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Shame is an uncomfortable emotion that we often avoid feeling. Feeling shame does not mean you are a bad person, it means you are human. The discomfort and fear of feeling shame can activate certain behaviors. Shame can look like:

  • Wanting to hide/hiding
  • Rigidly believe that we are ‘good’ or bad’
  • Being attracted to folks who are emotionally unavailable 
  • Avoiding certain tasks, people and situations 
  • Not asking for what you want or need
  • Not speaking up and/or ruminating about things you would have said
  • Doing what you think other people want you to do 
  • “Go with the flow” even though you have preferences 
  • Reacting in anger
  • Negative self-talk and self-blame
  • Blaming ourselves when things don’t work out

Because humans are hard-wired with shame, we can’t necessarily ‘get rid of it’ and we can learn to recognize and manage it when it gets in the way of us living the life we want to live.

My story of shame starts with an anxious and fearful parent who did their very best to ensure that I was set up for their definition of success. This looked like controlling my normal, developmentally appropriate, child-like behaviors with, you guessed it, shame. Since childhood, I spent much of my life fighting against all the “shoulds” and expectations of others. I would try on the expectations of others, what other people wanted from me and it was like a vice squeezing me but I didn’t break (or maybe I did).  It seemed to me that everyone got the manual on how and who to be and I was the only one who didn’t “get it.” I thought that no one would love me unless I fit into this box that everyone else seemingly fit into.

I could go on about my shame story but I can’t change the past. Let’s skip to the present, the process of ReLearning.

Over time and lots of therapy, I have come to understand that my thoughts and behaviors kept me little, unseen and safe. I learned that I cannot control others’ thoughts, actions, or their feeling towards me. I can, however, become aware of how these pieces impact me, how these old wounds may become raw again when pressed and how I can best help myself when I feel anxious, angry, scared, and human. Getting to know your personal story of shame and how it is impacting your life and relationships is one of the most powerful tools learned in therapy. Shame is a powerhouse emotion. The humans at ReLearning Human are experts in shame and shame management. If you want to work on how you show up as a human when you feel shame, we are here to support. Kavita and I created ReLearning Human to provide a space for you to explore your own human experience, whatever that looks like for you.

– Annie, Co-Founder of ReLearning Human

ReLearning Shame

The Exposed Therapist

Feel it through. Harnessing, trusting and using your intuition to create the life you want.

Intuition:  a natural ability or power that makes it possible to know something without any proof or evidence: a feeling that guides a person to act a certain way without fully understanding why- Britannica Dictionary 

We understand this from a cognitive perspective however there are very few of us who practice following our intuition. Other terms you may be familiar with, “sixth sense, gut feeling or neuroception” coined by Dr. Stephen Porges. Most of us humans are conditioned to use our intellect and cognitive thought processes rather than tapping into our intuition. 

The past few years, I have had many clients speak openly and courageously about their “gut feelings”, their “Spidey senses” and how, if they just paid more attention, listened and trusted they would have made better decisions for themselves. My response is often the same, “You needed your rational brain to protect yourself from whatever fear you thought the outcome would be, the outcome that you most likely would not be able to manage at that time. You need time to experience, to grow your courage, strength and to trust your person to get to this place. Now when you feel that gut feeling, you may be ready to listen to it. Ready to do the thing that you did not want to do because you will have to feel what you do not want to feel”. Followed by, “feel it through”.  Most often this is responded with a scoff, or a look of disbelief and maybe even some nervous laughter.  

We all want the answers, right?! The calculated decisions with the guarantee that the decision is the “right” decision the “right” outcome and…it needs to make sense. And the truth is we can’t make sense of our intuition. What I also share with my clients full heartedly believing and knowing this, “you know yourself best, follow your intuition, it is the one thing that never lets you down”.

All of us have experienced that feeling, the feeling in the pit of our stomach telling us what we need to do, sometimes yelling at us. Our deeper knowing that we cannot make sense of but follow it anyway, well not all the time. So why is following our intuition worth a try? How can we learn to tune into our deeper gut instincts? How can we train ourselves to develop these senses further and how can we use our intuition to grow and expand every aspect of our life? 

Why is following our intuition so important?

This gut feeling has helped us survive since our primitive years and has nothing to do with how smart we are or our level of education. Some may refer to it as the process of quickly deducting information built on experiences, connections, patterns however intuition is not a cognitive experience. It is an emotional, intuitive experience. These hunches give us clarity and help us make the best decisions for our lives. The challenge is not allowing outside pressures or influences to intercept this guidance. When we don’t follow our intuition more problems are likely to arise in the future, again not so easy to do as we are often preoccupied with what others think about our life decisions, listening to what others say we “should do” or how stupid would we look if we made decisions following our gut or heart and not our head.  

How can you tune into your intuition?

It’s always been there. It can take some time to tap into if you haven’t become familiar with it yet or if you have chosen to ignore it and now decided otherwise. As humans, we are influenced and highly impressionable by our external environment (social media, structure of educational systems, news, etc.) and slightly closer to us, our caregivers, family, culture, religion, faith, etc., all of which create our view of the world and how we learn to view ourselves. We learn from a very early age to listen to elders, authority figures, follow or be forced to submit to a system, a certain kind of “order”. 

