A quick thought on Intuition

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gutfeelingsignI have been thinking about intuition lately.  You know, that gut feeling.  I describe mine as the feeling that raises my heart-rate a little bit and is trying to tell me something.  When I ignore it, or purposefully push it aside, it quickly becomes an “icky” feeling, much like the feeling of guilt.  For me, atleast.

I have been trying to listen to my gut instinct lately, whether it be on a large or small scale.  I am trying to fine-tune this God-given skill so that I can use it for the intended purpose, which is to keep me out of danger and uncomfortable situations, or perhaps to know when Wendy’s is having a special.  Oh wait….no, no that’s not intuition.

The dictionary defines intuition as “the act or faculty of knowing or sensing without the use of rational processes; immediate cognition”.  I think that as we grow, we are taught to rationalize, and then make decisions based on our minds and our reasoning.  However, intuition is based on feeling.  I think that I have ignored my intuition and focused on reason for so long, that I need to reacquaint myself with my intuition in order to learn what the feelings mean.

It’s true that there are situations where I may feel nervous or scared.  For example, before a flight I may start to worry about the plane crashing.  I think, “What if now is the moment I make that decision to not get on the plane?  The place will be in a nose-dive and I will be thinking: Shucks.  I was sitting right there outside the Which Wich and knew this would happen.”  Or, while at the beach I feel a fear to not swim because sometimes, very rarely (but horrifically), people are bitten by sharks.  These are situations where I tell myself rationalization is ok – I have clearly begun to be irrational so I have to talk myself down.  Plus, I have a superhero complex (that’s another blog post for another time) that makes me inclined to believe that I could survive a plane crash by positioning my body in just the right way.  I also think that God would save me from a shark attack with a pack of dolphins (again…we’re going deeper into my psyche than necessary at this point).  Those are examples of anxiety.  Intuition, however, is that gnawing feeling in my gut that something bad is going to happen.  I can’t perfectly describe what doesn’t feel right, I just know that it doesn’t.

Here is a time when my intuition was trying to communicate with me and I ignored it: I was driving home from a party in college.  I was living in a new apartment in the slightly shady part of town.  It was 5am.  It was dark.  I remember pulling into the parking lot of the complex and thinking how strange it was that there was not one person outside their apartment.  There was always somebody coming or going, or outside smoking.  I got a weird feeling, but I was so tired, I ignored it, glad to be home to my bed.  I had my guard down, got out of the car, flipped the lock and shut the door.  I turned around with my head down to go to the apartment and I walked right into a man’s chest.  I was so startled that I just stood there.  He asked for money and I had $5 so I gave it to him.  I was lucky that he took the money and left.  I am lucky I had money – I never have cash on me.  I hope that if I hadn’t had cash and told him that, that he would’ve believed me.  He was clearly coming off of a high, so I don’t know how rational he would’ve been.  Let’s just leave it at that I was lucky (and that what my dad always told me is true: Nothing good happens after midnight…well, that’s mostly true).

The point – my intuition was telling me to be alert.  I actually thought, “That’s really weird that nobody is outside.”  When your intuition is trying to tell you something, listen to it.  We have the ability to sense without seeing for a reason – survival!  We are animals at our core, just trying to survive.

So, that is my thought for now.  I will continue to hone my intuitive skills and differentiate between anxiety and intuition.  It is quite interesting, really.  Try it!  And if anyone develops a sixth sense for deals at Wendy’s, let me know.

…I would teach her about feelings of guilt.

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I may be the most guilt-ridden person out there.  When I was little, if I even raised my voice or was short with my parents and ran to my room, no more than a few seconds passed before I was crying at their feet begging them to forgive me.

Yes, I was raised on guilt.  It worked.  My parents decided that instead of spanking my brother and myself, that they would love us so unconditionally that it would literally wrench our guts if we did anything to defy them (at least for me, I can’t speak for my brother).  There are some things that I have done in my life that I have totally been forgiven for for years, but when I think about them I get sick to my stomach.  I almost want to say that I would rather have felt physical pain than the emotional anguish caused by guilt.  For example, in high school I lied to my parents about spending the night at a friend’s house when I was really trying to get in some extra time with my boyfriend.  My mom and dad caught me, and when I got home, we sat down and talked about it.  My mom was looking at me like she didn’t even know me and my dad kept saying how he couldn’t believe that I would ever be capable of lying to his face so convincingly.  (Who can feel the weight of guilt piling up just from reading this?)  The real kick in the gut: the next morning my dad was sitting outside and my mom told me to go speak to him.  When I went to him I could tell he had been crying.  He was so utterly disappointed in me.  My dad, whom I have only see cry at his own parents’ funerals, was crying because I had lied to him.  (Oh my gosh, I can’t even believe I am writing this–I am feeling those old feelings so strongly just by rehashing the story.)  I am thankful that my parents raised me this way, though, because it had made me so much more conscientious of other people’s feelings (and guess what, I didn’t pretend to spend the night at a friend’s anymore unless I really was going to be with that friend).  I have not done certain things because I was afraid of the guilt I would feel.  For instance, I have never cheated on a boyfriend or my husband.  I have never said anything behind anyone’s back that I wouldn’t say to their face.  I have never intentionally put anyone in an uncomfortable situation.  Other than a few passing moments in high school I have been a rule follower to the core–something that drives my husband nuts (ie-“But the sign says to exit to the right, Honey…”).

