Last night I had a glass of Pinot Grigio with my friend “Gwen.” Gwen is seven months into her separation and divorce proceedings, and I have watched her progress like a cheerleader on the sidelines of her life. Gwen and I hadn’t seen each other in more than a month, and during that time, she had gracefully segued from casual match.com dating to now being in her first post-marriage exclusive relationship.
Shortly after she and her guy had the “we’re not seeing anyone else right now” conversation, he left on a weekend trip away. And promptly fell into radio silence. Nothing but crickets and tumbleweeds. Over the weekend, Gwen was left to wonder what had happened. Had he gotten cold feet? Had she made herself too available? Was he playing some annoying power game? Did he not really like her as much as she’d thought? Had she been completely mistaken about the nature of their relationship??
It was the last question that nagged at her the hardest that weekend. Gwen is a sensitive, intuitive woman with great people skills on which she has relied successfully both personally and professionally. But as Friday turned into Saturday and Saturday gave way to Sunday, and still her guy was MIA, she began to question her gut instincts about the relationship, and, subsequently, about herself. As it turned out, Gwen needn’t have worried — her guy finally responded late on Sunday to let her know that he’d unexpectedly been without wifi for the duration of the trip, that he was sorry, and would she like to meet up that evening? Gwen reported feeling equal amounts of relief that he was still interested and that she hadn’t been so wrong about their budding relationship.
That nagging sense that perhaps your intuition has led you astray and so can no longer be trusted is frightening on a very primal level. As we move from relationship to relationship and period to period in our life, the only consistent guide we really have is our own intuition. Knowledge alone doesn’t do it, and other people can’t really do it for us. We hold it inside and it keeps us safe. To fear that you can’t trust it — and therefore not trust yourself — that is truly scary. But when it’s validated, you feel empowered and less risk-averse. You have a faith in yourself that no amount of compliments or external props can supply.
I find it interesting that this is true even when what is validated is something hurtful. I have moved through this space recently with James as he has told me about his various feelings and actions during our on-again/off-again relationship. Time and time again, I have had “aha! I knew it!” moments that felt devastating in their truth, but enormously validating, too. Feeling that you are perhaps a jealous, crazy, ridiculous girl is obviously undermining to one’s self-confidence; indeed, in my experience, it is more damaging than finding out that he did, in fact, do and feel the things I had suspected. The relief of the validation and the return of my faith in myself far outweighed whatever pain I had from the revelations. Because those revealed truths are all in the past; my faith in myself and my ability to read a person and situation are vital to my present and my future.
James has also been facing this personal rollercoaster of pain vs. validation. Having been recently maliciously betrayed by a friend he loved like a brother, he is somewhat comforted by the fact that, upon first meeting that man, he knew something was “off.” And throughout their friendship and business partnership, he could feel in his gut that something was wrong in his life, some imbalance or deception or manipulation was occurring around him, even if he couldn’t actually identify the source. He could feel that a nasty, horrible shoe was about to drop; he just had no idea where or when. When it finally did, he was crushed and heartsore, but remarkably unsurprised. Because, of course, deep down, he had known…
We all ignore our intuition sometimes. We choose to believe what we want to believe or what someone else would like us to believe. But lurking just under the surface, sometimes even deeply in our sub-conscious, is the truth of what we know but cannot explain or defend. And when we ignore that truth, we do so at our peril.
Gwen’s validation of her intuition came in the form of all good news — she and her guy are solid and happy right now — her fears that she’d misread the situation were unfounded. In my case, the validation was a mixture — news that was hard to hear, but a relief at the same time — and from that validation, I can move forward more confidently now. For James, the validation presently feels like meager consolation for what was lost. But I suspect that, as time heals his emotional wounds, he will be increasingly comforted by the fact that he had, in fact, known what was happening, and next time he will not ignore that nagging warning in his gut.
Intuition is a tricky thing, but a rich blessing, too. It isn’t about intelligence or education or wealth. It doesn’t discriminate by age or sex or race. It is there all the time, quietly watching, interpreting, and protecting us from all that might harm us. All we have to do is be quiet and listen.