Do you often have problems with making decisions? If you try making up your mind based on conscious information and temporary emotions, your decision making might be limited and confusing (even if we ignore the impact of childhood emotions – which we shouldn’t).

I believe we have a natural healthy instinct for making the choices that are right for us. This instinct is the result of unconscious information processing, which encompasses much more than our conscious minds. Some sources suggest that the unconscious mind processes information at a rate almost 200,000 times greater than the conscious mind. The more experience we have in life, the more fine-tuned this process becomes.

However, many people tell me they don’t feel such an instinct, or it is buried under fears, doubts, guilt and shame, reinforced for years in their families. Very often, problems with making decisions are a consequence of growing up with parents who not only constantly argue, but expect their children to take sides. Such children are confused, torn inside themselves, and trying to please both parents, they forget how to listen to themselves.

A parent who is either unpredictable or plays the victim role (or both) can also easily scare or manipulate children into not trusting their own sense of guidance. Children who are by nature more trusting, cooperative or have an anxious attachment style are especially vulnerable to manipulation and criticism. Once a child learns to ignore their own „gut feeling”, it can fade and stay underdeveloped, like a muscle rarely used.

Yet even if your healthy instinct is hidden, it’s not lost. You can recover it by learning to carefully observe your feelings. The healthy instinct is usually not a strong emotion, but more like a calm sense of knowledge. It can be hidden somewhere in the background of conflicting emotions. Yet just like you learned to distinguish one emotion from another as a child, you can also learn to recognize this instinct and separate it from other feelings.

It might take some time, though – just like anything else done right. Introspection and mindfulness need to be a part of your life in the long run. When I was a kid, I used to read a lot, and looking back, I’d say reading helped me a lot to learn about emotions (mine as well as others’) and to process them in a way that’s safer than most. So reading is something I would recommend from experience.

While you are still learning, don’t rush. Our human minds have an unfortunate tendency to oversimplify things and take them to extremes. Desiring to prove yourself you have learned, you might be tempted to follow various emotional urges which are not the true instinct. Practice with small steps first, until you are confident you can separate the healthy instinct from various emotions.

Your „gut feeling” will not always tell you what you want to hear and immediately take you where you want to go. When I graduated from university, I was eager to start my coaching career right away, but no matter what I did, I wasn’t moving forward. After about a year of struggling, I got an offer for a part time job requiring a two-year commitment. Consciously, I didn’t really want that job, I wanted to do my own thing. But my instinct told me to take it. So I did – and just as those 2 years came to an end, some other circumstances aligned to make it much easier for me to start my independent career. Sometimes our unconscious minds know better than us when we are truly ready for something.

I wonder what happens with people who have immature or toxic values, such as wanting to exploit others or wanting to dominate the world. Do their instincts go along or warn them against it? As far as I know, our „gut feeling” doesn’t have a mind or morality of its own. What it’s most likely to do is to predict possible consequences. Not every person necessarily cares about all of those consequences, I guess. But I don’t have enough experience to make clear claims.

Perhaps you already have some experience with recognizing your healthy instinct and following it in other times or aspects of your life. If you do, remember how that felt. Use that memory to compare it with your current feelings when you need to make a decision.

Even if the conscious mind is limited, do not ignore it, either. Just as our bodies need different organs to function smoothly, we need the different parts of our mind to work together. If you let all parts of you communicate to each other, hopefully they can learn to do it calmly rather than arguing like children. Ideally, you can reach the insight and conclusion with which all parts of you can feel calm. Once you know that state of mind and how to reach it, every next time it will be even easier.


How To Teach Children To Use Their Intuition

Observing Feelings

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Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.

Kosjenka Muk

I’m an Integrative Systemic Coaching trainer and special education teacher. I taught workshops and gave lectures in 10 countries, and helped hundreds of people in 20+ countries on 5 continents (on- and offline) find solutions for their emotional patterns. I wrote the book “Emotional Maturity In Everyday Life” and a related series of workbooks.

Some people ask me if I do bodywork such as massage too – sadly, the only type of massage I can do is rubbing salt into wounds.  😉

Just kidding. I’m actually very gentle. Most of the time.

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