How do you know when you should be trusting your gut feeling about someone?
In our article, Bad Gut Feeling for No Reason, we explore what scientific data has to say about the “gut feeling”, or what scientists tend to refer to as “intuition”. Combining theories from psychoanalysis, to social and cognitive psychology, we uncovered how trusting your gut feeling about someone —or something — can be very powerful.
To quickly sum up
Trusting your gut feeling about someone can be quite accurate because your gut feeling relies on the power of the unconscious. Scientific research has proven that this strong entity within our psyche can see a lot further than the conscious mind because it can process information in the blink of an eye.
In that sense, trusting your gut feeling about someone is listening to that voice developed by the unconscious mind. It is knowing without having a logical explanation.
Now, you may confuse gut feeling with fear because fear comes as a way to alert us that something is not quite right. So does the gut feeling. So how can you tell them apart?
Gut feeling vs. fear
According to Daniel Goleman, renowned psychologist, and emotional intelligence pioneer, fear is necessary for survival, as it’s the way our brains alert us about an external threat. Fear informs you when you need to act immediately. This came in handy millions of years ago when, for instance, fear was essential to survive the real dangers of predators.
However, as you face much more complex social situations in modern-day society, you need to start questioning some of these emotions and stop your impulses from taking over. Because fear can be tricky. You may feel threatened by non-existent dangers, which may be mistaken as so because of deeply-rooted trauma.
The right approach when it comes to trusting your gut feeling about someone is to try to identify if the sensation you are feeling comes from fear.
The difference between gut feeling and fear
Your gut feeling is a wise inner voice warning you of an upcoming danger. Maybe you’re just ignoring red flags, or perhaps you’ve chosen a path where you’re compromising your principles. Your inner voice might be trying to tell you that you are betraying yourself. It’s trying to protect you from you. This is the voice of your intuition. Pay attention.
Your fear, on the other hand, is teaching you what your trauma is, and what needs immediate attention and healing. These terrifying emotions might be trying to show you something very important about yourself. So also: pay attention.
Living a fear-based life
What happens when fear keeps showing up at your doorstep?
When fear becomes the driving force of your life, it’s because there’s plenty of trauma that needs healing. Fear is a trauma response. But here’s what’s so interesting about fear.
Trauma causes fear. But fear causes anger, hate, sadness, jealousy, possessiveness, suffering, insecurity, selfishness … (and the list goes on). When fear becomes unbearable, you break contact with the outside world. This is how mental illness comes to be in the form of schizophrenia, paranoia, or psychosis.
Unhealed trauma can also push you to create very toxic relationships —with yourself and others. The worst part of it is that most of these traumas are unconscious. You may not even be realizing that your hidden trauma is directing your life. And most likely, it’s making you very unhappy and unfulfilled.
To make matters worse, you’ll keep recreating unhealed trauma until you heal. If your dad was abusive towards you, you’ll probably act the same way with your children. Or perhaps your ex-spouse gaslighted and humiliated you for years. You might end up adopting those toxic behaviors. You’ll create relationships where you replay past hurtful situations as a way of releasing pain. You’ll do this repeatedly until it becomes a pattern.
If you, on the other hand, live with healing in mind, you’ll be subduing your fears and traumas. Once you achieve this you’ll learn to relate differently to others. This is the path to experiencing true love and having healthy relationships with yourself and others.
So the answer to the question of whether or not you should be trusting your gut feeling about someone is simple. You’ve gotta’ first figure out if your life is driven by fear.
How can you identify if you’re leading a fear-driven life?
You tie your life to expectations.
1. Expectations on specific outcomes and people
You expect things to happen a certain way, and you’re terrified if your plans and goals don’t go as planned. In fact, when things don’t go the way you want them to, you experience pain. You suffer. This is the reason why you try to control everything around you. But you can’t control specific outcomes. So then perhaps you become controlling with people close to you. And this tends to provide you with some relief.
How can you let go of these expectations?
Have no judgement on everything that happens to you. Stop categorizing experiences as good or bad, or your actions as appropriate or inappropriate—or people, in fact. Accept everything as IS, and not as how you’d want them to be.
You’ll soon realize that there is power in letting go of your expectations. Concenring this, Buddhism talks about the Law of Detachment. Christianity talks about trusting God, and that whatever He intends is usually for the greatest good. Both of these perspectives release you from anxiety and provide you with mental health, so psychologically speaking, they work. This is because it is only when you become completely detached that you can live your life fully. Once you are joyful about how your life is unraveling, you start manifesting — or creating — a life of wealth and abundance.
