Something we find really difficult to do as humans is working out whether what we’re thinking and feeling is prompted by fear or our intuition. We struggle to distinguish fear feelings and criticism from our inner voice, so our sense of self, including our intuition.

Fear is emotionally charged because it wants us to take urgent action or halt us in our tracks. It triggers the fight-flight-freeze response and physical responses. This includes sweating, an adrenaline rush, shaking and anxiety, potentially along with inner critic chatter. Particularly if we’re prone to the likes of people pleasing, perfectionism, overthinking, overgiving and over-responsibility, it likely has an emotional blackmail quality to it. Or it triggers feelings of anxiety, overwhelm, guilt, and shame. It will also have an element of familiarity due to it prompting a habitual response.

Your intuition, on the other hand, is neutral. It’s calm, compassionate, and not black and white.

In an ideal world, you’d experience fear and intuition separately. Sometimes, though, because of what you’re intuiting (picking up) or your typical habit of not listening to yourself, you will sometimes experience both at the same time. This is when you need to notice the calmer, possibly quieter voice. You might also experience flashes of insight through an image, word or phrase that pops up.

Keep in mind that part of what drives our intuition is information that’s stored below the conscious level. You have the equivalent of billions of files in your subconscious from every event and moment in your life. Even though you might not consciously recall something, this data is in your subconscious. It can connect with something you’re experiencing in the present. Next thing, you’re getting messaging, intuition, about something that’s in alignment with you or about where something is off. So, yeah, sure, you might experience something as your spidey sense in action. However, your intuition isn’t ‘woo-woo’; it’s about how connected you are to your instincts. Your intuition is this sense of knowing or understanding something without conscious reasoning. This means that the more connected you are to yourself, including your boundaries, needs and values, the more connected you are to your instincts and intuition.

Here’s a handy trick that helps you to distinguish intuition from fear:

If no matter what you do, you still feel the same or you hear the same inner critic chatter, that’s fear. It basically switches sides. After scaring the bejaysus out of you about taking the job, it switches to agitating you about not taking it. Fear is the type to whip you into a frenzy about getting hurt in a new relationship only to then present you with fear of winding up alone.

To be frank, fear can be a switchy, irrational mofo if you let it run you.

That doesn’t mean that fear is ‘bad’ or ‘useless’; it’s trying to protect you from a bigger future pain. How it goes about doing that–emotional blackmail, shame, catastrophising, appearing rational and helpful, etc.,–speaks to your habitual relationship with yourself. Whatever your typical response to fear is how you will respond again. This means that endeavouring to be more mindful is having a better read on your fear is about being more mindful. It’s noticing the patterns of how it shows up and learning from when you’re off-base. This ability to listen to yourself, to try to gauge whether it’s intuition or fear builds self-trust. When you feel as if you can rely on you, it will build your confidence. You will know that whatever you choose to listen to in that moment, you are willing to learn from it.

Need more help tuning into your intuition? Check out the episode of The Baggage Reclaim Sessions podcast about getting grounded about anxiety and intuition. There are also my short audio courses, The Intuition Sessions and The Anxiety Sessions.

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