What do people mean when they say we need to trust our instincts? It was only a year or so ago that I began to realise that following your instincts, or gut feeling, might be more than just following an initial feeling. Part of it is about learning to trust yourself and how you feel about something. Its like being a writer and trying to get to the core of a character – what makes them tick, what are their hopes, dreams, needs and desires? Some of the best characters just come alive when you start writing and it all flows out, rather than planning a character with your mind. Part of this is the idea that so called ‘women’s intuition’ is something that is considered suspect or giving up all reason – that old chestnut of emotion versus reason.
I’ve always thought that this ignores the essential idea that humans are a balance of different things; and to ignore one over the other or say that one is more important than the other is to deny what makes us human. In academia, reason is still thought of as the triumph over emotion, over instinct and bias. Yet there can never be truly unbiased thinking. Science is not unbiased – perhaps some things can be measured but sometimes I wonder if we are trying to make sense out of something that isn’t meant to make any sense. A lot of things don’t make sense to me, but that doesn’t mean they don’t matter. The things we feel, our first impressions of something – they are important because sometimes they are the true picture of something before we let our brain categorize and give something a name.
As a writer, I am always seeking that one moment before my brain scrambles to describe something with an adjective or two. That moment when your instinct leads, and sees something you’ve seen many times with clear eyes, with eyes you had when you were a child. Children seeing something for the first time is amazing – they try to describe it without knowing what it actually is. Yes, it’s a light, but what does it feel like to you? What is the first word that pops up in your head, the moment you see something? Its hard to train yourself to think clearly when we are so used to describing things in tired metaphors and cliches.
However, I think instinct does need to be tempered with thought. If it wasn’t, we would all be led by impulse, by first feelings, and not by the complex layers that learned meaning can give to things. This is what balance means to me – knowing when to trust intuition and instinct, and when to trust thought and reason. Maybe this is what makes us all so conflicted. I do feel that humans need to learn to trust themselves more – to follow their dreams and take journeys towards deeper understandings of themselves. Life would be pretty boring if we just followed a set path and didn’t stray off the track every now and then 🙂 (ps. yes I used two cliches there…)
Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do and damned if you don’t. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt