Sitting on the floor beside the bed, I felt both drained and restored. I had been sobbing, feeling through another wave of trauma as part of the somatic shadow work process. My body had been carrying hidden pain for years. Through this life-changing journey, I learned to value intuition.
Decades of narcissist abuse had made me feel disconnected from my body. Without accessing my intuitive wisdom, I made many unhelpful decisions. I was a hot mess, from finding toxic work environments to dating narcissistic partners and getting into other emotionally unsafe environments.
My story is all too common. Many of us grew up in dysfunctional homes. An estimated 40% of adults have insecure attachment styles. We developed all kinds of coping mechanisms that made us mistrust our instincts. Whether you’ve struggled with people-pleasing, codependency, or other insecurities, rebuilding trust in your instincts can be difficult.
When we’re grounded in our bodies, we notice subtle feelings that guide important decisions. Listening to my body has already saved me from several misaligned — and pricey — choices. Here are a few ways intuition helps:
Identifying unsafe people or environments
Signaling the need for boundary setting
Choosing intuitive foods or fitness routines
Connecting more deeply
Loving more gently
Finding aligned people and opportunities
Initiating self-care or self-compassion
Using intuition to make decisions
Gut instincts are the one thing that will alert us when something doesn’t feel right, even if no one else sees it. I’m not suggesting you throw common sense out the window. Rather, instead of primarily appealing to logic, I encourage you to take your emotions seriously.
Assessing opportunities: I almost signed up for a two-month immersive coaching course to improve my skills. I met with the instructor on the phone, read all the information, and shared a few back-and-forth emails. The program seemed like exactly what I had hoped to find. Yet I felt intense emotions, unsure whether to jump in all the way or make a clean split.
I journaled about the program, did a tarot card reading, and sent a long email to my life coach. She encouraged me to continue grounding and trusting my body to make healthy decisions. I ended up turning down the opportunity; I felt so relieved afterward.
Instead of making a snap decision, I took the time to explore and sit with my emotions. This approach works well. (I’m pretty sure I saved a few thousand dollars too.)
Assessing relationships: One of my best friends, let’s call her Rachel, met a man, let’s call him Jake, for whom she quickly developed an attraction. Jake was handsome, charming, brilliant, and very spontaneous.
Early in the relationship, Rachel felt like things were moving too fast; she felt like Jake’s lifestyle might not align with what she wanted. As an empath, Rachel had strong gut instincts.
Rachel shared her feelings with Jake, and he more or less talked her out of her instincts. We realized later that Jake has a serious shortage of empathy and might be a sociopath. Rachel’s body knew something was wrong. Their nearly one-year relationship did not end well and was full of heated arguments.
Trusting the process
Through a blend of spiritual pursuit, shadow work, therapy, and somatic experiencing, I have started to trust my intuition above all else. If you’ve struggled with intuition, you know how hard it is to rebuild trust. This process can take years.
When I bring difficult situations to my therapist, She reminds me to listen to my body. “What are you feeling right now? Where do you feel it? What’s coming up for you?” I repeat these questions to myself often. You can also ask:
How am I being right now?
Who am I being?
How can I be more myself right now?
As I join groups and meet new people, I check in with myself. Do I feel relaxed, at ease? If not, why not? I worry less about finding people with the right credentials or impressing others with mine. Instead, I prioritize finding people with whom I can be my fullest self.
“Be really whole, and all things will come to you,” — Lao Tzu.
Listening to your body
“As a therapist, I can’t begin to count the times I tell my clients to listen to their bodies. Your body is often much smarter than your mind, and if you listen to it, you can save yourself time and learn how to respect your physical cues.” — Marina Braff, an LMFT therapist.
Our bodies are intimate, intuitive, and wise. We are feeling beings who also think. Here are a few approaches that can help you connect with and listen to your body:
Engage your senses. Here are a few recommendations: light incense or candles, drink hot tea slowly, listen to music, move your body, take a warm bath, sit with warm blankets, or do slow stretching.
Embrace stillness. To be more grounded and intuitive, we need to sit with ourselves and notice our emotions and how our bodies feel. Here are a few ideas: do breathwork or a guided meditation to get started, go near bodies of water, or get deep into nature.
Use belly breathing. Sitting up tall, you can inhale through your nose, filling your stomach with air, holding your breath at the top. Then slowly exhale through your mouth, pressing your stomach back in. This deeper breathing always helps me to notice physical sensations more clearly.
Start dancing. My therapist continually recommends this. Dance provides a beautiful and fun way to reconnect with your body. Whether you like hip hop, jazz, ballet, Latin, or ecstatic dancing, it’s worth a try.
Get curious. Much like having a good conversation, connecting with your body means getting curious. Explore physical sensations, feelings, and thoughts, especially when difficult emotions arise. I like to repeat the phrase “How curious,” which helps me be more accepting than judgmental. My body responds well to acceptance.
By listening to our bodies, we can connect with our gut instincts. When difficult decisions come up, we can slow down and tune in. We can learn to honor our emotions.
Now I strive to listen to my body every day with self-compassion. I developed habits and practices for checking in with myself.
Listening to our bodies saves us from unnecessary pain, frustration, and regret. We are far more likely to identify relationships and opportunities that align with our highest selves.
“Follow your instincts. That’s where true wisdom manifests itself.” — Oprah Winfrey.