I like to write about health and how to stay healthy by making smart decisions.
What is a gut feeling? A common definition of a gut feeling is “an instinct or intuition; an immediate or basic feeling or reaction without a logical rationale”. While that definition is a good basic summary of what a gut feeling is, it fails to explain what a gut feeling actually is and the origin of gut feelings. Since the concepts of instinct and intuition that are referenced to explain gut feelings are themselves mysterious and not well understood concepts, they leave open the possibility that gut feelings can also originate from other sources. The instinct connection to gut feelings is actually pretty weak or non-existent, as will be explained further. Is it possible that there is actually a lot more to gut feelings than just instinct and intuition?
What Is A Gut Feeling?
What A Gut Feeling Is Not
Just about every living human being has likely experienced what many refer to as a “gut feeling”; the stomach making its presence known to the brain, trying to tell the conscious mind something either negative or positive, sometimes with no clear rhyme or reason. While a stranger you come across on the street may seem very nice on the outside, your gut feeling tells you to cross the street and stay away. Or, you are not sure if you should take a job offer, but your gut feeling is telling you this job opportunity will lead to good things and career advancement.
Gut feelings cannot be explained away as simply being part of natural instincts that all animals seem to possess to some degree. The reason why is because instincts relay messages to the unconscious and conscious mind to avoid known dangers, whereas gut feelings relay messages to the unconscious and conscious mind to avoid unknown dangers that may not be clearly discernible.
For example, a lot of humans have been killed or seriously injured throughout human history as a result of falling from heights, so the human race has developed a natural instinct to be fearful of heights, such as the foreboding feeling people feel when approaching the edge of a cliff. That is not a gut feeling telling a person to be fearful of a cliff and steep drop-off. Rather, it is an instinct that has been learned from millions of years of human experience.
An example of a gut feeling is a sudden feeling that comes across someone walking in the woods that causes them to think they need to turn around or change course to avoid an unknown or indiscernible danger. Perhaps after turning around, they spot a bear far off in the distance that has emerged onto the trail or noticed a tree just fell on the trail in the location they would have been had they not listened to their gut feeling and turned around.
What A Gut Feeling Is
If gut feelings are not driven by instincts, then that leaves intuition, or something else, perhaps combined with intuition, to explain what gut feelings are. Intuition is defined as “the ability to acquire knowledge without inference and/or the use of reason”. That is a good explanation of the process of intuition, but it fails to explain what intuition actually is. Where is the intuitive knowledge coming from? Intuition is an unknown mysterious way of knowing things instantly, beyond our conscious mind’s ability to know and reason. It is a means of quickly attaining and processing knowledge and making decisions without thinking them through in a rational way.
Scientists have come up with an interesting explanation regarding what intuition is that sounds a lot like wisdom, as the scientific explanation implies that intuition will increase as age and experience increase. The basic theory is that as one grows older and retains knowledge, their brain starts to see patterns in the knowledge. On an unconscious level over time, the brain puts these patterns of knowledge into long term memory. Intuition then draws on these unconscious patterns of knowledge when confronted with a similar pattern, even if only partially similar, and then unconsciously alerts the conscious brain of this recognition using emotions, such as gut feelings, or in some cases intuitive thoughts. In this way, intuition imparts stored knowledge to the conscious mind via gut feelings or intuitive thoughts to assist humans with making instant decisions.
Many Follow Their Gut Feelings To Guide Them
An Alternative Explanation: Gut Feelings And The Spirit World
While the scientific explanation of how the mind uses gut feelings to convey stored intuitive memories from the unconscious mind to the conscious mind explains many circumstances in which humans use intuition to make quick decisions, it does not explain those uncanny gut feelings that do not appear to have their origins in stored knowledge. How can someone have stored knowledge that a stranger is dangerous or that a job offer will lead to a good outcome? They cannot, which means the gut feelings and resulting outcomes are either purely chance (you remember the ones that worked out) or some other force is affecting the subconscious mind, causing gut feelings, and ultimately guiding the conscious mind and human decision making.
For those that believe a spirit world exists in parallel with the physical world in which humans live, an alternative explanation for unexplainable gut feelings is that they come from guides in the spirit world, known as spirit guides, that guide humans to help them make the right choices or to produce better outcomes. Perhaps this theory is far-fetched, but many people have felt as though their gut feelings are coming from a spirit who is trying to guide them. This is certainly not a far-fetched concept to those that believe in the spirit world and have experienced unexplainable guidance in the form of gut feelings that helped them make crucial decisions and avoid dangers.
