Four weeks before her wedding, Grace came to see me because she was having panic attacks. Despite all the excitement around the preparations, she claimed she couldn’t understand this panic she felt.
As we worked together, it became evident that Grace was having doubts about marrying Barry. Barry offered the security and stability she always wanted. She could be the stay-at-home mom she dreamed of. Her parents also loved Barry, and Grace wanted to please her father. As we explored her feelings of panic, she reluctantly admitted she had an intuitive feeling that something wasn’t quite right. She had reservations and concerns about Barry’s flirtatiousness and “late-night meetings”, but whenever she brought it up, it turned into conflict. Caught between her biological clock and the desire to avoid conflict she kept telling herself that once they got married and had kids, things would get better.
Grace cancelled our last counselling session. Five years later, she returned. By then her twins were three years old. She had just found out that Barry had been having multiple affairs, even since before their wedding, and he was addicted to pornography.
I couldn’t help but ask myself if there was anything I could have done five years earlier to help Grace have the courage to follow and act on her intuition. Would that have been better than bearing the pain of betrayal today?
I am often asked, what is the difference between intuition and feelings? In my view, it’s not so much a question of ‘knowing’ the difference, but of ‘honouring’ the difference.
Grace knew all along, that something wasn’t quite right. As the wedding day got closer, her panic attacks may be interpreted as a voice from within shouting to her that she wasn’t honouring her intuition. But she was unable to listen because most often, our intuition gets clouded by feelings of fear.
Grace feared she might end up being alone for the rest of her life, that she would never find this kind of financial security, and that she would miss her chance to have kids.
Now she was faced with what we call the “two-choice dilemma”. Most people want to choose between feeling pain or no pain. Unfortunately, often we don’t have that option. We usually must choose between feeling one pain or another, between challenging ourselves to do either one scary thing or another. Or choosing between something scary or doing nothing and suffering the pain of the status quo. For example, we might be faced with the pain of being out of shape or the pain of cultivating the discipline to exercise and get fit.
In Grace’s case, she either needed to feel the pain of facing conflict by challenging her husband’s behaviour, or to feel the pain of a lonely and emotionally distant marriage. Most of the time, there is no way out of the pain, only a way through.
The reason we don’t listen to our intuition is usually because we’re afraid of making a mistake, of losing what we want, of disappointing others, or experiencing conflict or humiliation. The fact is, following our intuition is challenging because indeed, it might not get us what we want or think we should have… but it might just get us what is right for us! When we are so attached to having ‘our own way’, we lose the way of our inner truth and wisdom.
Intuition is different from ‘feeling’. Intuition seems to be guided by another force in us, something that doesn’t always appear logical, rational, or even comprehensible at the time. It’s what we often refer to as our ‘gut instinct or gut feeling’.
In our desperate race for approval, success, and validation, we often overlook this gut reaction. Often, it’s only when we hit a wall or what addicts refer to as ‘rock bottom’ that we become willing to listen and follow ‘the road less travelled’.
Intuition is a deep feeling of knowing, a sense of certainty that doesn’t require anyone else’s approval.
If we tend to be more rational and logical in our thinking, we may dismiss our intuition if we can’t explain it. While making a list of pros and cons may help, it may not always result in the best decision. Many successful entrepreneurs admit they often rely more on their intuition than facts when making hiring decisions.
So, if we don’t follow our intuition, does it mean we are making the wrong choice? Perhaps there isn’t necessarily a ‘wrong’ choice, but there may be a ‘better’ choice. We know it’s better because when we follow our intuition life becomes easier, things fall into place, doors open more easily, and you feel more calm and secure inside.
When we live our life ‘more intuitively’ and aligned with what feels true and right for us, we feel more at peace. Our intuition is not dependent on any external circumstances but instead emanates from within us as part of our higher Self. To follow it, we need to be honest with ourselves first and foremost. That can be hard to do when we are very attached to the results.
As for Grace, eventually she gathered the courage to face her fears of being alone and took the risk of confronting Barry. Within her two-choice dilemma, the prospect of being without Barry became more tolerable than the ongoing loneliness of her marriage. No longer did she want to betray herself and ignore her intuition. Their marriage remains a work in progress and an opportunity for profound transformation for both.