Trusting Your Gut

Dr. Danielle Moore | Board Director & Mental Health Advisor

Do you know that feeling you get when something is just not right?

That strange feeling in your gut that you just can’t describe.

I believe some ignore the feeling. I sure have...  

The other day I was out walking my dogs. It was still light outside and people were still walking around the streets.

 My dog did her business and while I was fumbling around trying to get a bag to clean up her mess, I noticed a man looking at me and got that gut feeling. In hindsight the length and intensity of his stare probably triggered that feeling.

I walked inside my apartment building and he followed. I quickly got in the elevator (not the smartest thing),  scanned my security tag to make the elevator work and pressed the number to my floor. Before the elevator door closed the man caught the elevator with his arm and entered. I asked him what floor, thinking ‘maybe he does live here.’ He answered with “eh, I’m good.”.

At this point that gut feeling turned into full-fledged fear. When the elevator stopped I quickly exited and went toward my apartment, the man followed. Thank goodness my neighbor, a tall, fit man was exiting his apartment. I walked toward my neighbor and pretended to start a conversation...my neighbor doesn’t speak English but the guy didn’t know any better.

The man turned around and I quickly ran into my apartment and dead-bolted the door. I then called the front desk to make sure he had exited. While on the phone with the front desk the man left the building. My heart sank as I began to register what truly happened. I was lucky!

Then I had that feeling of anxiety and a strange sense of tiredness. Similar to if you were trying to cross the street and almost get hit by a car. Your body jumps back before your mind realizes what has happened. It then takes you a few minutes to calm down and move on with your day.  

I reported the incident to all the proper authorities and was able to ID the man on the security tape. The next day, the man returned and was seen by the doorman, but did not enter. This was terrifying!

This incident could have ended very badly. Maybe if I would have trusted my gut when I saw the man’s gaze, it might not have escalated. I could have stayed in the lobby with other people, told the doorman, or call 911 to report a suspicious person.

 I could dwell on the “what if’s” or “should haves”. Instead I’m reminded to trust my gut.  The gut feeling is actually the start of the fight/flight/ freeze mechanism in our brains. This mechanism allows you to jump out of the way of a car before getting hit. It also alerts you when something just feels off.

 So my advice is to trust your gut. Take a minute to process what is going on and why you are uncomfortable. Then try and make decisions that helps relive that feeling. If I would have taken a moment to trust myself, I probably would have stayed in the lobby around others and then told the doorman if the man lingered.

 This is far from an exact science. However, our bodies are designed to inform your brain of what’s going on. Your body tells you when you’re tired or hungry so you then make the decision to sleep or eat. So my advice from personal experience is to trust your gut.

If you would like to know more please refer to “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin deBecker or this article about the science behind gut instincts.

The Army of Survivors