What is a “Gut Instinct”?

You walk into a coffee shop and instinctively sense that the man sitting at the table on your left is a creep. In the moment, you can’t explain why exactly. He’s a stranger to you and he appears to be minding his own business. But your internal alarm is so strong that you leave and decide to go to a different shop.

You friend is talking excitedly about how happy she is to be pregnant yet you get the feeling that she’s lying to you. She sounds like she’s being sincere…but still, something’s off.

You walk into your house and immediately sense that there is an intruder inside. Nothing looks amiss, nor do you hear any sound. But someone is there–you can feel it in your gut.

Throughout the ages, different human societies have viewed certain internal organs as doing more than those organs actually do. Today the heart and gut are often exalted as critical sources of wisdom and guidance. Anatomically speaking, your gut is your intestinal tract–that mind boggling length of soft, muscular hosing that is efficiently folded up inside your torso and manages to break your food down into its most basic nutritional components. We could marvel at the genius of your actual gut all day, but people aren’t talking about their digesting skills when they refer to their gut instinct. Instead, they use the term gut instinct to refer to a wide variety of internal thoughts and alarms which actually come from several different sources.

So if your physical intestines aren’t the ones warning you that your friend’s maternal joy is a phony act, then why do you say things like “She seemed happy, but my gut was telling me she was lying”? Well, for starters, humans usually don’t get taught about their own internal mechanics, and if you never get educated about your own make up, you can’t be expected to correctly name things. But while you might not know the right labels, you can still sense that there are a lot of significant communications happening inside of you. Since your body is so responsive to what’s going on with your mind and soul, and since your body’s responses often result in physical sensations which seem to be originating from somewhere inside your torso, it’s quite logical for you to think your physical gut is trying to tell you something. In real life, those surges of adrenaline, that sudden tensing of your intestinal walls, and that surge of acid into your digestive tract are all bodily reactions to something that another element has said. While your body does have original thoughts, it’s not usually the first one to sound an internal alarm. Instead, those warning signals are usually caused by your subconscious, your soul, demons, and God.

What was that about demons and God?? Yes, these beings do talk to every human on the planet far more often than is acknowledged. You see, the existence and activity of supernatural beings is not dependent on you personally acknowledging them. You might currently think the whole notion of God is a hoax. Fine. God still exists and He is still interacting with you. The fact that you don’t acknowledge His existence doesn’t prevent Him from talking to you–it just causes you to misinterpret where His messages are coming from. Typically people credit themselves for most of the things that supernatural beings say to them. This is common even among those who do believe in God and demons. It takes education, time, and practice to learn to sort out the difference between your own thoughts and the voices of supernatural beings who are communicating with you.

The Six Sources

Suppose everywhere you went, you were followed by six people who were constantly advising you, directing you, and commenting on what you were doing. And while your six companions are constantly talking at you, they frequently get into tiffs with each other as well, especially when they have different opinions on what you ought to be doing. This is how things work in real life: your soul, conscious, subconscious, body, God, and demons are those six constant companions whose company you just can’t escape.

But now suppose that your six companions all had voices that sounded exactly alike. So much so that if you weren’t looking at them, you couldn’t tell who was speaking. In real life, human voices are different enough that you can eventually find it quite easy to recognize the voices of your friends and favorite movie stars even when you can’t see their faces. So why don’t things work out like this in your head? Well, to put it simply, what you think of as your “thought voice” is really one element of your being (your conscious) translating what other elements are saying.

Let’s go back to that example of you and your six companions. Suppose that your companions didn’t physically follow you about, but instead they passed all of their comments to a friend of yours through a phone, and that friend then repeated what they were saying to you. Since your friend is doing all of the relaying, every comment gets put into her voice, which then makes the original speaker hard to identify.

Suppose I’m listening to your parents fight, and I start telling you over the phone exactly what is being said. Only I don’t say things like “Then your mom said”–I just tell you what was said without identifying the speaker or making it clear when I’m changing speakers. The result is a long string of back and forth exchanges all running together like a single thought:

I think you are overreacting. Yeah? Well, you’re the one provoking me. All I ask for is that you come home in time for dinner. I was only five minutes late, for crying out loud! Why do you have to make such a federal issue out of it? Because you’re always five minutes late and it’s annoying! You have no reason to be so late! How would you know? Because I know you get off work in plenty of time!

