Fear or Intuition?
Sometimes I feel like I’m paralyzed with fear. I can’t tell whether I am being intuitive about things happening or just afraid of what the future might hold. Do you have any suggestions for handling my fear … or knowing when to trust it? I feel overwhelmed by things that haven’t even happened. I don’t know what to do. Thanks.
Fear and intuition are hard to tell apart. The only way I know to tell the two apart is to pay attention to what you are feeling and inquire whether it makes you feel stronger and more capable (intuition) or weakens you and makes you crazy (fear). Does it empower you, as if meant to help you protect yourself, or does it paralyze and debilitate you with anxiety, jealousy, or rage?
Intuition is generated from your spirit, your heart—your authentic self. Fear is generated from ego, from your personality. My experience is that intuition is proactive and purposeful. Intuition makes us wiser and stronger. It does not make us become unreasonable and judgmental or make us want to inflict pain or harm others. Intuition offers us information to strengthen and protect ourselves or someone else. Intuition offers the truth. Even if it's painful, the truth will make us more authentic and more capable.
One of the most empowering things you can do when these emotions begin to rise is to stay in the present moment. This has been said so many times by so many people in the “self-help” industry that it sounds cliché, but it really is an important skill to master.
What does it really mean to remain present? When you begin to feel upset or agitated by an impending change or situation or the possibility of one, self-observe and notice whether you are thinking about the past or the future, and then consciously pay attention to what is happening right at that moment. This requires practice. I’m sure as you begin to be aware of the time zone in which most of your thoughts take place, you’ll be shocked to find that 90 percent (if not more) of your thoughts are either about the past or the future. Fear seldom happens in real time.
Future thinking is where fear sneaks up on us. Since the unknown is so uncomfortable, we make up stories to fill in the blanks of our ignorance. We don’t know whether the stories are true or not, but we start believing them and even making decisions based on these made-up stories. We compound our problems ten-fold when we make up stories about the pain we think we are going to feel. Our stories then cause us to panic. In fact, the anticipation of suffering is often worse than the suffering itself (and it lasts longer!).
When you start getting panicky about what might happen:
- Notice how you are feeling.
- Inquire about what you are thinking that is causing you to feel the way you do.
- Determine whether your thoughts are truly accurate or not. If you can’t tell if they are accurate, see if they are serving you. Are they making you stronger or weaker?
- If they are not accurate or are not serving you, let them go and choose new thoughts, thus creating new feelings.
If, when you are inquiring—of yourself or others— about the truth of your fears, and you find that they are true, that the things you fear are happening, use that information to help you strategize a solution or means of minimizing the impact. The beauty of fear is that hiding just under this emotion is something you cherish and want to protect. Use your fear to red flag what matters to you and then create a plan for protecting and nurturing it.
Eve’s Love Tip: Ironically, we tend to honor fear, regardless of its base in truth. It often makes our lives more difficult, scary, and unmanageable. We tend not to honor intuition in spite of its truth, which could empower us, strengthen us, and help us to avoid many difficult situations.