This is something I have learned through bitter and physically excruciating experience. Too often, we over-ride that gut-instinct – and listen instead to those who are adamant that we are over-reacting, imagining things or attention seeking.
But our bodies cannot lie the way our tongues can. Our bodies cannot hide the immediate response the way our minds can. And our guts are especially ‘perceptive’ when it comes to wrongness, whether it be within a person or relating to the atmosphere surrounding a place or situation.
Nausea. Urgent need to go to the loo. Intense tummy pain. Or, in my case, severe epigastric pain., Any or all of which comes on suddenly and with little or no warning – until, that is, you look back at what you have been trying to deny for hours, sometimes days, weeks, months or even years.
I am not going to delve into the specifics on this occasion because I am still working through them. But six or seven times, since early last October, I have had very very negative vibes (which I have tried to rationalise into something far more benign) and, soon afterwards, have been felled by this epigastric nightmare: My gut fighting my attempt to ignore its warning message; its clear and urgent siren; its, ‘For Fuck’s sake, LISTEN!’
Trouble is, feelings can be so nebulous, can’t they? We get these vague intimations of something not being quite right; we feel uneasy for no reason we can discern; we hesitate before reading an email or answering the phone or opening the door, suspecting, often rightly, that something unpleasant or unhelpful or draining is waiting for us to invite it in one way or another.
And then we undo all the good our inner warning system could provide by over-riding its system with logic and psycho-therapeutic jargon and this absurd notion that failing to face up to everything counts as cowardice!
On all the occasions mentioned above, and despite sensing something was amiss, I opened the metaphorical door and let the Lords of Chaos in.
We are so easily influenced by the ancient promptings of guilt. We feel we have to be fair, decent, kind, welcoming, cheerful, hospitable. We are told that we must take nothing personally. We are advised to turn the other cheek. We are trained to see insults, acts of cruelty and aggressive stances as US getting the wrong end of the stick.
But why is it a sign of neurosis, or weakness, or over-reaction to strive to protect ourselves from harm? Why are our attempts at protecting ourselves from psychic attack given such bad press nine times out of ten? Why are we seen as weird or antisocial because we take pains to preserve a hard-fought-for sanctuary from malevolent invasive forces?
Why are we so often told, in the face of all the evidence, ‘No! I wasn’t attacking you! You just chose to see it that way!’
I mean, it is such condescending bollocks, isn’t it? We would not dream of saying to someone with, say, cancer, ‘No! You haven’t got cancer! You are just choosing to live your body that way!’ And yet instincts – seen in some quarters as fey, alternative, hippy-type-stuff – are sneered at so regularly that many of us hide them through shame, and then learn to our cost how incredibly helpful they ARE when an ignored gut allows a nasty through.
We do ourselves a lot of harm by this whole, ‘Oh, I probably misinterpreted that!’ faux-kindness and tolerance.
Because nine times out of ten, we interpreted it with devastating accuracy – and our throttling back on that instinctive understanding gives the other person the green light to do or say more of the same at a later date.
If another says or does something unkind and hostile to us, and we do not react with anger or disbelief, we have, tacitly, just signed our names at the bottom of the ‘Abuse me…’ form. If we do not lay down boundaries of behaviour we are willing to accept, no one else will do it for us.
Too often, we are unable to make ourselves say, ‘That was bang out of order…’ or, ‘This is not for me..’ or words to that effect, because we are afraid: Afraid of being seen as Politically Incorrect, or paranoid, or in need of Anger Management or lazy or making excuses or mad.
Did I, on any of those gut-wailing occasions, put my foot down with a firm hand?
No. I am ashamed to admit that I did not – and still have not. The Ghost of ‘Are You Sure You’re Not Imagining It?’and his twin brother, ‘Are You Sure You’re Not Being Over-Sensitive/Hormonal?’ occupy the thrones at every ‘feast’ in my life – and their presence makes it hard for me to respond even to direct insult, inappropriate choices and calculated verbal assault.
Listen to your gut! Do not let the platitudes of a religion you no longer subscribe to, or the sibilant whispering of the expert Mind-Gamers, or the smooth words of those who think they know better detract you from what your body is trying so hard to tell you.
The body remembers. Hearken to its tale…