Trust Your Gut

How often have we told ourselves “Trust your gut” thinking that it was only a helpful metaphor?

And then we did and things worked out for us and others.

But did you know that “gut instinct” has for hundreds of years been an established medical fact? However, the scientific establishment has tried to suppress and push it for political reasons to the back burner.  In fact this sensing organ, with its complex web of neurons lining our gut, has been “discovered” no less than three times in the last century. In is now a whole field of science named neurogastroenterology.

Philip Shepherd in his masterful book “New Self, New World – Recovering our Senses in the Twenty first Century” links this discovery of the independent sensing gut, the enteric brain, to what has long been described in the arts, humanities, and poetry.

For a quick read on this topic go to the interview by Amnon Buchbinder with Philip Shepherd in Sun Magazine titled Philip Shepherd on the Brain in our Belly.

Buchbinder writes,

Shepherd reminds us that all human endeavors are modes of encounter with the world, rooted in one or both of our brains. He argues that we, as a culture and as individuals, have become walled off in our heads, losing touch with the intelligence of our bodies. We have reached a point, Shepherd tells us, where the cranial brain’s efforts to solve our problems are the problem. Only by leaving the “tyrant’s castle” of our heads and entering into a profoundly embodied relationship with the mystery and beauty of the world will we successfully turn our planetary crisis into an “initiation.”

So in practical terms how can we better utilize our gut instincts to live more effectively and be more aligned with our inner selves and others?

1.  Get Out Of Your Head

A recent study of why professional basketball players miss penalty shots in crucial moments of a game is that they think themselves into failure. Their body memory has enabled them to successfully make the same shot thousands of times before. In crucial situation their thoughts (cranial evaluation of the situation) get in the way. I find in executive coaching that I am the most helpful to my clients when I go very silent inside and surrender to whatever is happening in the client’s world. In those moments of silence I am the most connected to myself, the client, and the universe.

2. Think with your Gut as Well

Obe Wan Kenobi in Star Wars instructs Luke Skywalker “Use the force Luke – trust your instincts.” That is not just a piece of fanciful science fiction but can be aligned with the power of the gut instinct. It is another way of saying, “Don’t think your way into a jam”. Getting more granular on ways to yield to the enteric brain we need to:

  • Respond to life with more sensitivity
  • Learn to silence the jackhammer cranial intelligence that is so conditioned by our past experiences
  • Repeatedly practice being guided by our hearts rather than dictated to by our heads.
  • Suppress our craving for things and activity and experience the grace of silence
  • Recognize that you cannot program your gut to give you feedback It’s not a plan you work on. It just happens. You have to be silent and recognize when it speaks to you.
  • Don’t let it be an either your gut or your brain type of response. Engage both is your key decisions.

I have only skimmed the surface of this important life-changing topic.

How and when do you trust your gut?

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About cedricj

I am a licensed psychologist and management consultant and have always been intrigued by how leaders can inspire people in their organizations. The bottom line is that people are not always motivated by material rewards, the use of the carrot or the stick, fear and intimidation,and command and control, Five human needs inspire and drive us. Kristine S MacKain, Ph.D and myself describe these inspirational forces in our book "What Inspirational Leaders Do" (Kindle 2008)
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