Mothers Intuition Doesn’t Come Easily
I was thinking about this today, the whole “Mothers intuition” thing, you know the one. Where you are told that it is a “gut feeling,” that a mother “just knows,” it is all instinct, and more.
When I was new mother I was told all about this, but never really how it was supposed to work. I mean, how do I tell the difference between instinct and paranoia, between intuition and projection of my own issues, between gut feelings and fear? It is all well and good, but no-one ever told me how. It seemed to me to be this kind of magical download that happened, or was meant to happen, whilst I was giving birth to my son. This kind of ancient wisdom switch that was supposed to flick on the moment I held him for the first time.
But it didn’t.
I was a new mum, caring for this completely dependable new human being, and I had no f*ing clue.
My anxiety was on overload, I thought everything I was doing was wrong, I doubted my body’s capacity to provide, I was struggling, and I just wanted to get it right.
But I couldn’t find, let alone trust my instinct.
Then it hit me.
How the hell was I supposed to trust my mother’s intuition, when my entire life my woman’s intuition was turned off and suppressed.
How on earth was I supposed to all of a sudden be able to trust myself, to be able to hear and interpret my “gut” when I had never had any practice?
I mean, a mothers intuition is an extension, if anything, of a woman’s intuition; is it not? So realistically, it should be a natural progression, but only if there has been practice.
After I came to realise this, I no longer viewed mothers intuition as this kind of natural instinct that I miss out on, but a skill I had not had the chance to nurture. Which meant I could learn.
You see intuition is, yes, a given “gift” of sorts that we are all born with. But like any gift, it must be cultivated, and our society has not allowed that. Because intuition is highly connected with our bodily awareness, sense of self, confidence, and knowledge; it is easy to see how this has often been left by the wayside.
For bodily awareness to be nurtured, we needed to be supported in our girlhood to be bodily aware. To understand not just how our body functions as a biological vessel of sorts, but how it feels. To be aware of how different feelings effect our body. For instance, an easy one, is to sense how fear increases our heart rate, palms get sweaty, knees get weak and so on. However, there has been an over emphasis of fear and what is not safe, and little to no recognition of what makes our bodies feel alive. And so much of how we react to different situations comes from of bodies instinctive memory from early childhood.
From the perspective of sense of self, how often are young girls given the message that they must be something other than who they really are? How many of us received the messages that we weren’t good enough, that we were too much, or not enough, or both? How could anyone develop a healthy sense of self, if all they are ever encourage to do is cultivate a sense of lacking? I could not tap into my intuition, if I don’t know who I am.
Confidence. So often is the be-all-and-end-all of everything really, and it is but not in the false bravado way, but in the quite steadfast way. Intuition requires hearing, and to hear we must be confident to first listen to ourselves, to separate the doubt from the strength. Which comes from that sense of self, a sense of knowing. But also the confidence to express ourselves, for what good is intuition if we do not have the confidence to act on it? I don’t know about you but I definitely lacked confidence in myself for the vast majority of my life. Not only that, but intuition is just as much about what feels right as it is about what feels wrong, and to not only know what is right but to ask for it and seek it out. That takes confidence, and many women have been raised with the idea of putting themselves last.
Lastly, it is in the knowledge. You see, so often intuition is relegated to feeling and ONLY feeling, but the reality is that intuition requires logic too. Without knowledge, intuition is susceptible to bias, to our fears, to being misinterpreted through a faulty lens (you know, the whole “love is bling” thing). But with knowledge we create a solid foundation for the feelings to move through. Knowledge of the facts and research, knowledge of practical tools, knowledge of supports available, knowledge of our capability, knowledge that changes our perspective. Because the average person, in the days of Cristopher Columbus, believed the earth was flat; and I imagine many mothers and wives were fearful of, and cautioned, their husbands and sons sailing off the edge of the world due to what they “knew.”
How could it be, that a new mother could trust her mothers intuition, if so much of the above (if not all) ways left un-nurtured? She couldn’t, not really. And it is even harder with all of this misinformation floating out around the internet, and every Joe not only has but can easily share his/her opinion. Talk about trying to see the forest through the trees.
So what can be done?
Here I will propose some exercises to re-nurture ones intuition, things I have and continue to do.
This is probably the toughest one to do, but with it the others tend to follow suit.
To build upon bodily awareness I have done several things.
- Become aware, and be mindful of how different emotions feel in my body. I try to be curious. When I am excited, when I am full of rage, when I am frustrated, when I am nervous, and so on, I try to “tap into” my body and see how it responds to those feelings.
- I follow the feeling and let it be. Instead of judging or condemning how I feel, I follow it. But I follow it backwards. If I am feeling rage, then I ask it where it came from, what need is behind the rage, what belief, where does that come from, what other experiences have I had that are similar and so on. This allows me to somewhat “reverse engineer” my emotional responses. Because that is how our automatic responses are created. In childhood we do something, and then how our parents react become our default reaction towards ourselves and/or towards others. Therefore reverse engineering them allows us to “pull apart” their development.
- Acknowledge, process, heal, and adapt. The point of this is to then recreate the default reaction. By acknowledging, without judgment or shame etc., how it came about we allow our neurological pathways to stay open to change. By processing we clear the blocks (which is through expression), this allows healing, which then allows new behaviours and reactions to be created.
Some other helpful tips to do this, is to take part in an activity that requires consciousness of your body. Like dancing, rock climbing, yoga, meditation and so on. A second helpful practice, that can be daily, is to start to become familiar with your body, and to develop not only gratitude, but appreciation for it, and its many facets.
Sense of Self:
This is also a tough one, but flows on from the above. The point of these cultivation activities is to turn off the negative self-perception, and create a newer and healthier sense of self.
