I normally dismiss talk of things like intuition and sixth sense as a bunch of hippy dippy baloney, because I am a soreheaded old crank. And the supernatural versions of these ideas are indeed nonsense, according to me, and I am of course the expert in everything everywhere.
But I have come to understand what people mean when they talk about ‘going with your gut’. It’s not a magical predictive organ that gives you insight into the future. If it was, my hefty belly would have me rich and foolishly powerful already.
The gut feeling is the immediate response your mind has to new idea presented to it. It’s a synthesis of various bits of datum and experience, objective facts and subjective feelings, boiled down into a single response. Normally, we build a rational framework after the fact to justify that gut response. The framework isn’t necessarily the reason for you gut response: no no, it is usually just the overly complicated excuse you give yourself.
So I have been working on listening to my gut when it speaks up. It’s a challenge. My anxiety loves to play dress up and masquerade as my gut, as do my longstanding insecurities. And you must be eternally vigilant for the biological overrides. Being sad because you’re tired can lead to false gut responses, and don’t even get me started about the lies your sex drive tells you. I’m amazed we humans ever make rational decisions.
But after filtering all of that out, there’s valuable information to be had by checking in with the old gut. Gut responses are especially useful in situations where there’s no simple answer and too many unknown variables to be certain of anything, like art and politics. You can’t know for sure that your character arc is heading down the wrong path, but your gut may have some advice on the subject. It’s like a low-level spider sense that warns you that something isn’t right or that it may turn out badly.
An untested idea is a useless idea, so I am putting in an effort to keep track of my gut responses and then compare them to the actual results of whatever my gut spoke up about. It may be at the end that my gut is no better than random guessing. On the other hand, even if it isn’t more accurate, my gut feelings can give me a course of action when all choices look equally baffling. A method of short-circuiting analysis paralysis is a nice tool to have in the tool box.