2. Expectations of yourself.
It’s not only about the expectations you have on specific outcomes and people. It’s also about the expectations you have of yourself. Or much better rephrased, the expectations of yourself that has been imposed by others. These expectations are established as soon as your personality —or in other words, your ego— starts to develop at a very early age in a process that Sigmund Freud coined as “identification.”
Identification naturally occurs when children unconsciously adopt the characteristics of their parents and start behaving similarly. It refers to an unconscious mechanism where during the development of the ego it attributes to itself the characteristics of an external entity. This phenomenon is extremely significant when looking into childhood traumas (that later transforms into fear), and general psychological development.
In addition, identification facilitates adaptation within a specific culture and environment. From Carl Jung’s standpoint, we wear a mask —or “persona”— that allows us to suppress inappropriate urges, emotions, and impulses within society. In that sense, we display a desirable character with the hopes of being accepted by others. But it’s not really our true self.
There is nothing wrong with adhering to society’s rules and expectations.
However, it becomes a problem if you become overly identified with what’s expected from you. In that way, you lose all sense of self. As a consequence, you don’t have a distinction between your own self and your external world. You become a “people-pleasers” and sacrifice yourself for the wishes of others —just because you are too afraid of not being accepted or loved.
According to Don Miguel Ruiz, this happens because you become domesticated at a very young age. As you grow, you become programmed by your caretakers, or most commonly, your parents. You start to comply with your parents’ requests and demands, and in that sense, you start to create several images —or masks— just to be loved. You also start to experience traumatic experiences that mark you and therefore transform you. Because of all this, you start living in fear, and you lose your true sense of self.
You came into this world as an entity of love and joy. But as you become “domesticated” you become an entity of fear. You then live based on fear, instead of love. But fear can be replaced —once again— by love. You can come back to your true selves.
How can you turn fear into love?
The first thing you’ve got to do is understand there are two parts to our psyches. The ego, and the self. You can turn fear into love by following the self, (which is your own true nature), instead of the ego.
In psychotherapy, the ego is that conscious source of mental activity developed by external forces. It is the part of ourselves that becomes “domesticated” or “identified”.
“The ego thrives on the approval of others. It wants to control because it lives in fear. But the ego is not who we really are. The ego is our social mask; it is the role we are playing.”Deepak Chopra
Self, on the other hand, is based on love. In psychotherapy, the self is considered to be a reflexive state of mind, like self-awareness. In Buddhism, it is referred to as being completely free of attachment —free of expectations, of fears, and completely free of the ego. Buddhists consider ego to be an illusion without any substantial reality. It’s something that is, ultimately, unnecessary.
That being said, the ultimate goal in Buddhism is to regain your own true nature of self — or original self— by getting rid of the ego. They call it the “no-self”, or Anatman. In psychotherapy, the ultimate goal is to build up a ‘cohesive’ self that’s flexible to changing conditions. It aims to heal, integrate, and strengthen all interacting parts of a person’s psyche. In this process of psychotherapy, or individuation, as Carl Jung would have it, you encounter inner darkness and learn to integrate or heal trauma.
Buddhism does not steer too far from psychotherapy.
Their perspectives and methodologies are quite different. However, they both share the same end goals:
- To end suffering.
- To lead a fulfilling life completely devoid of fear.
They both seek to restore the sense of self that has been lost or deeply buried under social conditioning and traumatic environments. In the words of Buddhism, the final goal would be “salvation.” In the words of psychotherapy, it would be “treatment”.
How can you follow the Self?
One way to get close to that higher and wiser part of your psyche is through meditation.
Meditation is widely accepted as a strong and sound psychological practice because it ensures general well-being. This practice enables people to weaken and dissolve their attachments, or identifications. It’s an effective way of becoming un-domesticated. The trick is to observe every thought as it arises, without becoming identified with it, and then just letting it go.
With practice, you adopt this mindset into your everyday life and become much more mindful of everyday occurrences. This generates a true peace of mind, as it grounds you, forces you to live in the present, and eases you of stress and sleep-deprived issues. In that way, meditation is a perfect adversary against anxiety and depression.
