Trusting Your Instincts
Updated: Oct 13, 2022
We unlearn how to trust our instincts. When babies are learning something new they often need little to no instruction.
If they do not have developmental challenges, they tend to instinctively figure out how to move things toward their mouth, how to move their bodies and craning their necks towards sounds. As as they become more cognitively and emotionally sophisticated, we see an increased need for guidance and modeling.
The structures and systems we're in try to convince us that our instincts are flawed, maybe even dangerous, and definitely not trustworthy.
This is evident when we make decisions based on our instincts and the result is tension in relationships or systems that we need to function in.
Capitalism is very invested in us pushing past our instincts and producing or performing. We are required to show up even if our instincts tell us maybe we need a down day, maybe we need to not attend this thing.
Because we learn to push down and deny our instincts, the internal alarm bells of threat may go off on decisions that are seemingly benign. We'll ask ourselves, "how should I feel about this thing?", "what should I do?"
For a lot of neurodivergent people, any internal inquiry automatically comes with self doubt, self criticism, and a lot of distrust about your instincts on any situation.
For example, you could come out of interaction with a sense that the exchange was rude or offensive. Rather than validate and be with that instinct, we'll seek out reassurance or validation from other people -- sometimes a LOT of other people. We don't trust our read on things because we've been in other situations where we've been gaslit or reacted too soon, not had all the context, and then felt really embarrassed. We felt foolish and now we can't trust our instincts.
Our instincts can be trusted to give us more information about what we're currently experiencing. If you have toxic people in your life and your instinct is to guard yourself, that's a good instinct and there's a reason you have that boundary in place.
Trusting Too Much
Another extreme side of trusting your instincts is when everything that our instincts and our gut is telling us is right.
Learning to trust your instincts includes growing in discernment and the ability to examine, or test, them before taking action. We can partner with our instincts by simply acknowledging their presence and taking a moment to figure out:
Where are these instincts coming from?
What feels valid?
What needs to be challenged?
What can I do about it?
This pause is something we learn to do. It can be one minute or a few days - whatever you need to feel connected to the messages you're getting internally. There are countless ways you can practice this on little things, which builds the muscle when big stuff comes up.
In our Enclave discussion we identified the big connection here to boundaries. We might feel pulled into the loop of instinctively knowing we have a need and then being afraid of the outcome if we present the need to others. Binary thinking when it comes to our instincts is what causes panic or feelings of being frozen and stuck.
There are always more possible outcomes than the ones we imagine.
If we test our instincts, we may find our default is a negative bias toward ourselves. We are the unreliable mediator between ourselves and ourselves. And of course we are! If you identify as ADHD, Autistic, or any other neurodivergent labels, you were basically trained to assume the worst of yourself.
We all have parts of ourselves that express needs and other parts that respond to that with harsh criticism, scorn, or just embarrassment and a "please don't say that"energy. It can create a lot of internal chaos that adds to our exhaustion as we try to get through the day. These internal conflicts are normal and experienced by everyone.