Intuitive Decision Making: How to Tell the Difference Between Fear and Intuition

HJ: A major part of the process of intuitive decision making is learning how to differentiate between your emotions and your pure, intuitive voice.  In my experience, I can identify intuition more by feeling than by emotion.  Emotion is secondary in the process, in that it can arise from a feeling and in this way be related to and directly stem from ones intuition.  However, our intuitive voices speaks to us in sudden flashes of insight, which usually move at a much faster pace than emotions, which always arise in reaction to thoughts, experiences or our perceived reality.

Therefore, if you are feeling fear, it is almost always a sign that whatever intuitional message may have been present has likely been surpassed and lost as one moves into more habitual patterns of reacting to a given stimuli, thought, or situation.  Fear tends to muddy the waters, as do many emotions, in terms of intuition.  Again, intuition comes more in the form of feelings such as hesitation, feeling compelled to do or say something, knowing, insight, revelation, vision, sudden awareness of an idea or thought and so on.  There is also typically a physical component such as a going weak or strong feeling, gut reaction, etc.  As you learn to trust yourself more deeply, the intuitive voice becomes stronger and more noticeable.  At first it can be hard to identify.  Using self-trust building affirmations can greatly speed up the process.

- Truth

How to Tell the Difference Between Fear and Intuition

By Judith Orloff | Dr. Judith Orloff

Adapted from Dr. Judith Orloff’s New York Times Bestseller,Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life (Three Rivers Press, 2011)

In “Emotional Freedom” my approach to transforming fear has two stages. First, take stock of what makes you afraid and distinguish irrational fears from legitimate intuitions. Second, take appropriate steps to heed protective fears and transform the others with courage. At times you may foresee real danger, but more frequently unproductive fears clobber you. Therefore as a general rule, train yourself to question fears tied to low self-esteem; we’re all worthy of what’s extraordinary.


For example, it’s right to question the fear that you’re too emotionally damaged to love; even the severely wounded can have their hearts opened again. True intuitions will never put you down or support destructive attitudes or behavior. Here are some guidelines for distinguishing legitimate fears from irrational ones:

How To Tell Fear From Intuition

Signs of a Reliable Intuition

  • Conveys information neutrally, unemotionally
  • Feels right in your gut
  • Has a compassionate, affirming tone
  • Gives crisp, clear impressions that are “seen” first, then felt
  • Conveys a detached sensation, like you’re in a theater watching a movie

Signs of an Irrational Fear

  • Is highly emotionally charged
  • Has cruel, demeaning, or delusional content
  • Conveys no gut-centered confirmation or on-target feeling
  • Reflects past psychological wounds
  • Diminishes centeredness and perspective

For comparison’s sake, I’ll share radically different examples of how I use the above criteria. One morning I got two calls from frightened patients who both claimed to be hearing voices. Truly a typical day in my office! The first came from Bill, a schizophrenic who’d been skimping on his meds. Bill’s inner “voice” kept haranguing him, insisting he was a bad person, that his food was poisoned, that his son was being raped again by the grandmotherly babysitter. Believing these “delusions” (false beliefs unsubstantiated by fact), he was absolutely unhinged. So Bill kept calling the cops, who sent a squad car out twice, but found no threat. Tolerant but tiring of this, the officers warned that if he contacted them again, they’d haul him off to a psychiatric hospital. My other patient, Jean, had been coping with despair about her brother suffering from end-stage AIDS. Jean’s inner “voice” said to immediately fly to New York to join him, though he’d recently been stable. True of authentic intuitions, it came through clear-as-a-bell, oddly matter-of-fact and followed the typical progression of being “seen first,” then felt.

Both patients asked me, “What should I do?’ I urged Bill to take his meds and offered reassurance about his safety, a tack that had lessened his fear many times in our decade of working together. Jean, however, I supported in buying a plane ticket because her intuition felt so imminent, so right. Fortunately, she did, despite the expense and inconvenience to her job. That week her brother took a sudden turn for the worse, slipped into a coma and died within hours. Heart-breaking as witnessing his death was for Jean, she was able to be at her brother’s side in those precious last moments.

Try to separate unhealthy fears from intuition. Though Bill’s case was extreme, you may also have some fears that belittle you or cause you to misinterpret danger. Perhaps in a fit of anger your ex-wife called you “useless” and you believed it. This is not intuition. Nor is being frightened of having cancer whenever a brown spot appears on your skin. Also, be skeptical of long-standing fears, say of heights; these are typically not premonitions.

If you’re en emotional empath, it can be especially tricky to ascertain which fears are authentic, helpful intuitions. Because you tend to absorb other people’s emotions, you may pick up their fear and think it’s your own. To avoid this, always ask yourself, “Is the fear mine or someone else’s?” One dependable way to find out is to distance yourself from the source. Move at least twenty feet away. If you experience relief, it’s likely you’re perceiving another’s fear. Although it’s fine to absorb courage and all positive emotions from others because they’ll strengthen you, you don’t want to absorb negativity. Move away, and keep releasing extraneous fear by exhaling it until the feeling passes.

While some apprehensions may be empathically linked to another’s feelings or, like Jean’s, are distinct intuitive warnings, the more garden variety ones reflect ingrained negative psychological patterns. To resolve these, you must know where they come from and do what’s necessary to loosen their hold.

Judith Orloff MD, an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA and intuition expert, is author of the New York Times Bestseller Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life (Three Rivers Press, 2011) Her other bestsellers are Positive EnergyGuide to Intuitive Healing, and Second Sight. Dr. Orloff synthesizes the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition and energy medicine. She passionately believes that the future of medicine involves integrating all this wisdom to achieve emotional freedom and total wellness. www.drjudithorloff.com

FREE MINI VIDEO CLASSES ON YOUTUBE FOR YOU!
Please check out “Dr. Orloff’s Living Room Series” to find out more about the special method Dr. Orloff recommends to remember your dreams and other topics to build the power within. Stop by www.youtube.com/judithorloffmd anytime.


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