The Answer Resides In Your Gut, Not Your Brainy-Brain

How often do you over-think things? Making an exit? Opportunities? Big decisions?  Small decisions?  Or just…buying a simple chocolate-chip cookie?

Here’s how it goes down:  A thought comes – “Mmm, oh, it would be nice to eat a cookie. A warm, chocolate-chip cookie.” Simple.  Unless you put a “simple” thought like that through the mind of an adult-child! Drum roll, boom-boom – enter doubting, unsure, cocked for battle adult-child Brain: But…should I eat it?

What if I then start to buy one every day…?

Do actually deserve a treat?

I’m running late today and now I want to spend five more minutes to buy a treat I don’t even deserve? Who do I think I am? And since I don’t truly know how to estimate how long things actually take – it’ll probably take an hour to buy the cookie…

A bit exhausting. A bit silly. And totally unnecessary (with practice).

We tend to wonder, “What’s the right course of action?” during times when life puts opportunity and choices in our path. (Actually, it’s more accurate to say when we intersect with opportunity, because I don’t believe it’s Life’s job to dole out our opportunities; it’s for us to make opportunities happen, to push the air that surrounds us with our movement and energy, and thereby create the ripest environment in which opportunity can grow.)  Something happens–a job opportunity at your friend’s company, a surprise love interest through a mutual friend, or–especially–an inner, personal realization about what you truly want–and while your gut/heart/mind are clear on what you want, you don’t listen.

We don’t know how to listen to our gut properly. Instead of mucking about in the soul, heart or gut, we hike up into our minds and think it away.  We think the opportunity into a twisted shape, an oblivion.

Enter:  Should.

The word should shows up in my own vocabulary in many more ways that as itself, as should. There’s what if, there’s what will they think, they’ll say things, But if I do this…etc. It’s not our fault. We then ask, “What ‘should’ I do?” as we try to figure out an interaction or response, it’s not surprising that we distance ourselves; we were trained from a very young age to receive our answers from our parents and not from inside ourselves. For us it was safest for us to behave in the accepted way in order to get our basic child needs met. So we don’t have much practice (if any) with identifying our gut instincts and following them. That, and, when we take opportunities change is inevitably involved, and we tend to be change-adverse because it activates so many unresolved traumas. We become confused about the source of our anxiety during change – whether it’s from the current situation or is past trauma transposed upon the present.

The Should Press.

When I put a decision through The Should Press (think Dr. Seuss and the wacky, twisted machines that press-on and remove stars from the bellies of Sneeches)–in doing so, I stamp “should” all over the idea and thereby alienate myself from not just the opportunity but also from being in touch with what, for me, is real.

The shoulding happens lightning-fast, right?  Pretty much the minute we have a desire, we stamp it with shoulds.

It once took me two years to decide to apply to earn a Masters Degree in creative writing. And it once took a year for me to break-up with someone I shouldn’t have been in a relationship with. While I don’t regret the time it took to go for the degree and I truly treasure memories from the relationship, I wasn’t acting on what I really wanted at the time. The Should Press stamped many paralyzing thoughts onto my wants –  A creative writing degree won’t make me a writer, What if I’m actually avoiding writing somehow by going to school, What if only a totally crappy college accepts me, What if I miscalculate my budget and truly can’t afford it, What if self-sabotage and turn in my applications late? What if I’m a fool to think that I can write well?  Such thoughts contributed to a two-year delay in going for it. With the relationship I didn’t truly desire, it was true psych-ops at work in my mind:  I willingly made out with him, I can’t just turn around and say, “Oh, never-mind,” I can’t deal with the awkwardness of hurting someone I work with every day, I got myself into this mess – I should see it through, I’m just being silly and afraid of love, and, oh, the over-the-top sign of a twisted self-doubter, What if my gut is wrong and I don’t know what I really want?

What are your shoulds?  What are you stories of action-delay?

If you honor your gut and listen to what you really want while also being a kind and loving self-parent to yourself, own your crap (take responsibility) — you can’t go wrong.  Really!  It’s a fool-proof system.

Buy the cookie. Enjoy it. If the next day and the next you also buy one, or that you’re dragging people along and buying more and more, then it’s time for your inner, kind and loving self-parent to pipe up and say, “I think you may want to cool it a bit on the cookies so that you don’t wind up feeling like an over-sugared slave to cookies…” Or, “Are you avoiding feeling something…?”  Trust that you will take care of yourself, listen to yourself, and stick-up for yourself – we CAN learn to act from a place of self-trust. Another example:  Once you learn techniques for how to end conversations (without guilt!) when you’re done with the conversations, you’ll no longer dread falling into conversation with people.

What is your gut telling you that you actually want?  Go for it -

…no matter what anyone might say.

…no matter what anyone might secretly think.

…no matter what anyone might do.