This is what things are like in your head: multiple voices being strung together into a continuous stream of thought with it being hard to tell when the speaker is changing or how many speakers are involved.

Now in the example of me repeating a fight that your parents are having, how could you sort out who was saying which lines? It would help to know what your parents care about. If you know that your mom is a real stickler about staying on schedule, you’d easily identify her as the one who must be fussing about dinner being delayed. But if you know that your mother is not the sort to care about timetables while your father is the one who is very precise about when things happen, then you’d know it had to be your father who was angry about dinner being delayed.

Your body, subconscious, conscious, and soul all have their own priorities and preferences. God and demons also have priorities and preferences when it comes to dealing with you. The more you understand what each of these “advisers” cares about, the easier it will be for you to identify who is likely the source of your next gut instinct.

YOUR BODY

Your body’s top concerns are feeling good and being safe. In many circumstances it will be willing to sacrifice one of these goals for the other, like when you go riding on a terrifying roller coaster because the adrenaline rush makes you feel good even though the whole scenario feels very unsafe.

Each of your elements has a different idea of what it means to “feel good” that is based on that element’s composition. For example, your body has physical nerves which can find a nice massage or a long soak in a hot tub to be very relaxing. Your subconscious and soul do not have nerves, and so they can’t directly enjoy these sorts of activities–they can only enjoy seeing your body enjoy them.

Because your body does not have direct access to your memories, it is not good at recognizing dangerous situations. For that, it needs the help of your subconscious. While your body is good at reporting a crisis that is happening right now–like when the you touch a hot stove burner or feel something fly into your eye–it is not good at anticipating problems. Gut instincts often focus on anticipating potential danger based on past experience, and resolving moral dilemmas. With neither of these things being your body’s area of expertise, it is often not the first one to sound a gut instinct. Instead, your body usually responds to an alarm that someone else triggered. Because shaking hands, tensing muscles, and profuse sweating are such distracting symptoms, people tend to credit their bodies for knowing more than their bodies actually do. These kinds of physical reactions are caused by your body responding to what another element is saying.

Suppose your neighbor sees smoke and yells “Help, fire!” You don’t see the smoke, but you hear your neighbor and trust your neighbor’s judgment, so you also start yelling “Help, fire!” In this analogy, you are doing what your body usually does in the case of gut instincts: flying into an alarmed state on the basis of what some other trusted voice says.

YOUR CONSCIOUS

Like your body, your conscious primarily reacts to gut instincts because in most cases, it doesn’t have the tools to recognize when an alarm should be sounded. Your conscious is the main producer of your thought voice and it is the one translating what other elements are saying into its own verbal voice.

Your conscious’ top priority is to avoid stress. It is very limited in how many tasks it can take on at once, and it is easily overwhelmed and frazzled by too much information. To do well, your conscious needs the same kind of sheltering that you’d give to a young child. It needs to be shielded from concepts that would upset it, and it needs to be constantly supervised and assigned a number of tasks that it can actually handle. Your conscious is also the only element of your being that needs to be entirely shutdown and rebooted on a regular basis (which happens when you sleep).

Unlike human children who often have a very exaggerated idea of what they can do, your conscious is aware of how delicate it is, and so it feels very dependent on your subconscious and soul for guidance. Its strong sense of dependency on those two alpha elements causes your conscious to become very upset very fast when it senses that one of those elements is in distress.

YOUR SUBCONSCIOUS

Your subconscious is responsible for many of your gut instincts. Your subconscious’ top priority is keeping you safe. Your subconscious is an incredibly skilled analyst and an extremely capable multitasker. It is the part of you that stores all of your life memories, and it relies on those memories to help it decide when you are in potential danger.

Now while your subconscious is exceptionally brilliant, it also gets a bit carried away. In its efforts to keep you safe,your subconscious can easily overreact to situations–imagining danger where none really exists.

