A Reminder: Listen to Your Intuition

by Tracey Emin

The only real valuable thing is intuition.
The only real valuable thing is intuition.
The only real valuable thing is intuition.

— Albert Einstein.*

This week a confused young woman’s letter asking for clarity about her relationship went viral. At least it was shared and discussed by many of the people I follow, on more than one social media platform. It was shared so much I got sick of seeing it.

But, I was also grateful it was shared often. Every time I read a new shocked response, my reaction intensified and forced me to write this.

I’m going to sum it up: a 23-year-old woman wrote a letter asking for help from Ask Metafilter users. She wondered if she was crazy or was her long-distance boyfriend married. She found very realistic pictures of him and his ex at what looked like his wedding. You can read the whole story here.

I didn’t read very closely after these few details. I skimmed the rest. I read the comments. I read the tweets that linked to the story and the responses to it. I read a couple of takes on this woman’s story at Jezebel and Raw Story.

Surprisingly, no one had the reaction I had.

There are three topics I’ve written about more than once and will probably revisit. One is on feeling and letting yourself feel everything. The other is on loneliness and the necessity of learning to do solitude well. Those two topics are linked to the third topic I’ve written about twice and I need to write about again: intuition.

Not one comment (that I read; there are a lot) mentioned her broken down, IMG_0110seemingly non-existent intuition. That’s all I thought about after reading two lines of her story. “Is my boyfriend married?” Listen your intuition. What would strangers know?

It can help to ask uninvested outsiders for perspective. I’m not blaming her for possibly falling prey to a lying, cheating, sicko, fucked up asshole. But..

All of us, especially women, already know the answers to questions like the one she posted. The answer is “listen your intuition.”

Most people were kind and direct and confirmed that her boyfriend is trash, she’s not crazy and he’s married. The writer at Jezebel, Ellie Shechet, suggested that this woman’s desire to be “chill” is the reason she is so confused. Amanda Marcotte at Raw Story agreed and also blamed the boyfriend for “gaslighting” her, which is “a form of mental abuse in which information is twisted or spun, selectively omitted to favor the abuser, or false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity.” Marcotte ended her piece with “These are extreme examples, but a good learning tool to see what the pattern (of gaslighting) looks like.” That’s her takeaway?

When I read this woman’s story, I thought “she knows what’s happening”. Yeah, it’s possibly the “chill” phenomenon and being gaslighted contributed to her confusion, but these things are only problems when you aren’t listening to yourself.

Her story is a cautionary tale, but not about psychopathic boyfriends. It’s not about him or men or anyone else but her. It’s about me and every woman reading it. It’s about being so estranged from feeling, so afraid to be alone, that you shut down the one thing that cares about you, protects you, loves you.

The following excerpt is long, but so perfectly makes my point about women and intuition and how necessary it is. It’s from an article in Psychology Today by Sandra Brown that breaks down what happens when you don’t listen to your intuition. Instead of “violence”, substitute the words “danger” or “abuse” or “some ill-advised choice”.

“We get a signal prior to violence,” Gavin (De Becker, author of The Gift of Fear) says. “There are preincident indicators. Things that happen before violence occurs.” Gavin says that unlike any other living creature, humans will sense danger, yet still walk right into it.

“You’re in a hallway waiting for an elevator late at night. The elevator door opens, and there’s a guy inside, and he makes you afraid. You don’t know why, you don’t know what it is. And many women will stand there and look at that guy and say, ‘Oh, I don’t want to think like that. I don’t want to be the kind of person who lets the door close in his face. I’ve got to be nice. I don’t want him to think I’m not nice.’

And so human beings will get into a steel soundproof chamber with someone they’re afraid of, and there’s not another animal in nature that would even consider it.”

Gavin says that “eerie feelings” are exactly what he wants women to IMG_0111pay attention to. “We’re trying to analyze the warning signs,” he says. “And what I really want to teach today and forever is the feeling of the warning sign. All the other stuff is our explanation for the feeling. Why it was this, why it was that. The feeling itself IS the warning sign.”

What happens over and over again is that women dismantle their OWN internal safety system by ignoring it. The longer she ignores it, the more ‘over rides’ it receives and retrains the brain to ignore the fear signal. Once rewired women are at tremendous risks of all kinds…risks of picking the wrong men, of squelching fear signals of impending violence, shutting off alarms about potential sexual assaults, shutting down red flags about financial rip offs, squeeking out hints about poor character in other people…and the list goes on. What is left after your whole entire safety system is dismantled? Not much….

Women, subconsciously sensing they need to have ‘something’ to fall back on, swap out true and profoundly accurate fear signals with the miserly counterfeit and highly unproductive feeling of worry/anxiety.


Then they end up in counseling for their 4th dangerous relationship and wonder if they have a target sign on their forehead. No they don’t. They have learned to dismantle, rename, minimize, justify, or deny the fear signals they get or got in the relationship. As if their ability to ‘take it’ or ‘not be afraid’ of very dangerous behavior is some sort of win for them. As if their ability to look danger in the face and STAY means they are as tough or competitive as he is…

Then later, or another day or week passes and she has mounting anxiety–over what she wonders? She has a chronic low-grade worry, whisps of anxiety that waife thru her life. She can’t put 2+2 together to figure out that ignoring true fear will demand to be recognized by her subconscious in some way—an illegitimate way through worry and anxiety that does nothing to save her from real danger. Her real ally (her true fear) has been squelched and banished.

When coming to us for counseling she wants us to help her ‘feel safe again’ when actually, we can’t do any of that. It’s all in her internal system as it’s always been. Her safety is inside her and her future healing is too.

She will sit in the counselor’s office denying true fear and begging for relief from the mounting anxiety she is experiencing. She doesn’t trust herself, her intuition, her judgments–all she can feel is anxiety. And with good reason! True fear is her true intuition…not anxiety. But she’s already canned what can save her and now on some level she must know she has nothing left that can help her feel and react.

The best line in the article is “You don’t see animals ‘stuck’ in abusive mating environments.” Hmmm…

Our culture perpetuates this myth that women are clueless, powerless victims of charming, evil masterminds (See Dexter or The Fall on Netflix). Or it encourages us to be emotionless, unaffected, living-in-our-heads robots like it gives you power to be dead on the inside.

Facts: There are psychopaths. There are narcissistic, abusive boyfriends. Women don’t have to be victims of either. 

I will always believe our intuition is the ANSWER and the closest thing to the truth we can have. The point isn’t to always be right or for it to always be reliable. The point is to listen to it. It’s where our power lies.

I thank this confused woman for the reminder. I hope she, all of us, stop overriding who we are.

And I thank you for reading this very long post.


*Repetition mine.


2 thoughts on “A Reminder: Listen to Your Intuition

  1. I love this post. And I’ve just finished reading Gavin de Becker’s book The Gift of Fear. It is a great book and a wonderful tutorial on intuition. Also, I was very impressed with Gavin deB’s amazing rise from his grim childhood and youth. He is a wise and remarkable person. My intuition has saved me from extreme danger and a couple of occasions. Intuition is certainly a valuable gift, and we should always listen to that special gut feeling or “voice, so to speak.


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