How to Tell the Difference Between Fear and Intuition

Two Parts:Identifying FearDistinguishing Fear from Intuition

Some fears are capable of causing you to belittle yourself or to misinterpret danger; not all fear is realistic or beneficial. At the same time, confusing unrealistic fears with intuition can cause a dogged determination to make yourself believe that something negative is about to pass in your life. Doing so is to confuse both fear and intuition and this can lead you to make choices and decisions that restrict rather than broaden your life. A fulfilling life is one of balance and equality, your fears and intuition will serve you well when balanced too.

Part 1
Identifying Fear

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    Consider the properties of real fear. Fears can be real; for instance, when facing an impending dog attack, or seeing a car hurtling towards our own as we're driving, or when we're about to skydive from an airplane. In these cases, taking evasive or careful action based on our fear of what is about to happen is both real and sensible and are what we can term a "protective" fear; these are healthy and normal fears.[1]
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    Distinguish real fear from “F.E.A.R.s”. Fears can also be unrealistic and unhealthy; the acronym for which is "False Evidence, Appearing Real", such as when we imagine things that might happen if certain circumstances were to come to be, no matter how wild our preoccupations or how stretched the possibilities. In this case, it's about letting anxiety, worry, and catastrophization take the place of clear-headed thinking and evidence. [2]
    • When comparing intuition and fear, sensations of real fear is not what this article is concerned with. Rather, the focus is on imagined fears, the supposition that something bad is about to happen for reasons that are barely fathomable.
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    Take stock of what makes you afraid. Writing down your fears can help you begin to take better notice of them as fears and not as intuitive insights. Simply make time to sit down with a notepad and pen and write down the fears that are currently looming large in your life. They may be such things as:[3]
    • fear of losing a job
    • fear of losing someone you love,
    • fear of injury or fear for your children's safety
    • fear of aging or fear for the future
    • Write down all the fears that occur to you. Some of your fears will be rational, such as a fear of losing your job if your boss said that there will be lay-offs next week. Other fears will be irrational, such as fearing that a bridge will collapse on you if you drive under it, just because you read of such an incident happening somewhere else.[4]
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    Be skeptical of long-standing fears. Some fears often develop into phobias, like fear of heights, insects, strangers, etc. These phobias are born of a particular experience and are very narrow moments in the past directing your thoughts, not your intuition. While these phobias are initially based in "protective" fears, they can often end up over-protecting you to the point of preventing growth, freedom, and happiness.[5]
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    Eliminate stress from the equation. Stress and anxiety can prevent you from taking time out. Without taking time out, you will find it hard to rediscover your sense of self or your "essence". And this is when fears can dominate and take over because you're trying to protect yourself from being worn out, burned out, and used up. Make the time to rejuvenate so that you can let go of fears, listen to your intuition properly, and make amazing personal discoveries that won't surface without taking time to relax and regroup.[6]

Part 2
Distinguishing Fear from Intuition

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    Reflect on what you understand by intuition. It's not easily defined; however, it is possible to reach your own understanding of intuition as an inner guidance, a "knowing", or an internal compass. In contrast to fear, intuition has positive connotations in that it helps us make our way through life by drawing upon experience that may be buried deep in our consciousness.[7]
    • Such terms as "gut feeling", "instinct", "hunch", and "just a feeling" are often used to describe the way our intuition influences our actions and decisions. However, it is very important to realize that intuition is more than just responding at an instinctual level; it is instinct plus cognitive consideration. There is no right or wrong answer as to how you define intuition; the best approach is to simply sit down and write out what it means to you.
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    Understand what happens when you mistake fear for intuition. Fear is a negative emotion that expresses itself through physical reactions (such as fight or flight, sweating, feeling an adrenaline rush, etc.). Intuition is a positive set of feelings or guidance that, if heeded, can bring about better situations for us. Fear is an emotion that causes us to want to run away, hide, and not face the oncoming negative happening, whereas intuition is about heeding the possible dangers but having the strength, resilience, and wherewithal to focus our actions and attitude so as to face and deal with the negative occurrence.[8]
    • As such, when you mistake fear for intuition, you are effectively telling yourself that something bad is about to occur but that you are powerless to do anything constructive about it other than worry, fret, or pray, thereby disabling your intuition and your ability to push past the fear. This is an attempt to either sideline intuition or to change its positive effect into a negative one.[9]
    • Another problem with confusing fear and intuition is that instead of living in the present (as intuition does), you are living in a worst possible future (where irrational fear resides). If you're not focusing on the present, then you're not being intuitive.
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    Listen to Premonitions. Premonitions of something happening in the future tend to be neutral when sourced from the intuition. They cannot be forced and whether they have a good or bad outcome is not colored by your own inner thinking. Not everyone experiences premonitions and, in fact, those who block the ability through a cynical attitude towards them, generally have very little chance of doing so. However, premonitions differ from fear in that they are not based in your subjective, conscious or unconscious preferences or concerns.[10]
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    Differentiate between irrational fears and legitimate intuitions. Throughout this article you've been given indicators on how to do this. For example, are you concerned with the present or are you worrying about the future? Are you catastrophizing or philosophizing? Here are some key elements of the differences between experiencing intuition versus an irrational fear:[11]
    • A reliable intuition conveys information in neutral, less emotional terms
    • A reliable intuition "feels right" at a gut level
    • A reliable intuition feels compassionate and affirming of yourself and others
    • A reliable intuition gives clear impressions that are seen before they're felt
    • A reliable intuition feels somewhat detached, similar to being in a theater watching a movie
    • An irrational fear conveys information in highly emotional terms
    • An irrational fear does not "feel right" at a gut level
    • An irrational fear feels cruel, belittling, or delusional either toward yourself or toward others, perhaps both
    • An irrational fear does not feel centered or "in perspective"
    • An irrational fear reflects past psychological wounds or traumas that have not been healed
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    Take appropriate steps. You need to heed protective fears and transform irrational fears with courage. At times you may foresee real danger, but more frequently, unproductive fears are misinforming you. Therefore, as a general rule, train yourself to question fears tied to low self-esteem; we’re all worthy of the extraordinary.
    • For example, it’s right to question the fear that you’re too emotionally damaged to love; even the severely wounded can open up their hearts again but they need to make the choice to be open and to decide not to continue being over-protective of themselves. True intuitions will never put you down or support destructive attitudes and behavior; of all the signs, this is the most telling.


  • If you’re an emotional empath, highly sensitive, an emotionally deep person, or even co-dependent, it can be especially tricky to ascertain which fears are authentic, helpful intuitions and which are irrational. Because you tend to absorb other people’s emotions, you may pick up their fear and think or assume that their fears are your own.
  • Help others to discern the difference between their protective fears, irrational fears, and intuition. For people who are stuck deep in irrational fears, it can be a long journey to release themselves from the mire and perhaps you could be the helping hand they need, especially if you've had to work this out for yourself and can spot the pitfalls.
  • Don't be so trusting about information or emotions when they touch on something that really concerns you or triggers your buttons. For example, as a mom, your children's welfare is a hot spot trigger while as a business owner, your staff's honesty is a hot spot trigger. In these cases, rely on being skeptical about information that triggers your fears and use critical thinking to sort through your fears, emotions, and intuitions and not just leave your irrational fears to win through. Take a gradual, scientific approach to the issue instead of assuming a knee-jerk reaction.

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