Don't Trust Your Gut

February 27, 2023 Joanna Satterwhite

One of the best pieces of advice I've ever received was to stop trusting my emotions, which means, don't trust my gut. I had gone to see an acupuncturist with a strained back and an abundance of curiosity. He palpated my ovaries, eyelids, and the like for a half minute before diagnosing my issue as one of emotional over-indulgence. He stuck a couple of dozen needles in me, left me alone for 20 minutes, and returned with his treatment plan. "You shouldn't trust your gut so much," he suggested and sent me on my way. 

Don't Trust Your Gut Because 'All Emotions Are Valid' Isn't Valid

As a native of the All-Emotions-Are-Valid Era, I was shocked by this blunt denunciation of my sentimental life. I had grown up being told again and again how important my emotions were—how I needed to listen to them and be guided by them. If anything, the ambient culture of self-help led me to believe that my issue was not investing enough in my emotions. I was shocked by the sacrilege of this stern and stoic acupuncturist, and naturally, I had an emotional reaction to it. How dare he question my emotional intuition.

After nearly a year of puzzling over his advice and letting it marinate, though, I'm beginning to see its wisdom. Emotions—for whatever tone, quality, and texture they may provide to a life—are not designed to be the brains of the operation. Emotions don't tell the whole truth or even part of it, really. What they tell is that something in your current circumstances is reminiscent of something in your memory, but that was then and this is now. Any life you'd like to live, anyone you'd like to become, and way you'd like to feel is within your power to choose, but you're not going to get there by ascribing to your emotions. Your emotions are not the way forward; they're the rearview mirror. 

Efficacy Over Validity When Trusting Your Gut

Navigating by emotions alone or even primarily does not always lead to chaos, but I'd gander a lot of money I don't have that it rarely leads to efficacy. In other words, they are not going to get you to that life, person, or state of mind you're after. If you're a fan of the ancients (and these days, that's a big "if"), you might be reminded of "the passions" in The Republic. Plato places these passions, otherwise known as emotions, as the lowest possible cognitive rung. They must be governed by the higher order consciousness of reason, lest they run amuck and wreak havoc. 

So, what are emotions good for? Emotions are good for art and intra-personal experience. Attempting to lead your life from reason rather than your emotional core does not mean eschewing emotions altogether. Letting yourself feel what you feel is good and fine and all part of the adventure, but letting yourself live by those emotions? Well, you ought to visit my acupuncturist.  

APA Reference
Satterwhite, J. (2023, February 27). Don't Trust Your Gut, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 23 from

Author: Joanna Satterwhite

Joanna is a writer and teacher based in Atlanta. Find her on Substack and Instagram

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