Our emotions get activated despite our best efforts to control them. So how do we know when to trust our “gut”? After all, when we have a “bad feeling” about a situation- and we rely on our feelings to avoid painful or scary scenarios- then how do we know when to approach a situation despite our anxiety about it?
While I am not sure there is a simple answer, here are some factors to help think this through. First of all, consider the importance of your emotion. Be clear about what you actually feel. Try to get a “sense” for the feeling itself. Next, consider the information that your feeling may be giving you about your environment. What is the actual threat? What could or would happen if you acted on the feeling? What (if any) action is your feeling prompting you to take? If you avoid taking action, what might the consequences be?
Consider the extremes. If you never trusted your “gut”- ignored or avoided feelings all the time- you may be vulnerable to getting yourself into bad situations. If you always trusted your gut- you may prematurely make judgments about people or situations that are unfounded or inaccurate. You might come across as overconfident or hyper-vigilant, and find yourself unable to tolerate situations that aren’t actually threatening.
Finding clarity in chaos may take trial and error, the willingness to be corrected, openness, and curiosity. Trusting your gut may also mean speaking up, being “seen”, and risking confrontation and disagreement. Neither one may be entirely confortable! Remember, making changes involves taking risks. Often discomfort and misery drives us to seek alternative solutions by trying out new behaviors.