The world is kind of a messy place.
People from all walks of life seem to have the answers to all of life's biggest questions.
Many of us put our total faith in systems, ideas, and organizations that guaranteed us the Truth with a capital "T" but later proved to be wrong and/or unethical on so many levels.
Those of us who did put our complete trust in these systems are now trying to make sense of the world in a new paradigm, using a new navigational system.
The process can be daunting.
We no longer trust that any one person, organization, prophet, book, or guru will have all the "right" answers for us, so we are left to our own devices.
We are left with this dilemma of trying to create a life of meaning, purpose, and joy in a way that makes sense to us now.
Many of us have moved on from "trust the organization, religion, guru, or book" to "trust your own damn self."
This often translates into phrases like:
"Trust that voice inside of you that always knows."
"Always trust your gut."
"Your intuition will never be wrong."
But as far as I can tell (and backed up by over 300,000 years of evidence as a species) none of these "inner guide" or "intuition" type sources have been shown to be one hundred percent reliable.
Don't even try to convince me otherwise.
People like to share a story about a time "intuition" worked for them and then automatically make the assumption that it always works.
I have a different view.
Just because something sometimes works, does not mean that it always does.
Google dictionary defines intuition as "a thing that one knows or considers likely from instinctive feeling rather than conscious reasoning."
The three words "or considers likely" is the part that everyone seems to ignore. (We like to ignore the fact that our intuition is not guaranteed to be an accurate indicator of reality.)
I'm exhausted by the number of times I see and hear people say that their "gut" or "heart" or "intuition" always knows.
You only have to watch one season of "The Bachelor" to see how deluded we can get when we trust these things too much. (A little bit of rational reasoning would go a long way here.)
It seems that some people like to imply that your "intuition" is some kind of fortune teller in the sky that enters your mind to give you all the answers that are actually true (or at least true for you).
I don't buy it.
I recently saw a post on instagram that said "gut feelings are guardian angels." Wow. What about all those times your "gut" was actually wrong about something? What does that say about your guardian angels? And if you think that your gut is never wrong, then maybe you've never considered the concept of cognitive biases before.
I'm not saying there's no such thing as guardian angels (I can't prove or disprove something that is not provable) but I do happen to think that it can be incredibly disheartening when you find out your "guardian angels" told you something would be true or good for you, when you later found out that it wasn't. The problem with this thinking is that you end up blaming yourself and your ability to "listen well" when things don't turn out like you thought they would.
I happen to think that the concept of gut feelings or intuition is much more complicated than we care to admit.
This article gives some great insight into what we know about the science behind intuition. Definitely worth the read!
And then to add messiness to it all, it seems that a lot of new age and religious philosophies tend to imply that if you're following their "guidelines" then your intuition (or "spirit" or "god" or whatever) will actually give you all-knowing answers. This is why no one can agree on what religion is actually "true" because we're all feeling the same "knowing" about our own. (I happen to think this "knowing" is just the result of our own biased thoughts, conditioning, and ideas that are mixed in with emotional responses to the world.)
Honestly, it seems to me like overly trusting this aspect of being human can be the cause of so many unethical behaviors and self-blaming.
An observation from this article states:
Intuitive decision making is based on our past experiences and, therefore, repeatedly successful in similar situations, where previous outcomes and learning were useful and accurate. (In other words, it tends to be most helpful when you have had past experiences to back up the success.)
This article also states, that "Where the current or future situation is significantly different, (and I would add "or biased" here) we must use our intuition with caution. Without rational analysis, any decision taken could be ineffective at best or dangerous at worst."
In other words, it can be dangerous to ignore rational reasoning.
At various times in my own life, my intuition, or "inner guide" (which I religiously followed) caused me to earnestly follow and fully trust prophets, pastors, priests, priestesses, and even an "energy healer" who claimed she just "knew all the things."
None of them were always right.
Some were even dangerously wrong.
Trusting the energy healer lady actually landed me in the hospital.
Trusting the "holy spirit" had me one hundred percent convinced that I would marry a guy that I did NOT, in fact, end up marrying.
Trusting my "gut" caused me to put money down on a rental, sight-unseen, that later turned out to be an unlivable mess.
Trusting my "inner knowing" caused me to believe that we were "meant" to build a house on a lot that later turned out to be objectively not possible for us to build on.
And don't anybody try to convince me that you just have to "try harder" or "tune in more" or "live more righteously" or "surrender better" or "meditate longer" or that it doesn't even really matter what is "right or wrong" anyway because if your gut tells you something, then it is right for "you." I'm sorry, but there are things that can be objectively true or not true, harmful or not harmful, just by observing tangible realities that we can touch with our own hands and see with our own eyes.
That kind of "do better" mindset is just an absolute disaster for someone who does all those things religiously and still gets mixed results. It just feels like gaslighting to a person who is just trying their best to make meaningful choices in a complex world.
So where does that leave us?
If we can't fully trust others and we can't fully trust ourselves, then who or what do we trust?
How do we even make decisions in life that feel good, peaceful, and hopeful?
For me, the answer has come down to one simple thing -
"Consult BOTH reason and intuition, but don't expect either one of them to be perfect all the time."
Consulting both reason and intuition to me, means that I pay attention to and consider ALL the aspects of life like:
and even the insights of other people,
but I do also try to "quiet the noise" and pay attention to my initial reactions to things as well as the warm and fuzzy thoughts, emotions, and feelings that bring a sense of:
These things ALL deserve a place at the table (although anxiety can make these nice feelings somewhat elusive at times, so I don't always expect them to come through for me when I'm making decisions).
I put them all together, consider everything, then just try my best to love myself through all the ups and downs of life, choices, and results.
Life is not perfect.
There are no easy answers.
We all want to find the one thing that will give us the "best answers" and the "truest answers" or maybe even the path to never-ending bliss and contentment, but that's just not how it seems to be, if we are honest with ourselves.
I'm guessing that for most of us, we just have to love ourselves as we navigate the complexity of life in a way that feels the most compassionate and honest.
According to one wise person I know -
"Life is full of mistakes. Just deal with it. It's part of the process."
I can't even begin to tell you how much pressure that concept has released from me.
It just is what it is.
We don't have to expect our "inner knowing" or "intuition" to actually always "know."
We can make changes as we learn new information. We can challenge our biases to gain new insight.
In this same article, Matthew Hutson writes that "we sometimes need to clear intuition out of the way to obtain the sudden solutions we call insight."
We can allow these new insights to have a place at the table.
I love this.
We can do our best to make wise decisions that align with our own personal values, but we don't have to get things perfect all the time.
We can learn, grow, change, and adapt.
We get to be human.
Thank goodness, because that's exactly what we all are.
Lots of love,
Also, here's an interesting video to check out: