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March 9th, 2021
Everyone says follow your gut. Personally, I’ve done this plenty and distressingly often found myself in some less than ideal situations. So what’s the deal? Can you have an inaccurate gut feeling?
There is something a bit frou frou about gut feelings and how confident we are in them. It’s easy to have faith in a gut feeling because it lacks all specificity, like astrology. We can read pretty much whatever we want into a horoscope and they apply pretty much evenly to anyone who is willing to look for meaning. Is the same not true of gut feelings? Perhaps if you’re a person who has faith in both, you’re either done exploring this point, and perhaps also in dire need of exploring it further…
We gravitate to this idea that there is some kind of eternal order, some ‘higher plan’ that we get little glimpses of through things as squishy as horoscopes and gut feelings. It’s comforting to think that at the grandest level, something sort of has our back. This is also the same root for many conspiracy theories. Though they are negative, it’s perversely reassuring that humans would be capable of such difficult high-wire acts of cooperations in covert circumstances. Believing in a conspiracy theory is an odd way of saying “we can actually do that!”
All of these things, whether nonsense or not hinge upon our ever present need for some certainty. The urge is understandable. Uncertainty can often be a difficult, nervous entity to deal with. Certainty is the exact opposite, it is comforting and relaxing.
But, the detriment comes from being certain about something which is wrong. Then all the uncertainty and chaos heaps on all at once and the situation is even harder to deal with than a constant smaller stream of uncertainty.
So what would be the tempered, more rounded version of a gut feeling?
What exactly is the difference between a hunch and a gut feeling? At first glance they seem to be the same thing. They may come from the same place in terms of sensation, but they fork and venture off into importantly different directions.
Whereas one person might steam headfirst into a situation based on a gut feeling, another person tentatively explores based on a hunch.
Whereas a gut feeling can justify a certainty about one’s behavior, a hunch designs in a skepticism by injecting curiosity.
This is, most certainly the best way to deal with uncertainty and to explore the unknown productively: by tossing out stepping stones formed of curiosity, based, on a hunch.