The big drawback to having an extremely guilty conscience is that I put myself through hell over minor issues.  Sometimes I even feel strange (I can only describe it as feeling like a bad person, like I did something wrong) for no reason.  Then, because I feel that way, I try to think about what it is that’s making me feel bad and I will actually dig so deep that I find something I can scrutinize enough to make me feel guilty.  I feel guilty about things that most people wouldn’t even think twice about–then, because I feel guilty, the only way to feel better is to “come clean” so I usually apologize or confess to someone and confuse them or make something out of nothing.

This has been the biggest battle that I have had to fight with myself in my life.  I am constantly trying to work through my feelings of guilt in order to function normally in society.  I still hate getting presents because if I don’t love the gift, but I do the polite thing and tell the gift-giver that I do love it (“really, really, I always wanted the K-Fed CD!”), I feel guilty for having deceived them.  But honestly, would the person rather I pretend to like their gift or tell them the truth and embarrass everyone involved?  My best birthday growing up was in 4th grade because I remembered that I actually loved every gift I got so I didn’t have to tell anyone a white lie.  It was the least stressed I ever was at a birthday party.  Do you see how ridiculous this is??  It’s a struggle also because it has manifested into anxiety in adulthood, but I also work on controlling that, mostly with biting my nails…

I just hope that other young girls don’t go through this.  It is really difficult and can hurt your self-esteem if you’re constantly judging yourself for past actions.  Feeling bad and guilty can translate directly into “I am a bad person” or “I’m not worthy of these people’s love”.  For me, it translated into being walked on by a lot of different people in my life, mostly boys.  I think that as women, we tend to be extra sensitive and empathetic, so perhaps we are more prone to guilty feelings.  Granted, guilt is good and it helps us act decently toward one another, but for me, there is a fine line between real guilt and created guilt.  I actually used to wish that I could care so little for others that I could easily dump a boyfriend or tell a “friend” what I really thought about her selfish actions.  But no, I was the one who would rather be dumped than anguish over hurting a boy’s feelings by breaking up with him.  Unfortunately for me, I have had a boyfriend or two that knew this about me and preyed on it.  Once I told my boyfriend that our relationship was fading and I thought we should break up.  He turned it around to make me feel like the relationship was failing because of me and that I was giving up on us.  He convinced me to stay in the relationship, otherwise he had implied that it would be my fault for giving up and hurting him.  Wouldn’t you know…he had been cheating on me!  Why he didn’t take the out when I gave him the chance will always boggle my mind….but that’s for another post to be titled “Men Who Need to Have the Upper-hand”.

If you are struggling with guilty feelings like me, here is what I try to do: I ask myself if the issue is something to really feel guilty about.  Did I hurt someone?  Is the damage irreparable?  If I haven’t hurt anyone, would apologizing or confessing the truth hurt the person more than them just not even realizing what I did?  Most times, the person I think I have offended isn’t even aware of the situation.  If I bring it to their attention I actually create a hostile environment (and then I am actually being selfish because by making myself feel better by relieving my own guilt, I have hurt another person emotionally–I feel better, but now they feel worse).  So try to analyze your guilty feelings in a different way–try to think about why you are feeling bad.  Is it really because of something you did or is it another reason?  Life is too short to go through it feeling guilty.

 

 

…I would encourage her to step outside of her comfort zone!

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I started to go through an old notebook this morning and came across a list I made of things I wanted to do that were outside of my comfort zone.  Since I moved to a new city (and country, for that matter) after marrying my husband, Rick, everything is a new experience.  Some I welcomed, and some I shied away from for too long.  I realized this summer that we were approaching our second anniversary, which made me look at what I had and hadn’t accomplished for myself in a new place in that time.  I made a goal to do one thing that was new, either with someone else or by myself, each week.  I hoped that it would help me learn more about my surroundings and meet new people.  I really haven’t made many friends outside of our family, and I was hoping that by doing new things I would meet new people.

