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How Can I Connect With My Intuition?

Jessica Pontis, LCSW

           One thing I see time and time again as a clinician is the anxious mind of my client’s taking over, struggling to recognize and accept their wants and needs.  Instinctually we know what we don’t want, we don’t want pain, disappointment, sadness, all the things that make life seem less enjoyable.  Oppositely, we aim to fill our lives with joy, meaningful connection, goodness, and fulfillment.  The question is, how do we recognize the path that allows us to find the good and avoid the bad?  While it would be convenient for life to hit us with an obvious sign of “Pick this thing!  This choice will make you happy!”, that rarely happens.  Since the path of life can seem confusing, dark at times, and uncertain it’s important to learn to trust our intuition, our gut.  By fostering a kind of inherent trust in ourselves we learn what turns to take even when the path to happiness is dimly lit. 

           While the concept of intuition seems pretty philosophical on a surface level, there has been quite a bit of research done on the topic.  One such discovery made by the University of Leeds demonstrates that intuition is a very real process that our brains go through during decision making or an assessment of a situation.  During this process, our brains gather a ton of information so quickly that we tend to not even register it at a conscious level.  The information included is all of the past experiences and cues from the environment and self that reflect similarly on the current situation[i].  Because this process happens so quickly, and we do not recognize it, we at times struggle to trust the conclusion of the process, or rather we struggle to trust our gut.  Listening to our intuition is our minds natural way of sorting through what will and will not serve us, making it an important component in recognizing our wants and needs. 

           There are a few ways to start learning to trust our intuition, one of which involves trying to filter out as much of the “noise” as possible, or as much of our anxious brain telling us to be distrustful of what our intuition knows to be true.  This would involve utilizing anxiety reduction strategies that could include mindfulness-based practices such as deep breathing or meditation.  Other forms of anxiety reduction tools could include thought stopping which involves interrupting, removing, or replacing destressing or reoccurring thoughts.  As these skills are practiced it will become easier to listen to and trust the intuition. 

           Another way to build trust in our intuition is to let ourselves feel whatever emotions come up during the decision-making process in a safe way.  If you struggle to move through difficult emotions I would suggest connecting with a therapist if you do not have one, or if you do have a therapist, practice navigating challenging emotions with them in session so that the environment is safe and structured.  If you can tolerate intense emotions independently give yourself the space to let them exist within you as opposed to trying to suppress them.  Our feelings tend to demand to be seen and heard and suppressing them often only makes them louder.  When you can accept the way you feel regarding a situation or decision there is less static that the brain has to filter through to make your intuition, or gut feeling, clear and recognizable.  When your intuition is clear it will feel like a sense of knowing that brings calmness and insight.

           Lastly, be thoughtful of where and with whom you are leaving your energy.  Circumstances or people who we recognize are draining to us also make it challenging to hear our intuition.  Unfortunately, so many of us have been conditioned by other individuals or systems of power to make us believe that out intuition is not to be trusted, because to trust our intuition would mean to set boundaries, and to set boundaries would mean to make the other person or system uncomfortable.   While we may not always be able to walk away from certain people or situations, we are able to allow ourselves to make the choice to stay, as opposed to letting another take that choice and disempower you.  Allow yourself to own your power, allow yourself to accept what you need and reject what you do not.

           If you feel that you would like to engage with someone to walk with you on this journey reach out to one of the licensed therapists with Symmetry Counseling.  You can reach out to us online at symmetrycounseling.com, or by calling us at (312) 578-9990 to set up an appointment.

[i] Leeds, U. (2009, December 16). Go with your gut – intuition is more than just a hunch, says Leeds research. Retrieved April 08, 2021, from https://www.leeds.ac.uk/news/article/367/go_with_your_gut__intuition_is_more_than_just_a_hunch_says_leeds_research

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