When you walk into a coffee shop, your eyes quickly scan the room and your subconscious instantly scans through that new data for any potential signs of danger. When it notices that the man sitting near the door looks quite similar to the man who mugged you two years ago, it immediately sounds an alert that you are in danger. Your body and conscious then react to your subconscious’ dire warning, and they both become agitated. All of this happens with lightning speed, and suddenly you find yourself having a gut feeling that you aren’t safe in this coffee shop. When you can’t specifically identify why you’re not safe, it is because your subconscious is intentionally withholding an explanation from your conscious. This sort of thing happens all the time with human minds. The subconscious often withholds information for the sake of protecting your other elements from becoming too stressed. When it does this sort of thing, you will feel a vague sense of dread, fear, or danger. You will also feel a clear sense of direction, usually that you ought to leave the scene as quickly as possible. Both the alarm of danger and the direction to leave are coming from your subconscious.

Now how much information your subconscious withholds depends on how stressed out your entire system is. The more traumatized you are, the more stressed you are, and the more secretive your subconscious will be as it tries to protect your more vulnerable elements. This is why people who are severely traumatized often find their own behavior mysterious and can’t honestly explain their motivations for doing certain things. Such confusion and ignorance is due to the conscious being sheltered from information that the subconscious feels it can’t handle. In these situations, a therapist who knows what they’re doing should be able to tell what kinds of information the subconscious is probably withholding just by asking the right questions. But the important point for you to understand is that even when you seem mysterious to yourself, you always have logical reasons for what you do.

YOUR SOUL

Your soul is the only part of you that cares about morality, and moral concerns are the basis of many gut instincts. Regardless of your religious beliefs, your soul has a strong need to perceive you as a moral person–moral according to your soul’s current beliefs, that is. As your soul’s beliefs change, so will your perception of yourself. A classic example here is the woman who believes abortion is harmless at the time she gets one, therefore she has no moral qualms about it. But years later, her soul changes its view of abortion and decides that it’s actually a terribly immoral act. The woman’s soul is now in a crisis as it looks back at the woman’s abortion and feels deeply ashamed of what she did. These kinds of moral crises can sometimes escalate into life-stopping anguish when they aren’t properly addressed. The best way to resolve these sorts of problems is to give the soul further help in developing a system of judgment that allows for immoral acts to happen without it being treated like the end of the world.

The way that your friend looks at you gives you a gut feeling that she is developing romantic feelings for you. It is your subconscious that makes this call, based on its analysis of female body language that you’ve experienced in the past. (Remember that your subconscious is the one who manages your database of life memories.) But as soon as your subconscious triggers this first gut instinct that your friend is sexually attracted to you, your soul triggers a second gut instinct that this is not a good situation. Your soul cares about morality. You are currently a married man, and your soul believes that it is immoral for a married man to cultivate romantic relationships with anyone other than his spouse. So your soul is now upset by this situation and feeling agitated. Your body now reacts to your soul’s upset by clenching and tensing. Now you’re squirming in your seat feeling like you’ve got a rock in your stomach. You’re feeling your face flush and your palms are getting sweaty. Your soul is strongly urging you to get away from this dangerous temptation, so you finally pretend that you’re late to an appointment and make your escape.

As you can see from this examples, gut instincts can be multilayered things.

DEMONS

Demons are supernatural creatures who are malicious by nature and enjoy agitating human beings. I won’t get into their deeper motivations here. For the purpose of this topic, you just need to understand that demons are always looking for ways to upset you, and they love to trigger false alarms.

Gut instincts which cause you to feel afraid and are also accompanied with upsetting mental images are likely being triggered by demons. Earlier I explained how your subconscious will often sound danger alarms when it thinks it has logical reasons for doing so. I also explained that your subconscious will often withhold information in these moments in order to protect your other elements. Well, demons want to amplify your terror, not keep it manageable. To accomplish this, demons will often trigger a strong danger alarm while also proposing a very specific scenario. A classic example here is that you hear a creaking noise in your house and instantly get a picture in your mind of a very shady looking character creeping up the stairs of your house. It’s also made quite clear that the invader’s personal intention is to not just rob you, but also sexually assault you.

