Learning to Trust One’s Intuition

People aren’t always encouraged to think about how they truly feel or what they genuinely believe. Society programs people to please others and to accept their thoughts as the appropriate way to handle things.  Most of the clients I have worked with seek their own voices. I define one’s voice as one’s authentic way. People are often discouraged from having unique beliefs or ways of being in the world. People are taught the “appropriate” way to behave, the “logical” way to think and the “rational” way to feel.  

I often exemplify this by pointing out how people handle ordering in a restaurant. We rarely ask ourselves what we really crave or want to eat. Instead, we ask others what they are ordering, consider healthy (based on current values) or contemplate what else we ate that day and try to balance things out. Sometimes people allow price to affect that choice.  

In her book Becoming, Michelle Obama talked about her academic training and perceptions of what she intended to achieve in her life. After graduating from Harvard Law School, she went to work for a large law firm in Chicago. After a few years there, she suddenly realized that she genuinely did not want to be an attorney. This discovery was life changing for her because it propelled her to begin exploring her true values and wants. Many never do this.  

I saw a client a few years ago who I believed had been misdiagnosed and was, consequently, on the wrong medication. I asked a psychiatrist I knew to meet with this person to get another opinion. I trusted my own judgement to seek another evaluation. The psychiatrist agreed, changed the medication, and my client’s life moved forward in a very healthy, exciting and liberating way.  

Another client had worked for years with troubled children. She decided to pursue another degree to enable her to advance in the field. One day, alone and reflecting, she decided that the work she did on the side appealed to her a lot more. It took her away from children, but it felt very fulfilling and meaningful. She turned down her acceptance to school and excitedly pursued her passion instead. It had never occurred to her before to look within before deciding on her own life course.  

I recently selected an attorney based on my gut-level feelings about him, not his training or experience. I did not ask about either one. I liked him and respected him. And he had a great sense of humor. I decided that mattered more. Thus far, I am very pleased with his work. I will let you know if my intuition was wrong.  

 

Dr. Natalie Gelman is an Alameda-based therapist. Submit questions to drnataliegelman@gmail.com or through her website, www.drnataliegelman.com.