Go With Your Gut or What Happens When You Don’t

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Go with your gut. Your first reaction. Your first instinct. Your first impression. Go with it with everything: a car, a ride with a friend, a woo-woo person you saw, a job interview, a job you want, a book you started, a song you heard, something you tasted, something someone said, a first date. Go with it. Don’t second-guess your reaction and for goodness’ sake, don’t make exceptions (this is really for me).


What does this mean? For starters: everyone’s gut reaction is their own. Yours doesn’t have to agree with mine, but if it does, then that’s more reason to heed. To me (probably because I haven’t learned enough yet), it doesn’t mean you must act on it; it just means you retain it, keep it in the hip pocket, or like a tip sheet for future use, for those moments when you will inevitably (due to human nature) go against it. 


We all do this — we all go against it. They wouldn’t be called “first impressions” if there were no second ones and third ones… Maya Angelou has a famous phrase, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” Lots of people think this phrase can be meant as a warning system, and I’m sure that’s its main intention. 


On the opposite side of the same coin though, is that it’s also an “it’s OK” system too. If your first candid impression of someone is as lovely and tender and sweet, then go with that — even if they show you something different later — because you know it is there.  I wouldn’t be married to the man I am if I ignored his tenderness the first time I ever met him (that said, he has never shown me another side). So if your nice person is snarly, it’s probably because something’s wrong. Then, listen to your gut to help root out the problem. 

Going against the gut instinct is not a sin or a character flaw or a symptom of stupidity (even though it feels like it sometimes); it is that instead we rationalize, we go with our hearts or sense a familiarity / redolence from a previous and precious pattern that we used to know; we used to exist under. Sometimes these familiarities manifest themselves like a hangover. “Hair of the dog” might take away the symptoms but it sure doesn’t stop your drinking problem. 


Spock never had to really rationalize.



Going against our gut, and going for the familiar can create problems and waste so much time: I would have never dated as much as I had and I would have never learned the lessons I learned if I had always gone with my gut (I would have saved myself a lot of heartache and woe, but hey, I’m not Spock). This is part of life. We buy the wrong car; we talk to the crazed person we saw scream at traffic; we take the job and it doesn’t work out; we gloss over the tone when we heard someone say something … we overcompensate, we rationalize. 



Wouldn’t it be nice if life or people came with red flags?: 


This is so funny and true. 

Maybe they do. Maybe they do come with red flags and we just y’know, ignore them. But y’know, when you do go against your gut, you will learn through trial and error and trial and error and trial and error until you don’t anymore. You will experience so many “face palm” moments that you might create an impression in your forehead. 


That’s OK. Don’t judge yourself, but DO know that it won’t stop — these face palms, the “not again” moments until you stop. Until you see the light at the moment you’re really meant to. That when all the data is lined up, and you’ve learned all you need to know — about the book, or the song,  or the person you saw screaming at traffic or the job interview you had — that your Gut Instinct will be there, waiting and saying, “Welcome back, normal-thinking self, that person we spent so much time in therapy trying to find, we missed you.”  


But even though we’ve learned that last “not this time”-time, sometimes we repeat behaviors, actions, relationships again in different iterations. We Rationalize Again: one person’s drama is just slightly different until it really isn’t anymore and then, it’s your fault. You fell asleep at the wheel and the fork in the road takes you closer to hell or back to clarity and you’re about to crash. You need to wake up, rub your eyes, slap yourself in the face, turn up the music, open the window, ANYTHING!, course correct and Don’t Repeat. And it’s until those “don’t repeat” moments manifest that we will repeat. 

I experienced yet another rationalizing relationship. I went against my gut.  I saw all the flags. I saw all the body language, all the inconsistencies, heard all the weird stories both community-based and this-person-based. I ignored. I compartmentalized and rationalized myself into oblivion. I set boundaries I thought this person could respect. I was clear. But in the end, it went wrong. The boundaries were eventually a mockery because this person has no boundaries; everything is everyone else’s right? If it’s on the Internet then it’s all up for grabs, out in the open. The relationship was never sane because you can’t have a unsane myopic, self-absorbed person with a sane, open-minded and continually-seeking self-awareness person. The see-saw isn’t balanced and the see-saw always sways toward the unsane (I know it’s “insane”) person because that person is flailing its arms and throwing molotov cocktails and putting rocks in pockets and distracting and flagrantly violating recently agreed-upon boundaries, victimizing and overcompensating and needing and crying or not crying, and calling and drawing you away from what you know is Real. And this was an ADULT. Ohmygawsh, are you tired yet? (I know, most people would be like: “Dude. Seriously? You put up with that shit?”)

But it took me a third time (that IS the charm, they say) to finally see the light. And it was so bright and clear and clean; and the biggest irony of all?: 

This person was actually the beacon. The light of this person’s self-created convenient truth was so bright you could land planes by it. This person was all “check out how freakin’ nuts I can be and watch me warp truths and like, invoke other people and not own any of my responsibility in any of this because I’m like, all like going rogue and like WILD and FREE, baby and it feels  gooooood…” 

I have to be honest: I saw that light, but I wore the same dark shades I wear on the water when I row. I put on hats… the same racing hats I wear when I row that have a black liner under the bill to absorb the light and reflection off the water. I did all I could to look Joe Cool and totally together when my insides were screaming, “OMIGAWD! Leave! Get out of here! Do NOT do this AGAIN! Are you NUTS?! Boundaries Shmoundaries! There’s poop all over them! Again! Someone, call her husband!” I over-performed and did anything I could to keep everything stable and keep the light under cover because I knew that when I saw that light again, it meant I won the “schmuck” award.  My kids even said so. Ouch.  That bright, flickering light (no matter how creepy) showed me everything that was always there and so much more and this time: I was ready to see it. And that’s growth and that’s OK. Sometimes we have to take two steps forward and one step back a few times before we can ever go at our pace. But I should stop here ‘lest I risk narcissistic bathos. 

I’m not trying to sound glib or like Stuart Smalley (all self-help is OK until it enables the continued practice of errors that are so rooted in our subconscious that staying asleep to them is simply selfish: at one time or another people, we have to grow up, definitely including me); because positive self-affirmations can have real and lasting benefits when they are actually believed. Because if we believe, as Stuart says, that we are “good enough and of value and people like” us then we don’t act needy and do reckless things trying to curry favor with people who work reeeeally hard to keep their acts together.  Trying to be mellow and kind, and running damage control when the molotov cocktails are flying is hard. People start to look at you like you’ve gone bye-bye too. And that’s when ya gotta pull the chute cord. If you don’t Get It by yourself, you’ll Get It by peer pressure. 


So then the trick is after we finally Get It, to not beat ourselves up too much for not Getting It in the first place. It’s OK if you stumble and ignore your Gut.  There’s a phrase “against our better nature” that comes to mind. I personally dislike the use of “better” because it is judgmental; it implies that we should know “better.” Sometimes, as in matters of the heart, we simply Don’t Know Better. Until we do.


Just don’t beat yourself up while you’re learning — and more importantly: don’t let whatever you’re learning about beat you up either; don’t ignore the flags, apparently they are always waving.    


And then when we do figure it out… Hot diggity, Woo-hoo and Allelujia, it’s a good thing and Lesson is Learned. You have FINALLY Gone With Your Gut. Now it’s time to Repeat! The wisdom from the lesson … NOT the lesson. 


thank you. 



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