Side note: Have you ever moved somewhere new and realized that trying to make friends as an adult is much like dating?  For example: I met someone at a bar, a friend of a friend, and we had such a great time talking and hanging out.  Then I found myself panicking: how do I ask her for her number?  What if she doesn’t want to hang out?  She probably has enough friends already, why would she want another?  Then, say I do ask for her number in my most care-free way and she gives it to me.  When is it appropriate to call?  Should I even call, or just send a text?  Do I ask her to hang out on our own, or must I invite the friend that introduced us?  Would she be more comfortable in a group setting?  I haven’t been in the dating scene for five years yet I feel all of the same anxieties that I used to feel!  (I am laughing as I write this because it all sounds so ridiculous, but it’s true!)  Making friends is hard!  I am an outgoing person, but I have become more introverted with each year and a little more shy.  I had plenty of friends growing up, but making friends when you’re a child seems so much simpler (mostly because our parents are the ones who really dictate plans with our new friends).  I also lived in the same place my whole life and had friends in college who were in my kindergarten class years before, so I really didn’t have to strive to meet new people in college.  I did have new college friends who were awesome, but I always had my really fun childhood friends, too, which was a safety blanket, I guess.  So, I haven’t made as many new friends as I was hoping by this point, but I am still working on it…but I digress.

So, when I found the list of goals I had made this summer, I read the list over and was pleasantly surprised that I had done five of the things on the list without really consciously thinking about them.  I went to a hot yoga class by myself (several now, in fact), I have explored downtown where I live (by myself and with others), I started a book club (we are on our second book), I attended a new church (several!), and I have explored Toronto more (after all, it’s only an hour train ride and big cities are so cool!).  The feeling of excitement and pride for having done some of the things that I was putting off because of fear or nerves still floods me as I re-read the list and see check-marks next to those five things.  I have to say, that with fall in full-force now (the leaves have almost all fallen to the ground, it has been raining for weeks, and I have switched from a light jacket to my down-jacket), it is nice to have something to brighten my day and make me feel good about myself.

There are still things on the list that I would like to do.  I think I will re-write them and add to it, and this time I will put the list where I can see it daily.  Or, maybe not.  Maybe I should tuck it away again so that when I find it in a few months I can check off lots of items.  Perhaps if it was in front of me everyday I would feel like it was daunting because I would see all of the things that are outside of my comfort zone; maybe I should pick one goal and display it until I do it then put up a new one.  I don’t know.  Whatever I decide, I just hope to keep doing new things and adding check marks to my list.  I do feel much more confident in my surroundings and I don’t feel lost for ideas anymore when friends and family come to visit.  I actually know a few things around town to do!  And, dare I say, I have made some new friends!  I even got two phone numbers last night :o)  Now, should I text or call…ha ha!

Yes it is scary acknowledging the things that make us uncomfortable (writing the list).  Yes, sometimes you have to be willing to try the things on your own and hope for the best (for me, a GPS was incredibly helpful!).  Take it from me, it is worth it.  The anxiety that I had to explore new places on my own, or step into a yoga class by myself and sit in (gasp!) the front row, seem so small now since I have actually done these things.

Sometimes we have to nudge ourselves off of the “cliff” to realize that we were only standing on a curb.  So make a list for yourself.  What is something you want to do, but fear or anxiety has been holding you back?  Simply putting that thing in writing is the first step toward doing it.  Life is short, so we should take advantage of the time we have by not letting nerves run our lives.  Step outside of your comfort zone and relish in all that new experiences have to offer you.  You might just have fun!

…I wouldn’t want her to deal with depression on her own.

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Did you know that, according to the A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia in 2011 (you can find the article at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002486/), adolescent girls are twice as likely to experience depression than adolescent boys?  This is one scary statistic.  So, why do young girls become depressed?

Depression is described as being sad, discouraged, and un-motivated.  It can also be a loss of self-worth and a lack of interest in things you used to enjoy.  There are many varied factors that can cause a young girl to be depressed.  The A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia says that depression can be caused by maturing and changing hormones or all different kinds of stress/disturbing events like physical or sexual abuse, bullying, learning disabilities, conflicts with your parents, failing in school, breaking up with your significant other or the death of someone close to you.  You are more likely to become depressed because of one of these events if you feel helpless or are too critical of yourself or if it runs in your family.  A lot of young people with depression also experience other mental health issues like anxiety, an eating disorder, ADHD, or Bi-Polar disorder.

It is extremely important to let someone in on what you’re feeling if you are experiencing depression.  It is ok to feel depressed and it is out of your control.  You don’t need to feel ashamed to tell a relative, teacher, doctor, friend’s parent, or friend that you trust.  Once you tell someone, you have started the process of healing.  You don’t have to face depression alone.  Remember that.  Also, I want you to know that it can get better.

There are several ways to treat true depression (by true depression, I mean the kind that consumes your life and you can’t simply will it away).  You can seek supportive care from your doctor, talk therapy (this is also something to be embraced and not feel ashamed of), or in some cases, you can be prescribed anti-depressant medications.

Depression, like any mental health disorder, does not make you “crazy”.  Many people experience a mental health disorder during the course of their life.  You are not alone and there is support out there for you.

A great resource is the National Institute of Mental Health website.  Here is the web address for their support page:

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/getting-help-locate-services/index.shtml

Thank you to the A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia found on the website for the U.S. National Library of Medicine for the facts about adolescent depression.