It’s your life. ‘They’ don’t live it. Only you do.

When you give yourself permission to honor your gut and listen to and honor what your actually want/feel/think, you will experience a send of lightness and freedom that is beautiful, if infrequent till now. The other nice surprise to it, when we act on our truth, we suddenly find that we don’t give a damn about the shoulds anymore – we don’t have to manage them because they evaporate.

The answers are inside.

Be kind to yourself.


  1. Carl S says:

    Being in my brain most of the time. Thinking, re-thinking, revising, re-playing. Current, past and future.

    This is a habit that is mostly unconscious. I have noticed that I can observe my positive cognitive changes coming when it’s been months, four months, six months, maybe even twelve months or two years from the time I express to my therapist that I have started to really own my desire to be more patient with myself and allow myself just to enjoy the moment.
    My therapist confirms this observation and I feel genuinely validated.

    I am very grateful when I can see that I have been regularly choosing not to self-monitor and try to control my outcomes.
    male, 63 and still gaining new infusions of peace in my soul.

    • Amy Eden says:

      Carl, it’s great to hear from you and also to learn about your site. Thank you. I’m 40 and still very much a work in progress. You’re 63 and still practicing – I like that. There’s no end to the practice…being “done” would be antithetical to the process.
      I’m beginning to think that for all my striving for knowledge…to figure all this dysfunctional stuff out…that, acutally, the gut is truly where all answers reside.
      Peace -

  2. Peyson says:

    I have a question for the writer of this blog…

    Your post has really hit home for me in so many ways. In particular, the part about you waiting to get your Master’s. Have you written any other posts about this? I am in the daunting process of applying to a Master’s program myself and it seems like I am self-sabatoging at every step. Ugh! I know the process is supposed to be difficult, but not this difficult.

    • Amy Eden says:

      Hi! A close friend just went through the process of applying for a Master’s and a family member is now, too. It’s a tough process. The GRE is daunting and takes time to practice for, and maybe a couple tries at taking. Then there’s the process of figuring out which schools are interesting…I’m a big advocate for writing down each step, then the sub-steps and taking a realistic look at how long it will take. Is it possible you’re attempting to apply in too short a time-frame? I don’t know the details… fill me in. -A

  3. Peyson says:

    Hello! I can’t believe you actually answered, thank you!
    There is a definite time crunch with applying right now, but that is because when I had all the time in the world I didn’t adequately use it. Actually, I am applying to some programs for Spring and others for Fall start and according to advisors at my previous university and an admissions counselor at a potential school, time isn’t an issue. It is more about the self-doubt that has come with all of this and the sabotaging I cannot stop. Put aside the fact that I cannot put two words together for the personal essays. What if I don’t get accepted where I want, do I actually know what I want, and what if I can’t do it alone {that is the most terrifying of them all}? Plus, if I fail and people aren’t surprised, well, I don’t think that needs an explaination. Lol! This all comes out in “what should I do? Should I really be doing this?”. This is why your post resonated so well with me.
    Oh my! I am not used to over-sharing like this! If I could only put words together like this for my essays. Lol!
    I was hoping maybe this was similar to your experience and wondered if you had written anymore about it, or if you had more to say here and held back.

    • Amy Eden says:

      It was interesting to read that post over again. It did take me two years from when it first came to me that I wanted to go to graduate school, and when I actually applied. (I haven’t written about the grad school decision elsewhere, but I have written about self-sabotage (plug that term into the Search box on my main page and a few posts should come up).
      I got accepted to a school that a friend recommended, but it wasn’t my first choice. But I can’t imagine having gone anywhere else. I carried a lot of fear with me through the process. But I pushed ahead. I wasn’t sure if my sample creative writing was good enough, that concerned me. I had no idea if I could write, but I knew I wanted to. (I wouldn’t have guessed that I’d use writing so much in my job–and blog–either, so that worked out better than I could have imagined.) It changed my life, it was a good decision. But it’s one I hemmed and hawed over, and sought reassurance and validation about — particularly since I was going for a “useless” degree (not an MBA), and there was no return on investment (not that was measurable).
      I think the key is to write (and revise, and revise, and revise) the essays to the best of your ability, even if you blow off the applications and wait till next year (but it sounds like you won’t). Is it necessary to tell people you’re applying? If not, you could keep it to yourself, or to a very small circle, so that you keep it closer to the chest.
      Whenever we’re making high-stakes decisions, the fear factor goes up! That’s proof of how important it is to us. Sounds like you’re really challenging yourself to do something outside your comfort zone. VERY COOL. And all the accompanying fears and self-doubts are completely par for the course. It’s hard to turn-off the What Ifs — we have to move forward with the What Ifs tagging along.
      There’s a lifelong swimmer who admitted in an interview that she’s scared every time she does an hours-long swim in a large body of water, but she says, “I just swim with my fear.” I love that.

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