Gut Feelings And The Second Brain That Helps You Make Decisions
No matter where gut feelings actually come from, one way of looking at them is that they are driven by what is essentially a second brain that exists in the nervous system of the body which focuses its energy on the abdomen area of the human body, thus the “gut feeling”. Whether coming from stored knowledge in the subconscious mind or subconscious guidance from spirit guides, this second brain communicates directly with the conscious mind via gut feelings and intuitive thoughts to guide the conscious mind in its decision making.
What To Do Next Time You Have A Gut Feeling
Next time you get a gut feeling, pay close attention to it, as your subconscious mind, whether due to buried memories or spirit guides, is trying to tell you something about a situation that you face in the immediate future. If you believe in spirits, then perhaps it is a past relative or other beneficial spirit guide trying to relay a message to your conscious mind to alter your behavior or decisions. If you do not believe in spirits, pay attention to your gut feelings anyway, because they may be drawing on your wisdom learned over a lifetime and stored in your unconscious mind. A lot is still unknown about gut feelings, but many people can attest to their validity, and therefore it is wise to pay heed to them.
Feel free to share your thoughts regarding “What is a gut feeling?” in the comments section below.
Intuition Is Acting on Knowledge From Sources Outside of The Brain
Gut Feelings Poll
When and Why to Trust your Gut Feeling
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2013 John Coviello
John Coviello (author) from New Jersey on April 11, 2018:
Thanks Juliette. I will read up on what you found about the "Second Brain." Sounds odd, but it makes a lot of sense. We all get those gut feelings that don't seem to originate in our head.
Juliette Kando FI Chor from Andalusia, southern Spain on April 04, 2018:
There is actually scientific evidence today that there is a second brain in the heart. They call it "The Little Brain". It processes emotions, premonitions, in short what we call "gut feeling". I wrote an article about it, you can find it on my profile page, it's called "Second Brain Found in Heart Neurons - Trust your Gut Feelings".
As for ghosts and spirits? Who knows where imagination stops and merges with what Swiss psychiatrist Carl Yung called "global consciousness" or thinking outside yourself.
Thank you for writing about an interesting topic that we don't yet know enough about.
Lisa on August 09, 2016:
Always choose to ignore my gut feelings, but they prove me wrong each time. Great article.
Suzie from Carson City on July 06, 2015:
John....I would not disagree with anything you have shared here! In fact, I read some things in your hub that sounded much like my own hub about "Intuition.!"
I KNOW between instinct and intuition, we are provided with built in "Natural" safety nets.....We only need to HEED the warnings and alerts! Amen.....Thank you for this John....UP+++ tweeted & pinned... Peace, Paula
Stephanie Bradberry from New Jersey on July 06, 2015:
Excellent insights and overviews of gut feelings and intuition!
John Coviello (author) from New Jersey on January 08, 2015:
Thanks everyone for reading my hub about gut feelings and intuition. Yes, the belief in gut feelings and intuition has its roots in ancient societies. I find it fascinating at times when my gut feelings are correct. You might as well use everything you can to make decisions, which means taking gut feelings seriously and utilizing intuition when it presents itself.
Jane Ramona Rynkiewicz Frieman from Morris County, New Jersey on September 10, 2014:
If my memory serves me well, I may recall that the ancient Chinese were well aware of the energy in the "gut" and used this force in meditation, etc. The wisdom of the ages cannot be taught by convention education, it must be cultivated by deep spiritual belief and practice.
Shell Vera from Connecticut, USA on May 25, 2013:
Interesting hub. I believe gut instincts are the spirit's way of speaking to the body. I am one who typically trusts my gut...and the few times I haven't, have been bitten in the toosh!
mrmathew1963 from Australia on April 18, 2013:
Good stuff here my friend........When we psychologically get our gut in a twist over our everyday dramas our intuitive gut feelings just hasn't got a chance for the average person because they are caught up in the moment of their dramas. Once we start to break down these dramas through various means like meditation we open up room in our gut for our intuition to take part once again in our lives. We lost our animal instinctiveness long ago in mainstream society & we really need to regain it.
Lisa Kroulik from North Dakota on April 16, 2013:
"relay messages to the unconscious and conscious mind to avoid unknown dangers that may not be clearly discernible." This is what happened during my second meeting with my (now) ex-husband. He did not appear dangerous in any way and I could explain away his weirdness as just being artistic. I had no idea what narcissism was at the time, but I think my unconscious mind was trying to tell me that he wasn't safe for me emotionally.