Listening to the Two Voices

I am on a journey of learning how to trust my intuition. I’ll be honest: I think the first step on that journey is learning to understand what my intuition even is. Growing up in an evangelical family and culture, I can’t say that intuition was ever something that was discussed a lot. We talked about divine providence, nudges from the Holy Spirit, or even prophecy, but we didn’t talk about intuition.

Now that I’m older and exploring my spirituality from new and different angles, I’m learning that stifling people’s intuition might be an actual weapon of some organized religions—teaching people that their “gut feelings” are unreliable and therefore untrustworthy. Better to trust that charismatic youth leader or that overly handsy pastor.

So, learning to trust or even recognize my intuition has been a bit of a quest, but I’m getting there.

Something I’m beginning to learn is that my intuition shows up as a voice in my head—one that I can hear just as if it were standing right beside me. The problem is that this voice tends to be the second one I hear. It comes after another voice that always beats it to the punch. For a while, I thought that first voice was my intuition. I’m learning now that the first voice is actually impulse and the second one is intuition.

Allow me to explain.

Speaking for no one but myself here, I notice that the first voice I hear when faced with conflict, confusion, or indecision is one that’s rooted in my wounds. It reacts from a place of self-protection. Sometimes that self-protection comes in the form of people-pleasing. It says, Just go along—don’t make waves. Smile. Say thank you. Say sorry, even if you’re not wrong. Other times, that self-protection comes in the form of avoidance. It tells me to walk away, close the door, never look back. And sometimes, self-protection tells me to bring my claws out.

Now, I firmly believe that there is a time and place for each of these reactions. Playing nice is sometimes the only way to stay safe. Other times you have to burn bridges. But what I’m learning is that, so often, my impulse tells me to do the wrong thing at the wrong time. It convinces me to play nice with someone who really needs to be put in their place, or tells me to walk away from a relationship that could actually be salvaged if I just practiced a little patience and cooperation. In the long run, these improper reactions harm me instead of help.

These impulses that come from a wounded place lack wisdom and discernment. They feel urgent, reactive, and unmoored. And I’m learning—very slowly and with many mistakes along the way—that I have to push past the impulse to give myself time to find the intuition. I can’t hear my intuition when I’m busy acting on my impulses.

So, I have to make a little space between the impulse and the action. I pray. I read scripture. I journal. I talk to my wise loved ones and mentors. I consult tarot cards—not because I believe they can read the future or possess any otherworldly magic, but because they help me access my intuition by exploring my unconscious thoughts.

Through a little time and patience, I find my intuition. That second voice arrives, and it is rooted in wisdom, discernment, and intention. And most of the time, I find that responding from my intuition instead of reacting from my impulse leads to far better outcomes for me personally and for my relationships with others.

It’s a long road and I have a lot of work to do. Our wounds create a sense of urgency when conflicting or confusing moments arise. They tell us we need to act immediately or else there will be negative consequences (this is especially true if you, like me, struggle with anxiety). The truth is that most of our interpersonal conflicts aren’t urgent. In fact, they need and deserve for us to take a little time before we respond. As we learn to let go of that sense of urgency and make space for our intuition instead, we find ourselves making better choices. Those better choices lead to better outcomes, and those better outcomes help us gain trust in our intuition, showing us that we can trust ourselves to respond in ways that create harmony for ourselves and the people we love.

Two voices. Both important and useful in their own regard. Neither should be discounted. We just need to learn when to listen to the first, and when to make room for the second. That’s my path, anyway.

Maybe it’s yours, too.

Amber Wardell is a doctor of psychology and author who speaks on women’s issues related to marriage, motherhood, and mental health. Subscribe to the free newsletter to get exclusive content delivered to your inbox and to never miss an upload.

Check out her blog called Compassionate Feminism on Psychology Today to join a feminist conversation centered in openness, empathy, and equity.

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