Contrary to what most of us have heard or read, not all gut feelings come with that immediate “Aha Moment”. Sometimes, gut feelings are scary because there is no logical explanation for how we know what we know. One moment you know absolutely nothing and the next you know everything. That’s scary. But unlike anxious or fearful thoughts which keep you stuck in scared, an intuitive thought or feeling quickly turns into clarity and calm.
You are thinking of reaching out to your ex but have no idea what to say in your text. Then a thought, feeling, or voice comes forward and it feels right. How do you know it’s the right thing to say? You do not, and that’s the scary part. But the feeling that it is the right thing to say is stronger than the fear that you don’t know if it’s the right thing to say. What’s more, there is no desire to overthink it or worry about what could happen or might happen. And after you’ve sent the text, you don’t sit there wondering if you should have said something else, done something else. It was the right thing to say and you said it. Moving on ahead.
Anxious or fearful thoughts on the other hand create unrest, discomfort or stress. The thought may even start as a gut feeling but because there is anxiety and/or fear attached to it, you overthink it, second guess yourself, procrastinate, try to come up with something else to say, and write 100 different drafts. In the process, you lose sight of what may have started as a gut feeling. What started as a simple text now feels like your whole life depends on it.
The action that comes from anxious or fearful thoughts is less about ‘the right thing’ to do and more about wanting that (anxiety/fear) discomfort to go away.
You either end up not sending the text at all or click ‘send” because you can’t take the stress anymore. But as soon as you click ‘send,’ you start worrying about what could happen, might happen. You even question if you should you have sent the text in the first place. Did you say the right thing? Did you use the right words? Was it interesting enough? What if your ex does not respond? Etc.
If you are a fearful avoidant, you are thinking, “I should not contact them again”. You even convince yourself that your ex needs space. Mind you, your ex hasn’t asked for space, this whole “give my ex space” is all in your head. That’s what avoidants do. When things get ‘uncomfortable’ they run away, emotionally and/or physically. They don’t have (or have limited) capacity to sit through discomfort, show up even when they’re scared and hold the space for a relationship to unfold slowly and naturally.
If you are anxiously preoccupied, you send a second text “You don’t need to respond (no pressure)”. The longer your ex takes to respond, the needier you become. You may even send your ex a third text, “I’ll give you space” or “I need space to focus on myself” blah blah.
In the short term, you may reduce anxiety, manage your fears and feel better, but that relief will be short-lived. The anxious and fear-driven thoughts will come back, and sometimes they come back stronger, and more persistent. You find it difficult to focus on the present because your mind is busy trying to un-do, modify and change the past or predict and fix the future before what you fear will happen happens.
Next time you have that “gut feeling” about what to do to show your ex that you still care about them, still love them and want them back, check with yourself to see if the action you are about to take gives you more clarity and makes you feel more calm and confident, or if the action is driven by a need to make the anxiety, fear or discomfort you feel go away.
Ask yourself “Am I afraid of something? Am I trying to get rid of the discomfort I feel?” If the answer is “yes”, that’s not your gut feeling that’s your anxiety and fear talking to you. If the answer is “no”, check if you have more clarity, feel calm and confident about what you are about to do and follow your gut.