The Right Track: How To Tell If You’re Using Your Intuition or Being Triggered
(Everyone’s got at LEAST ONE crazy story when it comes to dating. I never liked to date…so when it comes to crazy stories, I literally have one. Just one. But I think it’s pretty good :) I also talked about this with Ashlee Piper on Episode 18 of the WANTcast if you’d like to hear more.)
A few years ago, I was introduced to a guy via some mutual friends, via Facebook. We were a perfect match on paper – and apparently, in our friends’ minds too. We began a very intimate, very personal relationship remotely based entirely on the idea that we were a perfect match. Swept up in the moment and my intuition telling me this is what was supposed to happen, I booked a plane ticket to fly out of state to see him.
Mind you, this was within 30 minutes of talking to him for the very first time. EVER. Via text. Not even a voice-to-voice call. And I was now going to spend a weekend with him. I’m historically cautious and haven’t ever really been a fan of the unknown, so from the outside this was WAY out of character. I had friends telling me it was no big deal, and I had friends telling me I was nuts. But I knew he wasn’t a psycho (my friends would have told me) and I knew in my gut it was right. So two weeks later, I found myself boarding a plane to Texas.
The couple sitting next to me on my flight had a daughter who had gone to my elementary school. We knew at least five of the same people. They were delightful. I never talk to people on flights, and I found myself chatting with them the entire way. This is a sign, I thought. This is meant to be. I already had my intuition telling me to move forward, now I was getting even more proof from the outside that this was sure to be the romance of a lifetime!
I entered the terminal with my heart beating out of my chest. I slowly walked through the oversized archway soaking in the feeling of a life that would never be the same.
I rolled down the escalator.
I saw him.
He was not my guy.
Intuition, by definition, is something that one knows (or considers likely) based on instinctive feeling. It’s quick and doesn’t register consciously. It’s a sense of “knowing” without even really knowing how you know. It’s so strong, so powerful, that many of us choose not to listen. It’s scary to trust your gut, especially when it senses things you don’t want to be true. Intuition feels so concrete, so objective, that no evidence is needed for you to know it’s right. And that can be scary.
There are times, however, when evidence is steering the ship. Some call it “jumping to conclusions,” but I like to call it being triggered. The term “triggers” is typically used to describe sensations, images, or experiences that remind you of a memory. And while you might not prefer the conclusion the trigger is making you jump toward, you are absolutely convinced of its truth, because you’ve got evidence to prove it.
Our problem, as a culture, is that we live in a noisy world that’s constantly drowning out that inner voice. Forget about companies and marketing – we’re our OWN worst enemies. We broadcast our lives and compare ourselves to others in hopes of receiving the validation we so crave from the world and ourselves. We’re looking for signs as to whether we’re doing this “LIFE” thing right or wrong, and what better way than to gather evidence?
And so we take evidence from our past to inform our future. We become emotionally swayed by what we see, and convince ourselves we’re the ones in control. We confuse the feeling of being triggered with what our intuition is trying to tell us.
We confuse the feeling of being triggered with what our intuition is trying to tell us. Click To Tweet
When we’re triggered by someone or something, a memory is stirred up, and an emotion rises that’s been festering for days, months, years, maybe even decades. Of course it feels as natural as intuition; we’ve spent so much time living with this masked belief system inside of us.
I’ve got intuition for days. I’ve learned how to listen to that objective feeling inside, whether I like what it’s telling me or not. But this doesn’t mean I don’t get swayed from time to time. When you have a strong sense of intuition and are triggered by something strong, it’s very easy to react. You’ve spent so much time “just knowing,” you assume that your intuition is always in control. But intuition is never impulsive; it’s proactive, not reactive.
When I slid down that escalator, my intuition told me this was not my “forever” person. But it wasn’t a feeling of danger or dread, it was just kind of…meh. Nope. My gut told me it was over before it began.
But did that stop me? Nope. He was tall, handsome, great energy, nothing off-putting whatsoever. We’d already established more emotional intimacy in ten days than some of my relationships had in ten months. We’d talked on the phone for hours, written love letters back and forth – and our friends were more than certain we were the perfect pair.
