Why Trust Your Intuition?

It's a common fallacy that gut instincts are influenced by emotion and should not be relied upon. And it makes sense why they would reach that conclusion. Gut feelings are often unsupported by data and seem to originate out of thin air. They can take many different shapes and frequently make individuals feel uneasy or strangely peaceful.

How can we believe such erratic physical reactions?
They aren't as silly as they might seem, though. In reality, gut reactions are carefully cultivated as a result of exposure to many experiences and stimuli. They come from a sophisticated filing mechanism in your brain (with the help of your gut). A collection of fragments and unconscious memories that you have no memory of obtaining.

After that, when a sequence of events or stimuli is repeated, your brain makes use of these memories of prior experiences to make predictions about what will happen next. Following that, you experience the results of your body's perception of the anticipated occurrence, which frequently sets off a fight-or-flight reaction.

The link between the gut and the brain
The enteric nervous system, which is only found in the gut, is a remarkable organ that operates independently of the brain.

Without input from the conscious mind, this nerve system operates. The gut is home to a network of 100 million neurons, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). A unique communication mechanism between the brain and the gut is made possible by these neurons.

The stomach has a strong hand in controlling both physical and mental processes because to this communication system. Therefore, the gut is partly responsible for managing processes like learning a new face, remembering that face, and creating an emotion or sensation in connection with it.

This is not to argue that the gut is directly involved in forming decisions. It serves more as an informant to aid your brain in gathering more data and coming to a wise judgement.

How a gut instinct feels
Have you ever had the persistent suspicion that something is wrong? Or, after making a choice, did you get a sudden sense of clarity or calm? Both are illustrations of gut feelings. Your body is trying to communicate with you, and you may feel both positive and negative reactions.

Everybody is a little bit different, and your gut sensations can appear in many different ways. Common indications of a gut instinct include:

-"Butterflies" or nausea in the stomach
-sweaty or clammy palms
-stiffness in the muscles or tension
-chest tightness, a sinking sensation, or a calmness
-a momentary feeling of clarity
-vibrant dreams
-higher heart rate

When to rely on instinct
Although there are times when it can be helpful to go with your intuition, it isn't always the wisest course of action. Additionally, there is no one method for figuring out when it is best to follow your instincts.

It needs awareness of oneself. You may decide whether to follow your gut instinct or not by becoming aware of your reactions and cognitive habits.

Asking yourself these four key questions can help you decide whether or not to trust your gut.

-How much exposure do I have to circumstances like this?
-How consistent is this setting?
-Does this circumstance require quick handling?
-Are there any cognitive biases present?

• How much prior experience do I have with this kind of circumstance?
Some scenarios will be more familiar to some people than others because your gut instincts are something you acquire and develop through time. This familiarity increases the predictability of a scenario, which is a crucial element for intuitive responses.

For instance, a nurse with 20 years of experience will work with more refined gut reactions than a nurse with only one year of experience. Simply said, the first nurse has been exposed to more scenarios and therefore has a larger pool of potential outcomes to draw from.

• How consistent is this setting?
Experience informs predictability, although experience can be gathered from different eras and locations. Consider going to a restaurant to eat. If you have previously dined at a restaurant, there are  some patterns you've learned to recognise.

When your server approaches your table holding a pen and pad, you can assume that they are there to take your order.

You've been conditioned to anticipate this predictable routine or pattern. It's doubtful that you'll decide to look about the restaurant's interior at this time, for example. It's more likely that you'll be ready to give your response and order.

• Does this scenario require quick handling?
Sometimes you don't have time to consider whether you should believe your instincts or not. You simply need to decide right away.

These are frequently extremely stressful circumstances where quick thinking is required.

These are frequently extremely stressful circumstances where quick thinking is required. Your judgement may not be perfect in this situation, but if you don't have the time to carefully consider your options, going with your gut is the best course of action.

• Do I have any cognitive biases?
As it needs more introspection, this question is trickier to respond to. But the more you do it, the more quickly you'll be able to recognise when you're making decisions based on prejudices.

When to not believe your instincts
Trusting your instinct might result in unintentional prejudices towards people or circumstances, as we already indicated.

When establishing relationships, both professional and personal, this is especially challenging. Relying too much on gut instinct might lead to the misconception that people who are "similar to me" are more suited for a certain role or relationship.

For instance, a hiring manager could not be aware of their inclination or bias for candidates who are similar to them. However, if ignored, a department or organisation can rapidly become homogenous at all levels.

How to increase your clairvoyance

The process of developing intuition takes time. Additionally, as a society, we have a propensity to ignore our gut feelings in favour of reasoning and reason. But when employed correctly, these gut feelings can be tremendously useful.

As we previously stated, gut instinct is a complicated mechanism. Neuroscientist Tara Swart claims that you may train your intuition to become more accurate and less biased if you put some effort into it.

Here are two methods for getting going:

Regularly check in with oneself
It doesn't have to take much time to check in. You can learn a lot just by taking a time to write down how you are feeling. Keep an eye on your breathing and heart rate. Think about where your tension is coming from and how you can release it. What does your inner voice say to you, and what purpose does it serve?

You can learn to pay more attention to your instincts in the present to make better decisions later on by using these straightforward check-ins.

Keep a diary

You can keep track of your gut reactions and the catalysts for them by journaling. You'll build up a database of knowledge about yourself and your decision-making process if you routinely record them.

Make careful to record the scenario, your physical and mental reaction, and your course of action in your intuition diary. Then, reflect on why you reacted in the manner that you did. Are you scared? Had you previously made a similar choice a hundred times? Did you employ cognitive biases?

You can see trends and gain a deeper understanding of your intuition by asking yourself these questions.

The bottom line for gut feelings
For the correct circumstances, gut instincts are invaluable instruments that are vitally important. But periodically assessing your gut feelings is just as important. Verify the accuracy of your surroundings and the source of your instincts. What trends do you see? Keeping track of your automatic responses can help you improve their precision over time. In order to be certain that you are acting on the appropriate impulses.

Sriparna Mukherjee
Amity University, Kolkata

No comments: