We have been covering Brene Brown’s guideposts for wholehearted living, and this week brings us half way to the fifth guidepost. In setting the premise for this series, we had discussed the development of secure attachments in our relationships, and how learning to live a wholehearted life can lead us towards security, connection, and intimacy. This week we are focusing on guidepost five “Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith: Letting go of the Need for Certainty.”
The fifth guidepost to wholehearted living helps us live out of a place of faith and intuition rather than certainty. It never ceases to amaze me how uncomfortable we humans are with uncertainty. The idea of having to wait to hear if we have been accepted into school, got the promotion at work, or are going to meet a suitable partner makes our skin crawl and leaves us feeling as though we have no control over our lives. One of the components for wholehearted living that emerges out of Dr. Brown’s research is the ability to let go of the need for certainty, and trust in our own intuition and faith. This is a skill that was present in all of those labeled as wholehearted.
I would like to first define what it means to have intuition and faith, because I think that those words often get thrown around in unhealthy ways. First of all, Dr. Brown defines that “intuition is not a single way of knowing—it’s our ability to hold space for uncertainty, and our willingness to trust the many ways we’ve developed knowledge and insight, including instinct, experience, faith, and reason” (Brown, 2010, p 88). I absolutely love this definition! It is our ability to hold space for uncertainty and the way that we apply all of the insight that we have gathered throughout our lives in order to make well thought out calculated decisions. It is similar to another psychological skill called “wise mind” where you use both your rational/logical brain and your emotional brain to make a well-rounded decision.
Here is where intuition can become unhealthy; when we start to use is as emotional reasoning. Emotion reasoning is when we use our emotions to makes decisions or draw conclusions, such as “I feel something is wrong and therefore it must be true”. Emotional reasoning is often based off fear and “gut feeling”. While gut feeling has a role to play in intuition it is not the only factor, the gut feeling should be paired with reason, experience…etc, to come to a well-rounded decision or conclusion. Emotional reasoning is going off a gut feeling that has no foundation or basis. Another example is when we just “feel” like something bad is going to happen. The reality is we often expect bad things to happen due to fear and anxiety, not because of our intuition. In these situations, if we listen to our fear as though it is intuition, it can misguide us and keep us from experiencing many amazing opportunities in life. Intuition is extremely important: having a sense and “knowing” what you want out of life is invaluable when paired with critical thinking, reason and experience.
Dr. Brown defines faith as “a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty” (p 89). Faith is an absolutely essential part of living a wholehearted life and isn’t just for zealous spirituals who people perceive as lacking reason and/or logic. Not everything in our lives can be subject to certainty and often there are things that are beyond our control and foresight. Intuition and faith are the tools that can help us to cope and navigate our way through uncertain times in our lives. Not every choice or decision we make has an easy formula and will give us concrete direction or answer. Many times we make decisions based on what we feel is right and what we are passionate about. Listening to and making room for this inner voice, and letting go of our need for certainty will help us to navigate uncertain times with less fear and more confidence, trusting in ourselves and our ability.
Here are a few ways that we can cultivate our faith and intuition and let go of the need for certainty.
Listen to and cultivate your inner intuitive voice.
Dr. Brown explains that the need for certainty actually quiets our intuitive voice. In my experience working with people, many come in looking for a particular answer or direction for something in their life. It is amazing how when we start to just be still and talk about their passions and desires, their inner voice and intuition starts to bring about answers and direction. I honestly believe that as a therapist I am paid to help clear out the fear and anxiety so that those that I work with can be reconnected to their inner voice and intuition. For some reason along the way, we lose touch with ourselves and take up fear and the need for certainty instead of trusting in our inner voice.
Do not mistake fear for intuition.
This comes back to the emotional reasoning that was mentioned earlier. Just because you fear and expect that something bad to happen does not mean that it is true. If you are unsure whether your feeling is intuition or fear, ask yourself questions like, has this happened before? Has this ever been my experience or the experience of others around me? What is the likelihood or percentage that this will actually occur? If you challenge yourself and realize that your gut feeling is actually unfounded, then chances are you are operating out of fear rather than intuition. When you challenge your intuition in this way, it can stand up to the test because it is founded in your experience, instinct and reason.
Discern whether you have control in the situation or whether you need to operate out of faith.
We spend so much time spinning our wheels trying to gain certainty over situations that we cannot control. One of the most relieving favours we can do for ourselves is to determine what is actually in or outside our control. If we don’t have control, than we need to learn how to let go of it and have faith. Some use coping statements such as “let go and let God.” Some pray and trust that a higher power has it all worked out, and others envision a metaphorical letting go of the worries of fears that are outside of their control. Either way, we need to make the distinction between the things that we have control over and the things we don’t.
A tried and true way to address our on going battle with certainty is the serenity prayer which says, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” I would love for you to comment and share how have you learned to develop your faith and intuition and let go of the need for certainty. Come back and join me next week when we will discuss “Cultivating Creativity: Letting Go of Comparison.”
Brown, B. (2010). The Gifts of Imperfection: Letting Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to be and Embrace Who You Are. Centre City: MN, Hazelden