff” and cleansing it from your system. Let it go.

Holding yourself with your arms, supported by the chair send a message to your SELF that you are safe and supported. When you are done, release your arms and the contact with the chair and allow your breathing to return to normal.
And when you are ready continue reading.

Working with your “Mind Dump”

Now, get your “mind dump paper” and a few coloured pens or markers. Draw a container around the perimeter of the page. Or draw a container on a larger piece of paper and paste your mind dump paper inside the container. Then, with a different colour, a distance from the things in the container, add a stick figure to represent you. With another colour, draw a heart around the stick figure YOU. Make the lines thick enough that it forms a boundary between you and the things in the container.
Now put today’s date on the back of this page and your signature.

You are NOT your Gut Reactions

What does this do? Well first of all, it helps you see that YOU are not your FEELINGS OR EXPERIENCES. YOU are the PERSON that feels the feelings – both pleasant and unpleasant (more on this next week). It allows you to receive and pay attention to the “alert” from your inner wisdom, in a less reactive way.

Second, it gives you a way, to separate your SELF from the gut reaction. AND encourages you to maintain a loving and protective boundary around your SELF.
When people say “I’ve lost myself” this is the “SELF” they can’t find or connect with. It is still with them/you, but it gets buried under or mixed in with the feelings (especially more intense ones). YOU need to find it, rescue it really, and create space between it and the things it’s entangled with.

And third, it shows you how to see your “SELF” or “YOU” as the “experiencer or observer.” And how to step back from the experience and BE the observer so you can take care of yourself. Then intentionally choose how you do want to respond in the moment.

As you become familiar with this practice and make it your own, you will get more confident in your ability to deal with all types of communication from your inner wisdom. As you see your SELF responding the way you want to, I hope you won’t be so hard on your SELF. I hope the tendency to “beat your self up” will decrease and that it stops happening all together.

Who’s in Charge

I’ve used the terms “you” and “self” and “observer” today. These terms all describe the “you” that is charge of your life. The “you” that manages the things going on around and inside of you. Some of you will have heard me say, “the leader of your internal family” or “your wise woman.” This is how I describe the “you” that is the leader or the one in charge.

I believe that this leader is who you are at your essence, at your core.
And that you’re able to manage the information you get from your inner wisdom and from your environment.

inner wisdom

I hope this “way of understanding” your
inner wisdom will be useful for you.
As always, please take what fits, what resonates with you and leave what doesn’t. You are the best judge of that.

I look forward to meeting you here again next Wednesday for the
third instalment of Wisdom Wednesday.

If you would like to talk more with me I would love to hear from you.

Read more about Elizabeth Lacey here