In this scenario, the specific imagery plus the information about your invader’s intentions are essential to quickly moving you into a state of terror. If you just heard a creak without demons being involved and your subconscious had no reason to associate that sound with anything other than cranky water pipes, then you’d likely assume it was just pipes and not fly into terror. But demons always want to amplify distress, so they often juice the situation by dropping images into your conscious and giving specific predictions of what awful scenario is about to befall you.

You’re experiencing an odd pain in your leg and your gut is telling you that you’ve got a huge cancerous tumor gnawing away at your insides. This very specific diagnosis comes accompanied with upsetting images of you being violently ill on future chemo treatments and a grim prediction that any treatments you try will fail. Such an “all inclusive” package of terror comes from demons. Unless you have had previous experience with someone you cared about going through such a situation or you’d read about such a thing, your subconscious isn’t going to feel it is rational to leap to such a dire conclusion.

The key point I want you to understand here is that demons are often the source of gut instincts which result in feelings of terror and hopelessness.

Now demons know all about how your elements work, and when they play these kinds of games with you, they are very specific about which of your elements they are trying to send into a panic. Demons mainly target your subconscious and soul, because they understand the strong influence these two have over your entire system. In the home invader and cancer scenarios, demons were trying to upset your subconscious, by suggesting you were in grave danger. Remember that your safety is a primary concern for your subconscious.

Now when demons want to distress your soul,they use a different approach. Let’s take the woman whose soul is now feeling very upset because she got an abortion in the past. When this woman tries to pray to God, she gets a gut feeling that God is refusing to listen to her because He’s cut her off in anger over what she’s done. This gut feeling is a message from demons and it comes paired with an image of God’s face scowling down at her in disgust. Such imagery instantly terrifies the woman’s soul.

An important thing to understand about demons is that they often use a very confident tone when delivering their messages to you. Humans are very persuaded by confidence, and will seriously consider the most asinine statements to be true if those statements are spoken with great confidence and worded in certain ways. For example, today all one has to do is start a sentence with “science has proven” and people will be prone to accepting whatever comes next, regardless of how idiotic it is. Because demons understand how sensitive humans are to wording, tone, mood, images and sensations, they use all of these things very strategically when crafting their messages of terror. The result is that you are prone to accepting anything demons say to you as being true without even stopping to wonder who is speaking to you.

Now suppose you have a neighbor named Fred who hates you because he thinks you stole the love of his life. Because you know Fred has strong personal reasons for hating you, you expect him to be mean to you, and you are able to avoid taking all of his nasty comments personally. Some of them still bug you, but when you consider the source, it helps you shrug them off.

Things are very different if some total stranger walks up to you and says nasty things. Because you don’t perceive the stranger as having any valid reason to hate you, you assume his dark view of you must have some justification to it. The stranger’s comments upset you more than Fred’s because the stranger is unknown to you.

Things change once again when someone who you really care about says hurtful things to you. Vicious comments from an ally pack the hardest punch of all, and will cause you the most distress.

Demons understand all of these dynamics, which is why it works best for them when you don’t recognize when they are the source of their comments to you. It is fabulous for demons when you don’t believe that they are real. In such cases, you are guaranteed to assume their comments are coming from yourself or someone other than them. Classic examples here are when people think they’re communicating with the ghosts of dead humans, or when they think aliens from outer space are talking to them. Demons are happy to misdirect you to anyone other than them in order to increase the impact their comments have on you.

Now once you meet the real God and decide that you care about pleasing Him, demons really want you to mistake them for God talking to you. When they can pull this off, their nasty threats carry the biggest punch. Classic examples here are people who believe that God has cursed them, cut them off, or currently views them as having committed an unpardonable sin. Another classic is when people can’t try to pray to God without instantly seeing an image of His face scowling down at them in disgust. Once demons get you conned into mistaking them for God, there is no end to the fun they can have in terrifying your soul, which will in turn upset all of your other elements.

