How Our Gut Feelings Keep Us Safe

Using our gut feelings while on a road trip.

Using our gut feelings while on a road trip.

I once took a course about intuition. It was the first time I remember anyone truly explaining what intuition is and how to use it to make our lives less stressful and more self-empowering. I remember the instructor walking us through exercises for us to tap into our “gut feelings”. She described intuition as our “phone line” to Divine wisdom. I remember her asking the group if we really thought we would be sent to live on this planet without a direct connection to God? Source? Universal Energy? Love? or whatever it was we called the power higher than ourselves. I never thought of it that way before. That was a life changing course. I have strengthened my intuition over the years and used it countless times to keep myself safe and feeling certain in many areas of my life. 

A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog called “Stranger Danger Has Got to Go”. I wrote the blog after attending a fundraising function where Sheldon Kennedy was the guest speaker. You may remember that Sheldon is a Canadian former professional ice hockey player. He played for the Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins and Calgary Flames in the National Hockey League. He was speaking about what he is most known for: going public as a victim of sexual abuse by his coach, Graham James. In 1998, Kennedy rollerbladed across Canada to raise awareness and funds for sexual abuse victims.

Gut Feelings

I found the talk very interesting, but there was one thing that got my attention. My heart jumped up with a profound “yes!” when he said, “Stranger danger has got to go.”  Sheldon continued to share that of all the children who experience some sort of abuse, 98% are abused by individuals known to the child. When parents and educators focus on teaching children to be afraid of strangers, they are misleading children on where the real dangers exist.

I have always taught my kids to assume strangers are good people. I speak to strangers all the time, especially when I need something on the top shelf of the grocery store. I find most people are kind and more than willing to help. I have found this to be true when I have traveled to cities in Canada and beyond by myself. 

If Sheldon Kennedy suggests that 98% of abusers are people we know, then that leaves 2% who we don’t know. I know that there is a tiny group of people that we do need to be aware of and cautious about. How do we address this small group? How do I keep myself safe and teach my kids how to be safe around people they don’t know?

Using Our Intuition To Keep Us Safe

We all are born with a safety mechanism within us called intuition. We have all experienced it to various degrees. That gut feeling you get when you know when it does not feel right to agree to something. It can come up when you have an odd feeling about getting in the car with that person, when you feel you need to leave a place, or when not to agree to a deal.  

Some of us are more in tune with our gut than others. Why is that? It is because intuition is like a muscle in our bodies. If you use it regularly, it stays in shape, if you don’t use it, you lose it. So how do we lose it in the first place? When we were children, if adults discouraged us from following our gut feelings, if they discredited our feelings or taught us that adults always know best, then we likely began to disconnect and no longer trust this empowering safety mechanism within ourselves.

Gut Feelings

The good news is we can learn how to strengthen it and to trust it to make healthy decisions for ourselves, including decisions around safety. 

How Can We Use Intuition To Help Our Children Stay Safe? 

It is important to encourage our children to listen to their gut feelings, ideally starting at a very young age. When they are uncertain on what to do in a situation, before telling them, first ask them how does each option FEEL? (I sometimes ask my children: “What does your spirit say?”) With a few guided questions, see if they can find the answer within themselves. Start with choices that are safe either way. Then after they have made and lived the decision, ask them to reflect on their decision. If it all went well, excellent, they are building trust within themselves. If it didn’t, then help them reflect on why not in order to continue building trust to their inner wisdom.

Below are a few examples of how to help strengthen your children’s intuition:

  • When your child is uncertain about going to a friend’s house for a play date, ask them to go within to see how they feel when they imagine going. 

  • If your child is unsure if they should audition for the talent show, try out for the hockey team, or go on a trip with someone.  Ask them how it feels when you they see themselves doing these things? Does their heart leap up with a resounding yes? Or does something feel “off”? If they feel off, then some further questioning may be needed to help them understand where this feeling is coming from. If your children can feel the answers on the easier decisions, then they will feel more confident and sure of themselves when the harder or more vulnerable decisions in life arise. 

Listening To My Gut Feeling In Quebec

Recently on a road trip through Quebec with my two youngest daughters, Grace and Olivia, I felt my intuition go off. The feeling was a warning sign for me. 

The three of us were traveling to Jonquiere, Quebec, to visit my sister in law’s family so that my middle daughter Olivia could practice her french. Jonquiere is about two hours north of Quebec City where very little English is spoken. My daughter would have no choice but to embrace the french language.

Gut Feelings

On our way to Jonquiere, we decided to make a few stops to explore Quebec. One of our stops was Quebec City. I had not seen Old Quebec since I was in grade eight. I was looking forward to seeing it again and showing my two youngest girls the city for their first time. 

After stressfully failing to find a parking spot in Old Quebec, we decided we would go to see our Airbnb first and park. After settling in, we decided to walk to Old Quebec. Thanks to technology, my phone instantly gave us directions. It said it would be about a 25-minute walk to the “Hop On Hop Off” bus we wanted to take. Some of you may know, I struggle a bit with walking distances, but I assured myself I would be just fine. 

