My day job centers around safety. Taking a step back and glancing into that always makes me chuckle a little internally. Before I became a professional, safety was never a priority for me; in fact if you ask those that watched me grow up, safe would not be a descriptor they would use. To this end, caution does not come naturally to me, and so I have learned to trust my gut.
Whenever I provide seminars for organizations about violence prevention, the question without fail always arises, "how do you know?" That question really taps the heart of risk management, how do we know when someone or something is unsafe? And the answer, unfortunately, is we never know. Allow me to say it again because I often have to repeat myself. We never ever know when someone or something is unsafe. It is always an assumption, a guess, a perception. A dangerous situation does not come with a handbook. And without direction our gut must come into play.
Mentioning our gut reaction, I am really talking about intuition. We use them interchangeably because sometimes people say they feel their intuition in their stomach, but many of my clients feel their intuition in their hearts. Still others find intuition in their thoughts. To intuit something is to know it without data, to believe it without proof, to be certain without measurable or concrete evidence. This ability, I suspect, comes from many thousands of years ago when it was in our best interest as primitive people, to have, if you will, a 6th sense.
Why is our gut's communication so important? Why must we listen to our intuition? Through listening, acknowledging, and responding to our body's messages we can develop a trusting and committed relationship with ourselves. Each time we don't listen to our gut, there is an impact. After years and years of quashing and subduing messages from within, our intuition begins to speak so softly that we can not longer hear. This is problematic and unhealthy on a moment to moment basis, but becomes unsafe when we must listen to our gut begging us to leave a situation but we no longer are able to hear.
Listening to our gut is not always easy. There are times when responding to our intuition requires us to face challenges, make difficult decisions, separate from those we are attached to. But after my personal learning to put safety first, training others to prevent violence, and surrounding myself professionally with risk, I know that intuition is not only an amazingly effective tool, it is also a spectacular miracle. Those who have a constant, open and honest, communication with their intuition are the healthiest and safest individuals I know.