Triggers don’t always come in negative form. The promising depth we’d established, the on-paper compatibility, and the overwhelming reassurance of my friends reminded me of all the things I’d hoped for in relationships prior but had never gotten (or at least gotten all at once). I ended up staying with him for two months, trying way harder than my gut wanted me to – forcing happiness and bliss when it was really just a romanticized idea I wanted to come to fruition.
If you’re trying to figure out whether you’re being triggered or using your intuition, here are two questions to ask yourself:
(1) How emotionally charged is this thought/feeling? When you get an intuitive sense about something, it’s not because of anything people can see. It feels like a “knowing” as clear as the sky is blue. It just comes to you.
We all have the ability to tap into our intuition this clearly – it’s just that, most of the time, intuition is not based in rational emotion or evidence, so we ignore it. However, if you’re being triggered, you’ve got ALL the emotions and at least some sort of evidence to validate them, so it’s really tempting to believe. Whether those emotions and that evidence has to do directly with the situation at hand or not is inconsequential; in the moment, evidence is evidence.
The thing about intuition is that the emotions aren’t what matters. It’s the “truth” part – the feeling of knowing. If a thought or feeling is bubbling up and it’s based in emotion, it’s a good idea to check yourself and dig deeper.
(2) Am I trying to talk myself into, or out of, this thought/feeling? Most of us were taught from a very young age not to trust our feelings (or at least to second-guess them). We were told to “play nice,” and at times were made to feel as if we were too sensitive. Rational and cautious adults taught us to pause and be rational and cautious just like them. Although it was all well-intentioned, we subconsciously learned to talk ourselves out of our intuitive feelings and into more rational or evidence-based ones.
Identifying intuition gets messy when strong emotions (aroused by an ACTION OR CIRCUMSTANCE) come into play. Strong emotions are evidence that can lead to a conclusion. I’ve learned to realize that when I cannot separate what is happening from the emotions of the situation – I’m reacting to a trigger.
Intuition always helps me understand whatever situation is at hand, even if I don’t exactly know how I understand it. Triggers, however, feel like something that’s CONVINCING me to understand. A good rule of thumb when faced with a decision and you’re unclear if that decision is being driven by intuition or a trigger: If you’re trying to talk yourself out of it, it’s probably worth a second look. If you’re trying to talk yourself into it, you’re looking for answers in the wrong places.
Intuition helps you understand - even if you don’t exactly know HOW you understand. Click To Tweet
I knew in my gut that that person I flew to see was “not my guy.” But I also wasn’t getting danger signals to end it and fly home right away. It just came to me as sort of a casual, internal observation. My triggers were what made me believe this “perfect match” truth I’d convinced myself of in my head, and made the whole thing into a lot more than it ever really was. In hindsight, I think my intuition wanted me to keep things light and way less emotionally invested. But I was being triggered, and that got my hopes up. I was convinced the bliss would come at some point.
He wanted to fly out to see me the very next month. I knew he wasn’t my guy but I had this weird feeling that this was the right thing to do. So I didn’t stop him.
We ended it on that trip. On his flight home, he met a girl from his hometown. And that girl is now his wife.
Me? I’m a lot braver now. I listen to my intuition no matter what, and I pause before some sort of external expectation takes me places I don’t really want to go. If I had never gotten on that plane, I would have never learned how brave I could be. If I had never taken a chance, I would have never taken all the chances I’ve taken since then. Our relationship didn’t work out, but I walked away with more self-confidence I’d ever had in my life. The big things still feel big, but if my intuition is telling me YES, I jump without hesitation. If we’d never had our crazy love story, he would have never met his now-wife on that flight home – and I would have never known the objective, intuitive feeling of “yep, that’s my guy” if I hadn’t experienced the exact opposite.
Following your intuition doesn’t mean you won’t have doubts or fears come in and try to sway you otherwise, and it doesn’t mean you won’t question yourself along the way. But it does mean you’re on the right track. And you’ve got to trust that. Fiercely. Even when you don’t know why it’s the right track…or what right track you’re paving along the way.
Tell me in the comments – have you ever had a moment like mine, where your intuition was telling you one thing but you convinced yourself to believe another? What did you do? And what did you learn from the experience?
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