Several months ago I was having a drink with a friend and I asked how she was getting on with her boyfriend.
"Oh he's a very good man, a really decent human being, he'd make a wonderful husband and an excellent father... but I'm gonna end it."
So naturally I asked why.
"I have this feeling, this intuitive feeling, that this is not right for me..."
To put this in context, they are both in their late thirties, have each had a number of past relationships, and are now each looking to find a life partner.
2 weeks later she broke up with her boyfriend.
Fast forward 3 months and they were spending their weekends together and planning a holiday in Portugal!
I thought I was hearing my intuition but I was actually hearing anxiety
When I next saw her I asked what had changed, and why, and she said:
"I now see that so many times when I was dating or in relationships I thought I was hearing my intuition but I was actually hearing anxiety.
I have come to realise that I have health anxiety and relationship anxiety, and both I mistake for an inner knowing of something must be wrong, and I feel it in my body, but both actually also come from a place of fear."
This is, I believe, a common problem, and especially with those of us who suffer from issues with anxiety.
"Angels Or Devils"
My son used to be a big fan of US rock group "Dishwalla" and he got me listening to them. One track on their 2002 album "Opaline" has always stayed with me and it's a song called "Angels Or Devils".
The lead singer, John Robert Richards, has said that at the time of writing the song he was experiencing an inner conflict about which inner voices to listen to. He referenced his experience as a moral conflict about trying to do the right thing.
But for me the song has broader appeal, as it speaks of the voices that we all struggle with as we try to work out whether it is the inner devils of our insecurities and anxieties that are talking, or whether we are hearing the voices of the better angels of our nature offering intuitive guidance.
 The energy test - what is the vibe?
The shortcut to determining whether you are hearing the voice of intuition or the voice of anxiety is the feeling that comes with that voice.
In my experience, intuition comes from a calm and neutral place - a mindful place - and it carries no emotional charge.
Fortunately I don't suffer too much from anxiety these days. But when I do I always know what it is because of the energy that accompanies it. And that vibe is never calm!
The voice of anxiety is the voice of instinct out of control.
But intuition and instinct [presenting as anxiety] are very different. The diagram below expands on this and sets out the different qualities of each voice.
 The intention test - is it benign or malign?
If the voice is:
This is why the metaphor of angels and devils is useful.
The angels/intuitive voices seem to come from no-where, research has suggested that:
“...the essence of intuition or intuitive responses is that they are reached with little apparent effort, and typically without conscious awareness. They involve little or no conscious deliberation.” [Hogarth 2010]
"... Intuition involves a sense of knowing without knowing how one knows...” [Seymour Epstein 2010]
Intuition combines insights from multiple sources, is often holistic in scope and approach and will often require a leap in the dark based on limited or no information.
My own personal view, based on experience, is that the voice of intuition comes from all areas of Consciousness - that is to say the full spectrum from the unconscious mind, the conscious mind and the higher conscious mind.
The devils/instinctive voices are ego based.
At root, the voice of instinct is the voice of survival and is a hardwired "flight or fight" response.
But where it all goes horribly wrong is when the ego mistakenly thinks that it is, or should be, in control and in charge of our own personal safety. Your ego assumes the role of bodyguard.
In it's "conquering hero" mode the ego tries to "save" you from what it sees as a threat to your safety and well being.
But it gets snagged and caught up in the maelstrom of your unconscious, deep-seated anxieties - often [but not always] triggered by childhood traumas - and the healthy, self-protective voice of instinct becomes distorted as the voice of anxiety.
That is when you unconsciously step onto the ferris wheel of suffering - until you come to the understanding and realisation that you are not your thoughts.
 If in doubt - ask for help
"Phone A Friend" was one of the "lifelines" available to contestants on The British created TV show "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire".
Given the amounts of money involved, a lot was riding on getting the right answer each time, so these lifelines were important in helping the contestants to make the right decision when they didn't know the answer.
You have such a lifeline and its called prayer.
In a recent article we looked at the negatives associated with prayer and reframed it as the process of communing with Consciousness - in ALL its manifestations.
There is no need to get hung up on this, take a few breaths and quieten your mind .
You may find these guided mindfulness meditations helpful, or just listen to the mindfulness bell:
Give it 5 to 10 minutes and when you feel calm and centred just ask the question out loud:
"Is this the voice of my intuition or is this my anxiety speaking?"
Sit quietly just focusing on your breathing and the answer will come.
If it doesn't come immediately, just carry on with your day with all your usual routine activities and the answer to your question will come to you.
Next Article: Like A Prayer - Life Is A Mystery
Return from "Intuition & Instinct" to: Walking The Talk