By Anne-Marie Botek, AgingCare.com Editor
Go with your gut–a common piece of advice that encourages us to tap into our most primitive and powerful instincts.
Living in a world that is so driven by logical thought and careful deliberation means we’re constantly being forced to question our hunches.
We become prone to second-guessing ourselves and it is ever more challenging to tap into (and trust) our internal insight.
What does it mean to “trust your gut?” When is it appropriate to rely on instinct, and when is it not? Is there value in second-guessing decisions made based on instinctual feelings?
The “6th-sense” defined
Renee Trudeau, life coach and author of, “Nurturing the Soul of Your Family,” likens intuition to an internal GPS system. She says that most of us use our “internal knowingness” to make decisions every day–it just comes so naturally that we often don’t recognize when we use it.
Psychologists describe intuition as a synchronized mental assessment of past experiences, learned knowledge and current situational cues that results in the commonly-cited, gut feeling, or “sixth-sense.”
“Intuition is not as magical or mysterious as it sounds. It’s a mental tool that uses our perception of things that may not be otherwise obvious, such as someone’s facial expressions, pheromones, past behavior and ‘vibes,’ to give us an impression we could not get on a rational level,” says Tina Tessina, Ph.D., psychotherapist and author of, “Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage.”
Finding a balance
The role of intuition in decision-making is much contested. Rational thought and the ability to override certain instinctual responses has played a significant role in the survival of the human race.
Why do we still carry the primal ability to make on-the-spot judgments?
Research has shown that trusting our sixth-sense may lead to more accurate decisions. A University of London study discovered that giving people more time to ponder responses to a series of visual perception questions caused them to perform worse overall than those who had to depend on their intuition.
“It’s a very good idea to pay attention to what intuition is telling you,” says Tessina. “It’s information from the part of the brain that processes the things beyond your conscious awareness.”
It’s essential to combine this unconscious activity with conscious reflection.
Tessina warns that relying intuition alone can lead you down the wrong path. Placing too much emphasis on gut feelings can make a person vulnerable to subliminal biases and wish-fulfillment desires.
However, too much logic can be just as bad as too little logic.
University of Southern California researchers examined the decision-making processes of people whose intuitive abilities were impaired by brain damage. They found that forcing a person to rely on rational thought alone could turn a simple decision into an hours-long logical analysis. This phenomenon is often referred to as “analysis paralysis.”
No matter the issue, making good decisions is all about learning how to strike the right balance between reason and intuition.