Gut Instinct

I constantly see articles, blog posts, quotations and books telling me to trust my gut instinct.  But what happens when my gut instinct gets it wrong?  Yes, that’s right.  Wrong.  Everything told me I was on the right path, my heart was completely at peace with the direction my life was heading in.  I had big plans, that felt completely right.  Not a doubt.

Some years ago I worked in jobs where relying on my gut instinct was sometimes the only way to know that what I was doing was right.  The job focused around people in need of money and food.  I had to be able to spot inconsistencies in the story clients were putting to me, and I got pretty good at it.  But very often it came down to gut instinct.  Did I believe what this client was telling me?  Was the need they were putting across to me genuine?  Over the years I got pretty good at it, and I learnt to trust my instincts.  No doubt there were occasions when I got it wrong, but mostly I was right on the mark.

A few years on and I was in another job.  I had a man in his fifties working for me.  He was the nicest person.  Everyone thought so, and he did an excellent job both with clients and with helping other staff.  My gut instinct told me that this was a good person and he became someone who I trusted to look after the department when I wasn’t there.

I was eventually made redundant from that position and so left the company, but some years on it was discovered that this lovely person had been systematically defrauding the company while he was working for me.  I never suspected a thing. No one did.  He’s now serving out his time in prison.  My gut instinct didn’t pick it up.  Okay, so I’m human like the rest of us, but how can it be that you can be so sure you’ve made a good decision about someone, but you get it wrong?

You will have guessed by now that I like quotations.  I love getting nuggets of wisdom from people who have gone before us.  So often I conclude that even with time, life really doesn’t change that much.

My favourite quote is one I have used here before:

“Come to the edge”, he said. We are afraid. “Come to the edge”, he said. They came. He pushed them, And they flew…”

-Guillaume Apollinaire

So often when we are facing something new or just different, we need a push.  All going well, we get that push and we fly.  We soar.  And we’re glad we took that step off the edge.

This year I was facing something new, and my heart and my gut told me that what I was doing was absolutely right for me.  It was huge, and it wasn’t that I was without fear.  Fear is just natural when we face something new.  But in spite of what seemed to be just normal fear, I was totally sure of what I was doing.  There wasn’t a doubt in my mind.

So I came to the edge, and as I took off from the edge, I started to fly.  I thought I had listened to my gut instinct correctly and I was happy.  Actually I was more happy than I had been for years.  But then the flying faltered, and I went…     splat….     there was no more flying but instead I had crashed at the bottom of the cliff.

I very quickly discovered that my gut instinct had got it wrong.  This wasn’t a moment of flight, but instead I found myself scraping myself off the rocks, looking at my wounds and wondering how the heck had I got it so wrong?

This post isn’t about feeling sorry for myself.  The wounds are still there, but I will survive.  This post is about making sense of what happened and asking myself, what happens when gut instinct gets it wrong?  It’s not like I was in denial of real doubts.  And it’s not like I hadn’t put a whole lot of thought into what I was planning.  My gut instinct told me that I was doing the right thing for me.  I was completely committed to what was ahead.  This was right for me.

I’ve been mulling this post over in my mind for several weeks now.  I didn’t want to write it until I had an answer for myself.  I wanted that hope of understanding, but to be honest I’m still stumped by this.  Every time I see something telling my just my gut feeling, I am left with the thought ‘but I’ve proven that I can’t trust my gut feeling‘.  How do I trust my gut feeling, when it gets it wrong?

Maybe for some reason I just had to go through what this path has taken me through.  Again, I don’t know.  I’m sure there would be an easier way to learn a lesson.  I personally don’t believe that everything happens for a reason.   I believe that some things are too awful for some divine power to put us through.  Don’t try and tell me that innocent people have died in Syria in past weeks for some divine reason.  I don’t buy it.  I’m not saying that what I have been through is in that category, but I’m also not prepared to say that what I have been though was all for some unknown reason.

None of the books, articles, blog posts tell me what to make if my gut instinct getting it wrong.  I don’t know the answer.  I just have to keep treating those wounds, keep taking one step at a time.  As for leaping off cliffs?  I think I’ll pass on that for now.

“Deep down within the heart there is a stillness which is healing, a trust in the universal laws which is unwavering, and a strength which is rock-like. But because it is so deep we need both patience and perseverance when digging for it.” 

― Paul Brunton, The Notebooks of Paul Brunton


19 thoughts on “Gut Instinct

  1. I am going through something like that too. Somewhat. Sans the splat, though.

    All my life, I have used my gut feeling as my navigator. When it gets it wrong (not very often but it has happened), I am left all confused and even worse, sometimes hurt.

    Hope you can make sense of things soon. But I’m afraid some things will never make sense no matter how hard we try.


  2. I used to follow my (rather astute) gut instinct until recently when I realised I seem to be getting many things wrong.

    I do not buy into things happening for a divine reason, but think we can learn so much from the “mistakes” we make. That’s not very comforting when we are in the middle of it.

  3. Did you ever consider the possibility that your gut didn’t get it wrong, but that you can only see the big thing that hurts so much right now? I’m not trying in any way to dismiss that, but Cate, honey, you flew. You traveled halfway around the world, you showed a determination and a bravery that I’m certain you never realized you were capable of. You took the kind of chance most people only talk about, and even though the catalyst for it turned into something that hurt beyond all words. . . Maybe one day you will look back at only you, because you’re who matters, and you will marvel at how you spread your beautiful wings, and you flew. ❤

      1. I don’t expect you to feel it right now, or that it will take away the hurt. You just did something really incredible, something that awed me, something that will one day hopefully awe you. Because, as I said, you’re the only one who matters here. ♥

  4. I want to reply to two points, Cate, but I’m not up to it. Someone I love died yesterday and I’m physically, mentally and emotionally worn out. When I get where I think of something besides his death, I’ll email you. I’m not saying I have wisdom you can garner, but I’d like to share my point of view with you. I’m glad you’re getting this written out because I still believe that writing is cathartic.

  5. Hi Cate, I’ve always liked people who spell your name as you do!

    I came up with a line a few years ago which was good, so I’ve stuck with it – and so has my little brother, apparently, which is touching. “Let your intuition inform your intellect.” It sounds a bit pretentious, maybe, but I like big words, and it’s alliterative! It means don’t let your gut instinct tell you what to do, but listen very carefully to what it’s telling you and take that message into account when you make a sensible, well-thought-through decision. (Also, don’t trust advice from the internet, and don’t discuss your decisions with too many people… these are other tricks I’ve learned along the way. But posting about it on your blog and reading the comments doesn’t count, she added hastily.)

    I believe in a loving God, and I used to believe that “everything happens for a reason” until I read a news story where plainly there was no possible way to think that a loving God could have wanted this particular event to happen. After something of a crisis of faith, I decided that the truth was more like this: shit happens, but there is always the possibility of good to come out of everything – and that right there is the grace of God. No evil is so evil that it cannot be redeemed.

  6. Pingback: You Should Have Protected Me | Infinite Sadness... or hope?

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