The infamous gut feeling â€“ can we trust it?
In certain situations we may need to make decisions based on limited information. Some rely on a gut feeling consciously or subconsciously. But do we question how well our gut feeling does in retrospect? Itâ€™s hard to say because we canâ€™t live our lives in parallel universes.
As a rationally inclined person, I use the gut feeling as the last resort in absence of all other information. After contemplating and reflecting on my past â€œgut decisions”, here is a few thingsÂ I’veÂ been pondering on about trusting the gut feeling.
Itâ€™s now a common knowledge that â€œgutâ€ has its own decision making process via the enteric nervous system, also known as â€œsecond brainâ€, which â€œcan and does operate independently of the brain and spinal cordâ€ [wiki]. So in a sense we resort to the second brain in the gut to make important life decisions.
The second brain takes care of many essential life functions, and produces a myriad of feelings and senses. What we eat and how well we absorb nutrients and eliminate toxins will surely affect our overall sense of well-being. To get a scientific perspective, read an article by Adam Hadhazy â€œThink Twice: How the Gut’s “Second Brain” Influences Mood and Well-Beingâ€.
So then, can we trust our gut feelings? It depends. There are exceptional individuals who stuck to their gut feeling against all odds and became highly successful. For example, Steve Jobs. For a regular person like me, though, gut feelings tend to be much more banal – being afraid of the unknown and resisting the change.
From a statistical perspective, the second brain operations are largely based on past information and build-in mechanisms of dealing with new information, such as unfamiliar food, feelings, or ideas. If we have an unsettling reaction to the latter, weâ€™ll try to avoid it at all costs. What if it is really good for us and can prove highly beneficial in the long term? What if we need to stick our gut and overcome the challenge?Â Most of the timeÂ following the gut feeling means sinking deeper in the old familiar self and missing a great opportunity.
Of course, we donâ€™t need to challenge every decision our second brain makes. This will be an impossible task. Then how to tell when itâ€™s time to override that decision? The first essential component is the ability to observe oneâ€™s own gut feelings and reactions.
With practiceÂ of harmony meditation the frequency of moments whenÂ a personÂ isÂ successful at recognizing himself or herself resisting new challenges andÂ is able to question theÂ second brain’s defensive reaction increases substantially.
When these precious moments of awakeningÂ happen,Â we can gently steerÂ ourselves out of the rut and see new opportunities.Â We canÂ take charge of the course ofÂ our day and ultimately,Â our lives. What else do we need? Direction. More on that later.