Meditation is also attributed as a key practice to most, if not all, religious or spiritual endeavors. From a spiritual perspective, meditation takes you closer to the spirit —or the self. That’s the wise part within you that transcends rationality and all logical understanding of the psyche. Being in touch with this side strengthens your intuition and alerts your gut when it comes to trusting someone or not. This is because the voice of the intuition (in this case the gut feeling) is actually the wise voice of the self (or the unconscious).
Buddhism, or psychotherapy?
Spirituality and psychology are oftentimes viewed as rivals. But they’re just different perspectives, and in a way complement each other. Psychology studies the mind, and as a science, finds a way to prove all matters of the mind in an empirical manner. Spirituality relies much more on, let’s say, the gut feeling, or faith. After all, you can’t prove spiritual theories in an empirical and objective way. It is more of a certainty that something is the way it is, without having any solid proof of its existence. As so, it takes psychological theories a lot further and deeper.
Following either one of these paths leads to a fulfilling life, but converging them leads to an even deeper and stronger experience. It facilitates transforming consciousness and attaining self-development by enabling you to master fear and self-rejection. In that sense, you can transform fear into love and reach enlightenment.
What is Enlightenment?
Enlightenment happens when you reach the consciousness of the self; when you heal your mind and your traumas. You become aware and wiser. You become completely free of domestication and are able to follow your own true path. You break free from expectations made up by society, ergo, you transcend. You learn to listen to your intuition.
With enlightenment comes a high level of bliss. You feel a wholeness and a connection with everything around you. You reach the true source of love. This is how you learn to understand what self-love is all about, and how to expand it to others through compassion and kindness. You learn to tune into love instead of fear.
You then start to grasp the true meaning and purpose of your life and therefore understand how to lead a fulfilling life. This is how you learn about trusting your gut feeling about someone. Using different terminology, this is the moment where you reach God. Because as it is customarily known in most religions out there; you are God, as God is within you.
You then become compassionate, kind, and full of love.
You learn to understand that nothing in your life is lacking, so you become full, whole. You then understand that you don’t need love and desire from others, as you are overflowing with self-love. This leads to a strong mental and emotional stability. In that sense, your happiness depends only on yourself, and therefore, no external causes can weaken you or threaten your mental and emotional health.
To become enlightened is to experience freedom in all sense of the word. You become free to become you who truly are. And because of that, you experience true inner peace. You learn to always choose yourself. Your own true, self.
That’s how you become resilient and powerful. It is also the recipe for being able to give others the healthiest love there is. A love that’s not tied to needs, obligations, conditions, or fear.
So back to the original question.
When can you start trusting your gut feeling about someone?
When you identify all your trauma-based fears. Once you embark on a healing journey, either by psychotherapy, spiritualism —or both— then you become closer to your own true self. As so, you become wiser, and fear does not jump in at every second of your life. This is the moment when you can start trusting your gut feeling about someone —or something.
For more insights about intuition, download our eBook, The Psychology of Intuition. Within these pages, we delve into the scientific underpinnings behind the gut feeling, providing valuable insights on how you can nurture and trust this powerful aspect within your psyche.
If you liked our article. Trusting Your Gut Feeling About Someone, you will like:
The Psychology of Intuition: Ebook
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Bad Gut Feeling for No Reason
The Psychology of Intuition: The Human Mind and Intuition
Unraveling the Origins: Where Does Intuition Come From?
How Accurate is Intuition?
Best Quotes About Intuition
How to Listen to Your Intuition in Relationships: 7 Insightful Tips
12 Signs You’re an Intuitive Person
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How to reference this article
Pelaez.S (2021). Trusting your gut feeling about someone PsycheSpot https://www.psychespot.com/mental-awareness/trusting-your-gut-feeling-about-someone/
APA style references
Chopra, D. (2010). The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success-One Hour of Wisdom: A Pocketbook Guide to Fulfilling Your Dreams. Amber-Allen Publishing.
Goleman, D., Boyatzis, R. E., & McKee, A. (2013). Primal leadership: Unleashing the power of emotional intelligence. Harvard Business Press.
Mathers, D., Miller, M. E., & Ando, O. (Eds.). (2013). Self and no-self: Continuing the dialogue between Buddhism and psychotherapy. Routledge.
Ruiz, D. M., & Mills, J. (2010). The mastery of love: A practical guide to the art of relationship. Amber-Allen Publishing.