Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Tips on Listening to Your Gut

Someone specifically asked me to talk about this topic, and I thought, “Hey, why not write about it?” There is tons to say about this, probably because listening to our own gut, our own instinct, well it is as unique as the person doing it, so the ways to do it and the possible tips are limitless. And so, I am hoping that some folks chime in with their own comments on what has worked for them.

Listening to your gut starts with knowing yourself. Knowing your own signals about when you are overwhelmed, when you are upset, what you need to do. It mostly comes with time and paying focused attention. Without that self-exploration, well it is just hard to know which way is up. Another invaluable tool is gentleness. As we get to know ourselves, and we see some of the bad habits we have, as well as the ways we abandon ourselves, well, we need to make room for our own humanity and the fact that changing our habits takes time and we don’t do things perfectly.

I suspect most people talk about wanting to listen to their gut because they are hitting a rough place in their lives. Maybe they need to set a boundary, with someone else or with themselves. Maybe they need to be more assertive in a certain area. Maybe they need to up their self-care. But the bottom line is they want something to be different, they want change. So one valuable tool is knowing how you want your life or the situation to look different. Out of that can come discovering what the little steps toward that change are. Really listening to our gut is about slowing catching the offending behaviour, and subsequent reaction in ourselves, sooner and sooner, so eventually we notice, just by the way our breathing has changed, or our stomach feels queasy (whatever each individual person’s signal is, which again, only comes from paying attention and listening long enough to know ourselves), that something is off. And than we need to try a different behaviour than the ones we have tried before that have presumably not worked. And, since there is risk in that it can be a bit scary. We can fall into the trap of “better the devil you know” and stick with doing what is comfortable because it is familiar. We have to be willing to try something new, willing to piss people off and make a mistake, willing to listen to ourselves first, and not try to push away what we are feeling. Do that enough times, and it will start being easier.

So that is a nice idea, great theoretical thoughts, but how does it actually show up, what does it look like day to day and how do we get there, how do we do it? For me, and using cancer as a handy example, when I went to see the first surgeon that I as assigned (is that the right word? Never mind) I did not like her; every fiber of my body screamed NO!!!!! Some “still small voice” I have, yes? But did I listen, no. Instead I tried to make myself like her, I tried to rationalize it (all surgeons have crappy bedside manners, their patients are unconscious), I tried to suck it up. Just so happens for me overriding my gut feeling has become harder and harder the more work I have done on myself. I wasn’t capable of ignoring it, try as I might, for the sake of convenience (nasty four letter word that that is). And yes, part of the cancer (and perhaps any health) journey is about learning to listen to ourselves and our own truth, but still, it is a process. And while this is an extreme example, it just makes what is already true easier to see because it is so obvious. Getting to know how our still small voice shows up, recognizing it when it does come and respecting it by listening and trying those some behaviours, well that will set us free. Eventually.

Other little pointers:

  • When you do notice that you are upset about something, track the discomfort back to its source, then look at process that got you to the escalated, upset place. Knowing the journey will make it easier to catch it quicker on the road.
  • Take a look at why you resist making the change. For instance, if you are struggling with setting a boundary: why are you afraid to, what do you think might happen if you do so. Eventually this line of thought can lead you to notice what we in the 12 step programs call “the exact nature of our wrongs”, which translates to seeing what is really at the core of your behaviour. This helps you to start changing the behaviour.

Again, there are so many ways to play with this idea… so please pipe in if you have an experience you want to share or ideas about what you have tried and has worked well. Together we will create a road map containing some things to start trying.


At 6:43 AM PDT, Blogger Mother of Invention said...

I struggle with how much I can take on with all the health problems I have, diabetes, heart disease, and fibromyalgia/Chronic fatigue.

I have limited energy but still want to try to do as much as I can. I dodn't want to feel or seem like a cop-out type of person since I am not. I need to feel that I am contributing all that I can spare....without compromising my health.

I get overwhelmed easily and my adrenaline comes shooting out to stress me and let me know it! I can't even get myself out the door without getting in a tizzy and bumbling around! My barometer is how crazy I act with just the little things.

I know now, that just thinking of returning to school in the fall, just 1/2 time, has me thinking I won't be able to do it. So I have in mind, a much ,ore doable plan; to go .3 which is just 3 mornings a week, in which I will teach 3 gr. 1, 3 gr. 2, and 3 gr. 3 classes of music a week.

So yesterday, I went in to do some music with a few classes and it felt okay, good in fact. Now I know that I feel comfortable with that decision...if my health recovery path continues.

Everyone needs a little bit of stress just to know they are alive, and not so much that it will be their's the finding the balance point that is crucial so they are able to enjoy their contribution.

At 5:29 PM PDT, Blogger Signy said...

That is a great point, when the little things make me irritable and unreasonable, then I must be over extended. Then how do I notice before I get myself to that state.

As you say, a balancing act.

At 8:36 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This has been suggested to me: When an uncomfortable emotion comes up, scan to find where the physical sensation lies in your body (this tends to run along the lines of the chakras.) Write it down. The emotion, the physical sensation. Experiance the sensation until it becomes clear what the thought/belief is that fuels the emotion. Then ask if that belief is "true" now or if it is something "old"... a belief that once held a purpose but now gets in your way. This helps to listen to the body/self.

At 9:21 PM PDT, Blogger Signy said...

Cool! Keep 'em coming!


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