“As soon as there is life there is danger.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
In this last instalment of our Strengthening Intuition Series we’re looking at how to tune in to and respect our very own Early Warning System. Let’s start by defining exactly what an Early Warning System is:
|early warning system
1. A network of sensing devices, such as satellites or radar, for detecting an enemy attack in time to take defensive or counteroffensive measures.
2. A system or procedure designed to warn of a potential or an impending problem.
Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
A few years ago I was on a long drive through Outback Australia, and an interview came on the radio. The man being interviewed was a forensic psychologist and profiler, who helped identify and track down serial killers. What fascinated me most about the interview was his accounts of people who had encountered these murderers and lived to tell the tale.
Broadly, the people fell into two categories – those who had not been attacked, and those who had been attacked and had then survived. By studying the two groups, and their responses to the serial killers’ behaviour, the forensic psychologist made a compelling case for the Early Warning System – that inner guidance – that resides within each of us.
The group who had not been attacked? In each case ‘something’ had made each person feel uneasy after engaging in some form of interaction with the killer. In honouring that sense of uneasiness they had moved on; terminating conversations, stepping away, in some cases even being aggressively ill-mannered to the serial killer due to their inner driver telling them to exert caution.
The group who were attacked but survived? Interestingly, each of them had experienced that same sense of uneasiness, which was then brushed away or reasoned away, often because of a fear of appearing ‘rude’, or their ingrained training to give the other person (the serial killer) the benefit of the doubt. This group of survivors was very small, and only one person had managed to escape from their attacker. The others had been saved because their attacker had been disturbed.
What really stayed with me from this interview was that the survivors had experienced not just one example of uneasiness but an escalating series of red flags, warning them of danger, which they had continued to ignore.
We all have an inbuilt Early Warning System. It is constantly feeding us information. But so often, we over-ride the signals with our intellect, or our sense of propriety and worry about offending others – even strangers.
How do we learn to get back in touch with these signals?
There are further steps we can take to refine our ability to listen to our inner Guidance:
- Stay in the moment. When we live inside our head, in the past, or the future, we are no longer connected to what is going on around us right now. When we are not in the moment, we miss vital signals that can guide us safely through life. Throughout the day, stop, breathe, connect back into your centre, and pay attention to your feelings and intuition.
- Still your mind. Meditation is useful for this, but even a few minutes of quiet sitting or walking will do. Focus only on your breath, and on stillness. Stay open.
- Learn how to centre yourself. I’ve covered this technique in a previous blog, and it’s a simple way to tune in and operate from a place of balance and awareness.
- Honour your feelings and energetic impressions above all. We are a well-mannered society, and most of us have been taught to value the happiness and good impression others form of us above our own comfort. Manners are important, but being nice is not always in our best interests, and can actually cause us harm.
- When your intuition tells you to back away, pay attention. Our gut feeling gives us only three directions: move towards something, a neutral position, or move away. Anything that gives you that sense of unease is worth paying attention to. Don’t try and rationalise it away. That red flag is there for a reason.
During the Asian Tsunami of 2004, there were many reports of animals and tribal villagers moving out of the path of danger before the tsunami struck. Scientists have since discovered that there is a part of our brain called the anterior cingulate cortex that is actively engaged in helping guide us when faced with impending hazards of which we may not yet be consciously aware.
Nature has gifted all of us with a strong guidance system. Our job is to learn to pay attention to that guidance. It only takes a little practice, and the willingness to value yourself as much as you value the wellbeing and good opinion of others.