GOD

The real God is the same Being who created you just because He wanted to, not because He had to. When God communicates with you, His primary goal is to help you thrive as His creature, which means slowly developing into who you were meant to be. God designed humans to be like the acorn that you plant in your garden which has been programmed with the potential to turn into a mighty oak tree. He then thoroughly enjoys the process of nurturing us along, all the while giving us the option to choose whether we’re going to cooperate with His development program or choose to stagnate in immaturity.

Because God is interested in helping you, He isn’t interested in stressing you out just to watch you squirm. The only time God uses terror tactics is in some cases where souls are intentionally defying Him and need a swift kick in the rear to help them get over themselves. But in many cases, God doesn’t respond to intentional rebellion in such dramatic ways, which is why it is both incorrect and harmful to assume that every rotten thing that happens to you is evidence that God is mad at you. In real life, God often creates problems in your life to help you reach your next stage of development, not because He is personally annoyed with you (see It’s Personal: Why God Brings Problems Into Your Life). While Divine wrath is a very real thing, humans tend to be very poor at recognizing it. In real life, God often expresses His anger in much subtler forms than we are taught to expect.

You’re in your home office, engrossed in your work, when you suddenly get a gut feeling that you should go check on your daughter. When you do, you find her crying in her room, in desperate need of comfort regarding a bullying experience she had at school. While many would erroneously credit themselves for “telepathically sensing” that their kid was in trouble, this is a case of God directing you.

Human emotions are fascinating things, and it’s quite true that we form little emotional “atmospheres” about us which other humans can sense. It’s also true that we can be utterly oblivious to the fact that we’re sitting right next to someone who is in the depth of despair. Females are generally better equipped than males at sensing emotional shifts in humans, and this is a skill that pairs nicely with the female desire to nurture. At the same time, the fact that males are naturally less dialed into the subtle emotional shifts in others really benefits them in carrying out their desires to provide and protect. The way God designed males and females to operate was quite strategic, and those differences are designed to complement each other when males and females pair together.

So while sensing emotional shifts is a real thing, it’s also a limited skill that is easily hampered by your personal stress levels. When humans are stressed, they naturally become more self-focused and therefore less aware of what is happening to those around them. The point is that, yes, we have a certain degree of sensitivity towards each other, but things like telepathy and a “sixth sense” are silly rubbish. In real life, when you call your cousin on the very day that she really needs to talk, it isn’t because you have some special ability to perceive that she was upset even though she lives on the other side of the world. You were simply responding to the prompting of beings who do know what was happening with your cousin: either God or demons. When you don’t personally acknowledge the existence of such beings, you will naturally reach for other explanations. But if you are serious about wanting to better understand yourself, it is important to gain a more accurate understanding of your own limitations.

We humans simply aren’t that great at accurately perceiving reality. With our subconscious’ often imagining problems where none exist, demons successfully conning us, and our souls constantly revising their definitions of right and wrong, we have our hands full trying to sort out our own heads and are really not equipped to guess what’s happening with someone else. What this means is that when you find your gut instincts relating to amazing feats of timing–such as you sensing you ought to call your cousin or check on your daughter exactly when they really need someone to talk to–you should be crediting those promptings to supernatural beings, not yourself. Timing is simply not something humans excel at, and this is largely due to the fact that we have such limited information about what is happening around us.

Conclusion

So then, what is a gut instinct? It’s a communication that originates from either inside or outside of yourself. It can be simple or complex. It can come from just one source, or it can be a chain of reactions as multiple sources interact with each other. When you start digging into the deep mechanics of how humans operate, you’ll find that things are never simple, but they are always quite fascinating.

Should you always “go with your gut”? It depends what the message is and where it is coming from. Sometimes you’ll receive some solid advice, sometimes your gut will turn out to be full of guff, and other times there will be external beings trying to lure you into a trap of unnecessary angst. Learning more about where various messages come from will help you get better at identifying the likely source of a particular intuition, at which point you can make a better judgment about how you should proceed.

This post was written in response to a request.

Looking for advice? You can submit an anonymous request through the Ask a Question page.