Jul 16, 2020

By Rachel Kealy

How many times have you had a feeling in your gut that something just wasn’t quite right? Call it a hunch, sixth sense, your intuition, call it whatever you like, it is your gut’s brain telling you that based on what you can see in your environment, something isn’t quite right. Now in the animal kingdom, we are the only animals not to run from this fear. We question it, we deny it, we push it away as paranoia, when in fact we should listen to it and act. Sure, we have got in the lift with a stranger that made our gut turn, and we were able to walk away from it without danger but we set ourselves up for noting it down as overreacting and maybe next time you get in that lift, it won’t end so well. In hindsight would it have been that bad to not get in the lift the first time when our gut thought something was up?

We are raised to not be confrontational, not to offend others, to keep the peace you could say. But to live a life of self-protection, those ideas have to be thrown out. Yes, of course, you are going to be the best person you can be, but not at the cost of your safety. There are going to be times when you are going to be required to be rude, forceful, and deny the request of another, especially when your intuition is telling you that something isn’t quite right. Your feelings will always matter more than that of a stranger trying to get you to do something that you don’t want to do.

Let’s look at the gut for a moment as it is quite a powerful organ. The gut is lined with 100 million nerve cells (9 meters of intestines, from the oesophagus to the anus) and is quite often referred to being the “second brain”.  With that many neurons, there is no surprise it can think for itself. The enteric nervous system (ENS) (the second brain) is so extensive that it can operate independently of the brain and spinal cord, the central nervous system (CNS). There is one big visceral nerve within the gut called the vagus nerve. Research has revealed that up 90% of its fibers carry information from the gut to the brain rather than the other way around. The brain can interpret gut signals as emotions which is where we get that gut feeling.

When a person feels danger, the “fight or flight” response of the central nervous system is triggered. At the same time, the enteric nervous system’s response is to slow down or stop digestion so that more of the body’s energy can be diverted to the situation causing the threat. 

It is quite often hard for people to accept how important our intuition is, they often look at it with some contempt. They may describe it as emotional and unreasonable. However, true fear will always be based on something in your environment. It is your perception, how you perceive what is happening. Evolution has made us experts in detecting danger, spotting dodgy people. Many of us have experienced the sense of knowing things before we know them, even if we can’t explain how.  

Quite often in the news when people are recounting a violent encounter, you will hear things like “I could tell something was up when he did …..” or “I didn’t think it was right when he …..” These are moments when your intuition is talking to you. It is also the time when you know something isn’t right but you convince yourself otherwise. You may put it down to being paranoid or you don’t want to be that kind of person who judges or you don’t want to offend them by not obliging their requests.  

So, what should you do when you have this gut feeling, we advise you to listen. If you are standing at a lift and the doors open and you instantly get that feeling of dread, DON’T GET IN!!!!! We always talk about having a plan, to not offend or cause alarm, say something like “Oh crap, I’ve left my files on my desk, you go I will get the next one”. It doesn’t matter what the excuse is as long as you have something up your sleeve that allows you to walk away from this environment. We find by talking about these kinds of plans, they are now planted in the back of your mind ready to be called upon. If at any point you need to feel guilty about your actions, feel guilty after the fact when you are back home safe and sound.

As women, we have all the necessary resources to protect ourselves. Whilst it might not come in the form of upper body strength, it will come in the form of being intuitive. Detecting early enough that you are walking into a potentially violent encounter, therefore making smart choices early on, you are giving yourself the best opportunity to go home safe. At the end of the day, your safety is yours. We tend to look in many places for self-protection resources when in fact it will come from within and that resource is your intuition.