This is what I practice.
- Stop negative thoughts and self-talk. Being strict with myself, and as soon as I start to “talk smack” about myself (usually all in my thought) I “pull myself in line.” Yep, a conversation I am having, with myself, in my head. I sound bat-shit crazy. But seriously, negative self-talk is the death of intuition. You will forever be second guessing everything and never really trusting anything. As soon as those thoughts pop up (or as soon as I realise) I just think to myself “No, I will not think that way, I am NOT _________, and I will NOT speak to myself like that.”
- Reinforce the strengths. This one is a little harder than the first step. It requires going further. After saying the above, to myself, I then counter with facts and evidence about what I am really like. This creates an awareness of my strengths, and if I am struggling in an area, it creates an awareness of my determination to improve myself and develop new skills. There are no weaknesses, only strengths, and strength building.
- A little harder again. If they weren’t then I would never truly get to a point where I can listen and trust my sense of self and therefore my intuition. This is the point where I refuse to let others speak to me in any manner that is judgmental, attempts at shaming, put downs or anything similar. Thankfully this hasn’t come up too often, but enough to really put it to the test. But once I started being able to stand my ground, not in a nasty way but with that calm steadfastness I spoke of earlier, boy did my sense of self soar. Confronting, you bet; challenging, no doubt; but nothing made me feel more powerful than being able to stand for myself.
This may also mean having to end certain relationships, intimate, with family, and/or friends, and that can be incredibly hard. So if you feel that is what you may have to do, I really encourage you to find some solid support before you go ahead. That will make the world of difference, because as much as this is about developing inner strength, inner strength also means knowing when to ask for help.
Ah this one.
No, I don’t recommend the whole “fake it ’til you make it” thing. I tried, it really doesn’t work, and there isn’t a whole lot to add to the above. Those six points will really help build confidence, believe me. However, this is also about what feels right, right?
- Figuring out what I want. What movie, what food, what clothes to wear, what cocktail to drink, etc. The bane of so many relationships, right? But it is very hard to determine what we want. Maybe the little things are easy, especially to a tired mum (one night sleep would have been enough), but the bigger things become more complicated. So here is what I did. I started small, and every day I would ask myself what I really wanted, and just by thinking, feeling and then identifying, some shifts started to happen.
- But, of course, identification is not enough. Next I had to give myself permission. I would think about what I wanted, even if I thought I “shouldnt” I would not allow restriction. (Caution: this one can be like opening Pandora’s Box, trust me, so go slow!) And then I would have it. It may have been a nice piece of cake, it may have been a bubble bath, it may have been a night out, whatever it was I would make it happen (within reason, of course; because resources).
- I made it a regular thing. So whilst, like I said, there is reason to be had, self-care could not be more integral to confidence building. Saying “no” to what you don’t want is really hard, but saying “yes,” or even more so, actually asking for what you want, is daunting to say the least. So I challenge myself to do this more. Starting little and working up to the big things. From ordering myself something special, to reaching out and asking for help, I would practice often and challenge myself as regularly as I could and needed. This was integral in building my confidence.
It is hard to say, but this is the one I am most passionate about.
Knowledge is power! I don’t know who said it, but preach! Because this could not be more true, but I want to clarify. In the “information age” there is information readily available everywhere, so when I say knowledge I mean accurate, well researched, logical, helpful information. Not opinions. Now it doesn’t mean that everyone has to agree on said knowledge, that won’t happen, but it has to make sense and it has to be able to be connected well with other supporting information.
So here is what I do:
- Educate myself. I am constantly studying, and I mean constant. From the time I went to school, and even now, I am constantly learning. Whether that be informally through reading books, or through formal education, learning is important to intuition building. The more you know! But it is not enough to simply learn, but question.
- Question everything. Of course within reason, because even science can’t explain everything, but I do not like to take things at face value. For me, this means questioning even credentials, but also agenda. For instance, if I see someone say that a study proved “such and such” then I will take a look at said study. Who funded it? What methods were used? Does it fit with other existing information? And so on, and I often find things aren’t anywhere near as clear cut as they may seem. But that is ok, because I believe that the more informed I am, then the more informed my decision will be.
- Make sure it fits. This, to me, is the most important bit. With the amount of “research” available, there is A LOT that, at face value, can be said. However, when looking further into it, you can actually see that it doesn’t make sense when trying to make it fit with other existing information. More so, a theoretical approach can exist, and even though no formal clinical trials may have been conducted all other areas of research, linked with the theory, fit beautifully. For me this means looking at something holistically. The human body, and life, are deeply complex. Our emotional self is not separate to our physical self and vice versa, and not only that; but our psychological and experiential selves are also connected, and every other self, they all influence one another.
Lastly, however, it is important for me to stay humble. The reality is I don’t know everything, and much to my dismay, I never will. But acknowledging that allows me to stay open, and openness is the key to learning. It is easy to accept the things that are familiar and comfortable and reject that which is not, but wise is the person who is able to learn what makes them feel uncomfortable.
A lot of information out there, that is true, is not easy to swallow and even harder still to utilise. However, that is what makes it integral to developing intuition, especially mothers intuition, because without challenging ourselves we cannot grow, and motherhood requires growth. It is not optional; it is simply that we can grow into and with, or we can be overcome and overwhelmed by it.
Being a mum is not easy, and I don’t believe it was ever meant to be this hard either, but it is worth it. Nothing has ever made me feel more at home in who I am, more loving of the woman I am, more in touch with my own instinct and intuition, than growing in motherhood. My mothers intuition was not born when my son was, but it was him who inspired me to grow it, and if you are inspired like I am; then I am hear cheering you on.