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Should You Trust Your Gut Feeling?

Recently I found myself teaching a group of “tappers” about how and when to use their intuition with this work. This has been a very interesting exploration and is a bit more complicated than it may seem and can be fraught with challenges.

My first response to when an EFT practitioner asks me about how and when to use their “intuitive hits” with regards to working with a client is to remind them that the best information, insights and connections ALWAYS comes directly from the client, NOT the practitioner (of course when tapping on oneself, this dynamic is obvious because its only you doing the tapping). Empowering the client to make their own insights is a far more empowering strategy then making the connections for them.

So, what should someone do when they are tapping with another person and they have an intuitive hit that they think would be valuable for the “tappee”? It is our recommendation to never say something like… ”This current situation that you feel so angry about, isn’t that just like the way you felt towards your parent” or some equally direct statement. Try to always use open-ended questions that allow for the other to make their own connections. It’s better to offer “Are there any other times in your life that may have felt similarly to this current situation?” This way all the tapping material comes directly from the tapping recipient.

Then there is the question of accuracy regarding our sense of intuition.

The term intuition can be defined as the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning. Alternate terms used include a hunch, gut instinct, a gut feeling about something or feeling it in one’s bones. It points to a knowing that is different than simply a cognitive or conscious process. So therefore, “intuitive hits” come from a kind of deeper place. This deeper place can be made of a vast territory that at its best, can offer us information from a “higher” source, perhaps even from a connection with what some what call the divine. On the other hand, as we know, what resides in “our gut” or in “our bones” is the same somatic reservoir of stored adversity and trauma. In other words, the well from which we draw this deeper-below the level of conscious awareness information, may have been infiltrated by traumatic situations that influence the clarity of the water in the well.

Stephen Porges, the originator of Polyvagal Theory, and other advocates of bottom-up therapies, discusses the importance of the tissues of the body as warehouses of trauma impacted information that carry afferent information via our nervous system to our brains. By understanding how the body “keeps the score” as Bessel Van der Kolk, so eloquently refers to it, it forces me to question the filters that our “gut feelings.” In my interactions with thousands of practitioners and clients I have witnessed the relationship between early trauma and the development of survival strategies that can ensue. I see a direct relationship with increasing childhood adversity and the highly tuned development of awareness for danger cues. This “sensitivity superpower” helps to keep them safe and works to establish an awareness of others as well. People who describe themselves as “empaths” or “highly sensitive persons” learned to survive by subconsciously developing elevated danger detectors.

The gift of accelerated development of high attunement to danger signals and enhanced empathetic compassion are their acute awareness to the needs of self and others around them, often fostering a deep sense of compassion and a passion for justice and advocacy. However, the flip side of this superpower is that well at the source of such compassion is often filtered through a history of trauma, some resolved, some perhaps not.

So what does this all mean with regards to practitioner intuition? Who is to say whether one’s intuitive hit comes more from a brilliant source of awareness or a trauma-influenced one? Given that intuition, by definition, is sensed without “conscious reasoning,” can we ever really know for sure? In my opinion, we cannot know for sure…So for that reason I default back to my original recommendation…when you get a gut-sourced intuitive hit, the best strategy is to ask in an open-ended way…”I have no idea if this is so for you but might there be/could there be another time or connection between x and y? Finding a way to honor your own aha’s and putting them out there gently in an open ended question format, without any attachment to being right, is far safer and more empowering for the client than sharing your own and possibly brilliant insights/intuitive hits about them.