Should you trust your feelings?

intuitionIf you truly trusted your feelings, what would you be doing right now? Exactly what you are doing – or something very different?

How about if I asked you to identify what you’re feeling and what it’s telling you?

Trusting your feelings (or your intuition, your gut, your instinct – whichever term you use, it comes to the same thing) is a learned skill for most of us. And because our intuition often speaks very quietly – at least at first – it’s easy to ignore and to be tempted instead by the louder, more insistent and more noticeable voice of our impulses.

And what’s wrong with that, you might ask? If our feelings are worth listening to, surely our impulses are sent to us for the same reason and can be equally trusted?

Umm … no. They can’t.

While your feelings come from your heart, your inner wisdom and knowing, and want to help you expand and grow, impulses more often come from the primal part of your brain that seeks only to keep you alive. As such, it will look for instant gratification or release of pressure or tension.

I have been fortunate not to be tempted to self-harm, but a friend who was struggling with that said that it was as if tension built and built in her with no healthy way to release it, until she drew the knife across her arm. Then she would breathe a sigh of relief as the stress dissipated and she felt better for a while.

No one (including her) would suggest that she was listening to her intuition when she did that – it was an impulse that brought no lasting relief.

Your impulses will drive you to send one more text message to the guy who hasn’t answered the last seven – you feel “better” as you send it but when you realise he’s ignored this one as well, you feel worse.

Instant Gratification

Fleeting emotions or cravings – other ways to describe impulses – will “make” you eat the cake that you don’t really want and that you’d planned to avoid, because in the moment it seems more important than your long-term health or weight goal.

And that’s the point about impulses – they seem so important IN THE MOMENT, but if you sit with them and allow the anxiety and urgency to pass they lose their strength.

Have you ever felt you simply MUST buy that pair of shoes right NOW, even though you have five unworn pairs still in your wardrobe – but if you don’t have the money and have to wait a day or two, they don’t seem that attractive anymore?

When I gave up smoking, I quickly discovered that no craving for a cigarette, however desperate and urgent, lasted more than 15 minutes if I was prepared to sit it out and breathe through it.

Change is stressful to the primal brain, so it will do its best to sabotage you when you try to instill new habits, however much they’re in your long-term interests or take you closer to your goals. You have to find a way to bypass the stress and align your subconscious with the changes you want to make (which my 7 Steps to Change are designed to do).

Quieter But More Insistent

Feelings though are very different. They rarely have that sense of urgency, at least at first. They start quietly but they won’t leave you alone. Waiting a day or two before you act on them makes them stronger, not weaker. They insist on being heard one way or another and if you don’t listen to the “whispers” they will eventually get your attention in a more painful way. This is often called the “2 x 4 method of enlightenment” because it can definitely feel as if you’ve been hit over the head with a large piece of wood!

Feelings are our connection to Source, Higher Self, God and they are always guiding us towards what we truly desire and are aligned with.

The system they use is crude, but effective.
If we’re feeling good, we’re moving towards what we want and what we’re aligned with; if we’re feeling bad, we’re moving away from our true desires.

That’s why it’s important to know if we’re dealing with a feeling or a momentary impulse, because giving in to an impulse can feel good temporarily and making a big change, even one that’s in our best interests, will probably feel uncomfortable at first.

One way to fill the gap between them is to make sure you’re in alignment or flow first, before acting. That might mean “pre-paving” or visioning how you’ll feel after you’ve taken action, or it could mean journalling or using affirmations to get yourself in flow.

Where Do You Feel It?

Something I’ve been doing recently that has been effective and helpful is to differentiate feelings from impulses by how and where they appear in my body. I meditated and journalled until I felt in flow, then I wrote this phrase in my journal:

I feel my true voice in ……
and waited quietly for the answer, which came quickly “my stomach and heart“.

Then I wrote:
I feel my impulses and anxieties in …..” and received the answer “my throat“.

Then I went deeper and added “and it feels like …” and “it has the shape of ….” and “its colour is …..

It’s important not to “think” about the questions and answers, and just allow them to flow. A question I’ll often ask my clients if they say “I don’t know what colour it is” is “If you did know, what colour would it be?” Try it on yourself if you feel stuck to help get past the logical mind that’s analysing and trying to filter your responses.

You can also use a pendulum or kinesiology to tap into your subconscious and get an intuitive answer, if they feel more aligned for you.

Ask and Act

Once you’ve identified a feeling by one of these methods it’s helpful to name it, in one word if possible.
What am I feeling?” Sad? Angry? Content? Happy? Get a general sense of it, you don’t need to define it to the nth degree ๐Ÿ™‚

Then ask your most pressing question:
What do I need to know?
What should I do next?

and wait quietly for the answer. I often close my eyes, hold my pen over my journal and write the very first thing that comes to me.
Do I feel complete?
If not, wait again for the next “download” … and keep waiting and writing until you have a sense of completion, of calmness, hope, resonance. You’ll know when you’re done ๐Ÿ™‚

Then take the action that you were guided to; that tells your intuition that you trust it and you’re prepared to listen to it.

Do you trust your intuition, are you impulsive or are you maybe more logically focused? Could you gain anything from listening to your intuition more, do you think?

Do you have any stories of when you have (or haven’t) listened and the consequences of that? I’d love to hear them, either in the comments or by emailing me at

8 Responses to “Should you trust your feelings?”

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  1. Eydie says:

    I like what you said about cravings lasting about 15 minutes. Tonight, when I FEEL that I wasn’t to snack, I’ll think back to what you said – and find something to do during my cravings. Exercise would be a good thing – however, it doesn’t give me the same end result as the snack would… in regards to feelings.

    Great post, thanks for putting it out there.

    • Isobel says:

      I think I’d call wanting a snack an “impulse” rather than a feeling, to be honest ๐Ÿ™‚ What you can ask yourself is what FEELING you’re actually looking for when you have a snack – not just “I fancy something sweet” for example, because that’s definitely an impulse. Rarely will the answer be “I’m really hungry!” and if it is truly that, then eat! But make sure it’s something planned, that won’t make you feel guilty or angry at yourself.

      Another way of looking at it is to ask what are you avoiding by having a snack? Are you bored? Wanting to pamper yourself? Feeling unloved or ignored? Angry with someone? A snack isn’t going to satisfy any of those needs, it might stuff them down for a while (instant gratification, so again, an impulse). What do you REALLY want? It might take some journalling or other introspection before the answer becomes apparent to you. Good luck! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. This is a lovely prism of an article, with nuance and sensitivity and knowing. Instant gratification, 2×4, where is the feeling, what is the feeling… all gems. Well said, nicely explained. Thank you for this!

  3. Jenn says:

    Loved this! Trying to make some changes, so this is helpful!

  4. Martha says:

    This works well with our clients. Especially with my hubby, his instincts can tell right away whether we should work with someone. Some have such an attitude it’s not worth taking on their order. But I do have to make a few changes about my feelings, I’m getting better about not posting things that maybe should be said until a day or two later.

    • Isobel says:

      I’ve always found it slightly strange that men, who are so logical in other ways, totally trust their gut instincts around people. And they’re usually right too! It sounds like maybe you’re reacting to impulses when you’re posting, do you think?

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