Is it Intuition or Fear? Here’s How To Tell The Difference.

Is It Intuition Or Fear?

QUESTION:

How do you tell the difference between intuition and fear?

For example, someone new wants to collaborate with you on a proposed work project. It sounds like a great opportunity.

But there’s a feeling that things may not be as peachy as they seem.

You wonder if the feeling is a gut reaction to the person/situation actually being too good to be true/something being off but you can’t pinpoint why. OR if the feeling is just you overthinking things (even if it’s only been a minute), jumping to fear-based conclusions that you normally fall back on to keep yourself down subconsciously.

Like the situation really could be one of those too good to be true but it’s actually true if you have the courage to go for it situations.

OR, it could end up being too good to be true and you end up screwed in the end. Hindsight is 20/20 but very unhelpful when trying to make decisions.

Is It Intuition Or Fear?

There is a fine line between intuition and fear, and many people confuse the two. The key to tell the difference is to examine the feelings underneath what you’re experiencing. If you feel anxiety and overwhelm it’s very likely fear. If you feel certainty and calm then it’s very likely intuition. 

I often have clients ask me about it.

Your gut feeling, or intuition, is one of the most powerful forces in your toolkit for life. Yet many people don’t know how to use it effectively.

Most people get little internal signals that tell them there’s something more to a situation.

Yet people tend to tell themselves that they can’t trust that feeling. They ignore the feeling and figure they must be wrong.

One way this shows up is telling yourself you’re “being judgmental” when someone or something doesn’t feel right. You tell yourself “it’s nothing” when you aren’t quite sure why you don’t like someone.

Intuition Requires Self-Trust

Instead of leaning into the self-trust that says “this is a sign and I need to step back and observe“, we often brush our intuition aside, criticize ourselves for being judgmental, and then find out later that the person in question was not someone we wanted to get involved with.

This can happen a lot with narcissists. They feel something is “off” but the person “seems so nice” and is so charming they convince themselves that they’re wrong and that they can’t trust themselves.

Following your intuition comes down to self-trust.

Trauma Causes Loss Of Self-Trust

I especially see this with people who have toxicity and trauma in their background. Trauma has physical, emotional, and psychological impacts as an adult.

When you come from a background of Toxicity and Trauma you’ve often been taught not to trust yourself. This happens because of years of invalidation.

What’s invalidation? It’s when someone tells you that your inner feelings are wrong. To “suck it up” because you can’t possibly be hungry, you just ate. You can’t possibly be tired, you got plenty of sleep. You shouldn’t be sad, that’s stupid.

You’re basically taught that you can’t trust your feelings. Perhaps you were told that you were being dramatic when you told your parents about something that was bothering you. Or maybe you were told to simmer down when you’d come home excited about something new.

When this happens basically you learn you can’t trust yourself and your instincts. You can’t trust your inner world. You get the message loud and clear that “You can’t trust your gut instinct, that’s stupid”.

So you shut down. Your connection with your deepest self gets shut down. You stop feeling connected to your feelings. And you stop trusting yourself.

When you can’t trust your inner world you can’t connect with your intuition.

Trust Is The Root Of Intuition

Do you trust yourself?

When you have a decision to make, do you trust your judgment?

Do you feel like there’s something bigger than yourself that you can fall back on and believe in?

Your faith in yourself, and your trust in your gut, gets slowly stripped away by years of conditioning that tells you ever so subtly that you cannot be trusted. And that you absolutely cannot, and should not, trust your inner world.

So what do you do?

  • Discount your gut feelings.
  • Make Excuses and come up with reasons that your gut, or your intuition is wrong.
  • Invalidate yourself even after those people are gone who gave you those subtle messages all your life.

How To Tell If It’s Fear Or Intuition

How do you know if what you’re feeling is intuition or fear because of self-sabotage?

Many people are afraid of success and so find ways to find “reasonable excuses” for not following through on opportunities that would lead to really amazing things for them.

Yes, discounting your intuition as “fear” can also be a form of self-sabotage.

Your Feelings Hold The Key

At the end of the day, both of these things are a false internal dialogue that’s telling you “you’re wrong. You can’t trust yourself. You can’t trust the world”.

The key way to tell the difference is to feel your feelings. To stop ignoring how you feel and discount it. 

When you get an intuitive nudge it feels like something is off. There’s not a good reason for it. The way I like to explain it is it almost feels like you put the movie on slow motion. Things slow down and you wonder if they should speed up. There’s a calm feeling of certainty to it.

Fear, on the other hand, feels more frantic. It’s a feeling of anxiety, worry, and spinning thoughts. It’s a sense of all the worst-case scenarios that run through your head.

Sit With Your Emotions

To differentiate between intuition and fear you have to learn to sit with your emotions. That’s right. You sit with the feeling that you’re getting and you have a chat with it. You ask it “what am I afraid of? What is it about this situation that doesn’t feel right? How do I actually feel right now? What’s the worst-case scenario?”

You give the feeling a voice so that you can actually hear what it’s trying to tell you. Only when you look that feeling straight in the face can you hear what it’s saying.

Only then can you collect data on what the feeling is telling you. You see, feelings are data. They are communicating information to you. When you don’t trust your feelings and are disconnected from them, you’re losing out on a whole source of information that can help you on our path.

What To Do Next

So when you close your eyes, slow down, take a breath and feel into it – how do you feel? (now this “how do you feel” exercise will look very different for a man walking toward you in a dark alley than a business opportunity. So keep in mind that this example isn’t meant to be blanketly applied to everything in your life).

  Maybe you feel an irrational level of fear, a fear of annihilation. That you’ll die. Why on earth would you feel that way for a business opportunity? That indicates that there’s very likely a subconscious fear motivating this that has nothing to do with the opportunity and has everything to do with your fears about what will happen if you succeed (or fail).

 Maybe you feel a small fear and are able to easily identify what it’s about. Perhaps this person has a history of biting off more than they can chew and shirking their responsibilities and making others pick up the slack. And your fear is telling you that this person may very well do this exact thing again during this collaboration. This is good data that can empower you to either not choose to collaborate or be VERY clear and get a contract with the person about who is responsible for what.

 Or perhaps when you really sit with the feeling it’s not exactly fear you’re feeling. It’s a sense of your feet being stuck on the floor and being unable to move forward. This can be two things. It can be resistance (which is often an indicator of #1 above). OR, it can be intuition telling you that this opportunity is not ideal for you. How do you tell the difference? Resistance looks like avoidance, like denial, like an inability to look at the thing that you’re considering. Intuition feels like a calm certainty. Even if the calm certainty is saying “don’t move” it actually wouldn’t feel like fear (in this example). It would feel like an inner knowing.

Some other things to consider:

Connect with where you feel your intuition in your body. And get to know what your intuition feels like so you can easily identify it. The more you practice the easier this gets.

 Wait. Breathe. Slow down. And even ask yourself multiple times. Do not rush into a decision as the adrenaline of “I have to choose right now!” can often mask itself as anxiety, excitement, and fear. I will often step away from an opportunity and just let my emotions settle down so that I can really feel into how the situation feels to me before I make a decision rather than impulsively choosing based on adrenaline. I highly recommend you try this too.

“Following your intuition comes down to self-trust.”

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Got a question for Dr. Ash? Send them to [email protected] and you may find your question featured in one of the upcoming articles!

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