You know that knot in your stomach when your partner comes home late again? Or that hunch when someone offers you something you hadn’t thought of? Or that door that opens and something tells you you should walk through it?

That is inuition. Your sixth sense, that undescribable gut feeling.

How does it work?

Intuition, or gut feeling, is life experience you didn’t realize you had.

It is a combination of previous experiences, knowledge of people and current impressions. Each of us gets more information than we are conscious of. With this knowledge you interpret situations and come to certain conclusions. They may feel like a strange, uncertain feeling in your gut. That is intuition!

Imagine that you get a feeling that someone who you don’t know so well is lying to you. That feeling comes forth from experiences and impressions from the past and things you have seen and read about. You may also unconsciously pick up on certain non verbal signs from the person in question. It does of course not mean that that person is actually lying, but something is most likely off for sure. Otherwise you would not feel that way.

Some people are more open to inner signs than others, let uncertainty into their lives more easily. A lot does thus depend on your personality. Are you a rational of emotional person? How impulsive and open are you? How much confidence do you have? But also your surroundings play a role. Did you grow up in an environment where knowledge and intellect played a big role? Do you have a stressful job? Have you had bad experiences with following your gut feelings? All these factors can interefere with your intuition.

The first step: relax

We are all busy and doing doing doing. This leaves little space for intuition. We live too much in our head and too little in the here and now. It’s like realising in the afternoon of a stressful day that you are really hungry. Since you are so busy and running around, you have suppressed feelings and signals of your body. It’s only when you stop to work and relax that you feel the hunger. So in order to become aware of your gut feeling and to listen to it you need to relax. How you do that is up to you. For one it’s achieved by meditation or breathing exercises, for the other it’s a swift walk or run.

Fear of gut feeling

Often we do not dare to trust our gut feeling. Our society is very rational and heavy on the facts, knowledge and science. Anything outside of that is often considered ‘woozy’. Even if we succeed to distance ourselves from the stress and busyness, we tend ignore our gut feeling. We have a big need for security and clarity and listening to something like our intuition seems too vague. It takes a lot of self confidence to listen, especially when it differs from what your mind says or from what is expected of you and especially when it comes to life changing choices like a new job or partner.

Are women more intuitive than men?

This cliché is indeed alive and there is some truth to it. Men are of course also intuitive, but it cannot be said that it’s stronger or weaker than that of women. It is however proven that women are more emotionally intelligent than men. They tend to pick up more non verbal signals and make longer eye contact. They are closer to their own feelings and those of others. And that is a big part of intuition.

The difference between intuition and emotion

People often mistake the one for the other. Emotions change and differ from hour to hour, whereas intuition stays stable. Emotions can be very useful, but they should not be used as a compass for life. Emotions can sometimes even be in the way. If for example you suspect your partner of cheating, this feeling can give you so much fear and insecurity that you want to tuck it away. Like we tend to reason our gut feeling away, we also tend to ignore our intuition because of anger, sadness, frustration and insecurity. But emotions change into other emotions whereas intuition stays unchanged.

How do you learn to better use your 6th sense?

You have to realize that your mind and your intuition are two separate sources of information, on two different levels: conscious and unconscious. The challenge is to treat them equally and to listen to both your reason and your intuition.

But when they contradict each other, things becomes difficult. It may then be useful to put that inner battle on paper. Make two columns and write down what your reason and intuition are saying. This way you create a distance which can help you make a decision more easily. Especially when you have important decisions to make, you tend to let yourself be lead by your gut feeling.

Closer to your intuition in 5 steps

  1. Do not ask yourself big questions such as ‘What do I want in life?’ but keep it concrete:
    How do I want my life to look in one or 5 years?
    Do I still want to be with my partner?
    Do I (still) want children?
    Do I still want to live here?
    Have this job?
    The ‘yes’ or ‘no’ that these questions trigger, that is your intuition.
  2. To get more insight in the way you make decisions, you may want to think back to past important decisions.
    Were they the right choices or did you regret them later?
    And was it reason or intuition that took the decision?
  3. Be aware of your personality.
    Some character traits can influence your gut feeling.
    If you are a perfectionist, you will have a tendency to go against intuition.
    If you have trouble saying no, you will tend to keep doing things that are against your gut feeling because you may want to please others.
  4. When it comes to life changing decisions such as a job, a partner, a house or school for your children, it is valuable to follow your intuition.
    For the more rational choices, such as the purchase of a car, it is better to look at facts so you do not buy the wrong thing.
    And when it comes to gut feeling about people, like that friend you suspect of lying, it may not always be the best choice to do something with it.
    Ask yourself: what would that bring me if I followed my intuition?
  5. In order to filter your options, you best listen to your feelings, especially at first. Move on to facts if there are still several options left after the feelings filter. If you can’t decide between 2 houses, or a job, look at price/salary and location.

For more input on the topic, I suggest you watch this episode of Marie TV called ‘How To Make The Right Decision When Your Gut And Logic Don’t Agree’.

Source: loosely translated from ‘Waarom je intuïtie je zelden misleidt’ article in Libelle