Along the way we often lose or second guess our internal cues (intuition being one of them) and fall victim to the noise around us.  When we ask ourselves if this makes sense, what is rational or logical about this we often forget to ask ourselves, what am I feeling? What values do I hold, what feels right for me? If things don’t align or make sense but that “feeling” is strong, go with that feeling. It is ok to stop and listen to what you are feeling. Sounds strange right? to listen to what you are feeling. Paying attention to our body and our feelings is the first step to tuning into our intuition.  When you are ready to develop your intuitive muscle, be patient and kind to yourself and as I share with clients, always at your own pace. 

Some ways to develop and nurture your intuition: 

  1. Silencing the noise: allow yourself the opportunity to find a quiet place where you can relax, practice mediation, deep breathing and/or sit in silence for a few minutes (this may feel uncomfortable. Do it anyway). This will help calm your mind and help you to hear your intuition. What does it tell you? 
  1. Feel your feels. Pay attention: Our intuition speaks to us through feelings, gut instinct and/or sensations. What are your feelings in certain situations? when you need to make a decision and when you are around people? Being curious and observing how you feel will help you become more in tune with your intuition.
  1. Trust yourself: I often share with clients that they know themselves best. There is an inner wisdom that we all possess and to never dismiss these instincts. They are not coincidental or irrational.  Just because we cannot rationalise everything, make sense of everything we feel, does not mean we shouldn’t trust it. 
  1. Practice of presence: Mindfulness exercises and the practice of presence can truly support your intuitive development. Being present is difficult to practice as we know. Our minds are often busied with thoughts about the past or worries about the future (our oldest friend as we know as anxiety). Mindfulness can sharpen our awareness and sensitivity to subtle cues of our intuition that are often quieted.
  1. Body awareness: What is your body telling you? Intuition shows up through bodily sensations. Pay attention to when your body is feeling relaxed, tense or uncomfortable in areas such as your stomach or chest. These cues can guide you towards the right decision or what course of action you need to take.
  1. Write down your experiences: keeping an intuition journal can help remind you of your inner wisdom and knowing when you can’t necessarily make sense of them. Tracking your intuitive patterns can help you gain a deeper understanding of how your intuition works. (it reassures me that I haven’t entirely lost all my marbles!)
  1. Neuroplasticity (intuitive exercises to change our brain): We have the opportunity as human beings to change and strengthen our brain’s neurotransmitters and neural pathways. We can do this through engaging in new activities, stimulating our brain through creative expression, guided visualizations, being curious and nurturing a growth mindset. This can help build confidence and in turn, tuning in to our inner guide.
  1.  Don’t be afraid to be on your own for a while:  We are not built to be alone and feel comfortable or safe on our own as human beings. However sometimes it is important to seek solitude to access your inner self without external distractions and influences. Doing this will strengthen your connection to self and to your intuition.
  1. Take action (the risky part): Follow your intuition. When you receive intuitive insights let them guide you even when it feels awkward and uncomfortable. It doesn’t always make logical sense and that’s ok.
  1.  Learn and Celebrate:  Reflect on your process when you allow your intuitive insights to guide you. What has been the outcome? How do you feel? Reflective practice helps to consolidate our experiences and provides a positive feedback loop. This not only strengthens our intuition but also our confidence to continue to follow it. And as I share with clients…CELEBRATE this experience.

Trusting your intuition: 

Your intuition doesn’t tell you what to do nor is it foolproof, however it can guide you to new opportunities that you may have never thought to consider. Sifting through genuine intuition and impulsive emotions (i.e. having an intense urge to connect with an ex-partner!) is important to learn and requires patience, self compassion, and self awareness.  

Our experiences are often muddled with our fears, judgments, wishes and we are receiving massive amounts of information, so we need to take time to sort them out. Our gut feelings feel the most intense when aligned with our core values, with these experiences it is important to balance between instincts and reason. Seeking inner guidance through your own Q&A session is often helpful. Asking yourself questions such as, “What is this hunch about for me (in my body and my mind)?” “What may I be missing?”, “can I connect with someone who has had similar experiences and ask for their observations?”. 

Trusting and following our intuition is accompanied with a tremendous sense of responsibility and accountability in our own lives. To reap the benefits or to suffer the consequences of these actions can feel unsettling especially when it is not backed up by a pros and cons list and infallible outcomes based on factual reasoning and logic. Well, this is how we convince ourselves right?  I often describe this as a disillusionment of control.  This also plays a factor as to why we don’t do the thing we innately know to do. Maybe it’s just too much of a risk when we don’t have the guarantees? This makes logical sense, and it is terrifying. 

We rely greatly on logic and reason as a society often dismissing our innate wisdom as human beings. It is essential however to trust ourselves in making decisions for our own lives and require a tremendous amount of courage. To make life decisions based on a hunch, not comparing to others, not listening to others, not being influenced by external factors might be considered as outrageous or maybe the most courageous way to live one’s life. Most successful people often speak of following their intuitive instincts and taking chances and risks and often dancing away to their own tune.

Are you reading to become your own intuitive expert? If you are ready, first know that you have access to it and can hone and nurture your intuition. Next, practice the guidance that resonates the most to you at your own pace. Pause, breathe & remember, your intuition is the one thing that never lets you down.

Authored: Kavita Patel co-founder of Relearning Human.

For support, connect with our Relearning Human therapists.

Your Intuition: Trusting Your Gut When Thinking Isn’t Enough

The Self