I believe it is essential to understand how your instincts work for 3 reasons:

  1. First, understanding your instincts helps you to TRUST your instincts
  2. Secondly, you can train yourself to AVOID INTERFERRING with your instinct process
  3. Finally, you can apply practices to AMPLIFY your instincts

There is a common expression in the Information Technology business of “garbage in, garbage out.”  Perhaps you have heard this expression, or even used it many times yourself.  Essentially it means if the data coming into a system or process is of low quality, then it is a guarantee the output of that system or process is also going to also be of low quality.  

This is also true of your instinct process.  The lower the quality of information coming into our instinct process, the lower the quality of the output, which is designed to protect us.  And as the author of “The Gift of Fear,” Gavin de Becker writes, the instinct process always has our best interests at heart.

Obviously I am oversimplifying how our brains work, but I found this explanation serves the purpose for this topic.  Just as a computer requires data input, so do our brains.  We obtain real-time data input through our 5 senses.  What we see, hear, smell, taste, and touch gives our brains data.  

The amazing part is what our brains are able to do with that inputted data.  We know our brains are phenomenal at making associations.  Additionally, our brains keep tons of old data files.  All of our life experiences are stored in our brain.  When we intake new information, our brains begin to make associations using our past experiences.  When our brains make an association that it doesn’t like, such as that we are in danger of some kind, it then generates an output.  It is our brain trying to influence our behavior in order to keep us safe.

Here is an example.  We see a man with a gun (data input from our eyes), our brain looks at old files and determines men with guns can hurt us, so our brains immediately try to get us to survive by giving us an output.  In this scenario the output would be fear.  Fear is a feeling we get designed to keep us safe.  You now get why Gavin titled his book, “The Gift of Fear.

Sometimes the output is much more subtle, and we get feelings we typically call “gut feelings,” or “women’s intuition.” Whatever we call these feelings, we can trust that our brains are giving these feelings to us for our good.  We can, and should, trust these feelings.  Ignoring them increases our risk of getting hurt.

Understanding this instinct process sets the foundation for how to control the garbage in part of the process.  We not only want to avoid interfering with the process by blocking good information from reaching our brains, but we also want to AMPLIFY the process by obtaining more information.  Not just more information, but better information.  How do we do this is another great topic.


Post author: Pete Kemme

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