Google maps sent us the shortest distance, along a one-way road behind several apartment buildings. As we walked I looked around, making a note of my surroundings and at one point wondering if this was a slightly less safe area of the city. On the surface, everything seemed fine; there was nothing to be alarmed about. It was just a gut feeling. I took note of that feeling as we continued our walk to Old Quebec…

Gut Feelings

Listening to Your Gut Feeling

After the steep walk up to Old Quebec, we finally arrived at our location. We had a great afternoon on the tour bus and enjoyed ice cream in front of the famous Chateau Frontenac.

Gut Feelings

It was a scorching hot day, and the girls wanted to go back to our room, get changed and relax a bit before we went out for dinner. So, back, we walked. Our Airbnb was in a beautifully restored old house. We loved it. 

Gut Feelings

As we got ready to walk back to Old Quebec for dinner, Grace said, “I don’t think we should walk that way, I think we should stay on this busy street and walk over and turn down that other street to get there.” Olivia asked, “Why?” to which Grace replied, “I don’t have a good feeling about that other way we walked.” My whole body smiled. I was just about to suggest the same thing. 

I felt such relief that Grace noticed her feeling and was acting upon it.  I told her that listening to her gut would keep her safe, especially when traveling. And so off we went, taking the busy street instead.

We had a fun night out, seeing old Quebec at night which included a ferry ride.


By the time we got back off the ferry, it was getting late, and we were all tired. My ankles were asking me what the hell I was doing walking this much in one day. I told the girls that maybe we could get a cab. As we walked out onto the street, there was a cab pulling up — beautiful, perfect timing. The cab driver informed me he was there to pick up someone by another name. Darn. I then dismissed my gut and went into my head. Of course, we can walk back; we’ll be fine! The girls looked disappointed, and so were my ankles. 

Love Not Fear 

As we were approaching the last block of our walk back, a man came around the corner with his hoodie up wearing a mask. Olivia looked at me with eyes of terror. I just smiled reassuringly at her. All of my Non-Violent Communication training (click here to learn more on NVC) instantly came to the surface. I knew love, compassion and confidence would keep us safe, not fear. So I looked at the gentleman with a smile, sending love to a person who appeared “lost.” Of course, I added in my angels to protect us, lifted my shoulders back with confidence, and kept walking straight ahead with the girls as he walked past us.

As we entered our rental unit and locked the door behind us, we said nothing for a few minutes. Finally, Olivia said, “I thought he was going to kill us.”  My heart sunk over the realization of what fear she experienced. I believed this was one of those times where we potentially met up with the 2% of the population we need to understand how to protect ourselves from. 

I told the girls I knew being in a state of fear would not keep us safe. Love would. I shared how my heart went out to this man and what state he must be in to be hiding behind a mask. I explained that it is hurting people who hurt people. I knew if he was hurting within and was looking to hurt someone, he would be looking for someone who looked scared and weak. I told them about my smile, prayer, and “shoulders back.” 

I also confessed to my error. I wanted them to know that I had ignored my gut that we get a cab. I was still uncertain at that time why I had not followed my intuition. I also pointed out Grace’s wisdom in following her gut on the best route to walk in this city. Apparently, our guts may have been right about the neighborhood we were in.

Arguing With Reality Causes Suffering

As I got into bed that night, I laid awake in pure exhaustion. I was doing that thing many of us do very well, mothers, in particular, beating ourselves up over a decision we made, even when the outcome turned out okay. I kept telling myself I should have got the cab driver to call us a cab. I even went further into telling myself I should not have booked this Airbnb.

When I hear myself say “I should have” or “I shouldn’t have,” I know I am not in service to myself or others. This self-sabotage is not helpful to anyone. As I have said many times in my blogs, when we argue with the reality of what has happened, we suffer, and the reality was I booked this rental and I did not call a cab. 

How To Pull Ourselves Out of Self Sabotage 

So now what? How do I pull myself out of self-sabotage? I ask to receive the learning from it. The answer did not come to me that night. I got to sleep simply by reassuring myself it happened for a reason, and the answer will come if I stay open to it. 

A couple of days later, as Grace and I were driving home, we stopped to spend our last night at my brother’s just outside of Ottawa. I told my sister-in-law what happened, and she reminded me of how she often thinks about the Sheldon Kennedy blog I wrote about teaching our kids to listen to their gut so they can stay safe. It has helped her and her kids on several occasions. 

Finding the Gift in Challenging Moments

 When I reflected over the event I found several gifts…

  1. Grace had had an opportunity to listen to and strengthen her intuition.

  2. I was reminded of the importance of listening to my intuition.

  3. Olivia and Grace witnessed when I did not listen to my gut and how I handled that situation.

  4. Olivia and Grace also got to experience a calm, loving, and empowering way to keep themselves safe if they do run into a potentially dangerous situation.

Healing Our Minds, Not Making Excuses

It is important to note that when we make decisions, particularly the ones when we ignore our gut, we will not feel better by making excuses or assuring ourselves it worked out fine. On the surface, our self-assurances can help. However, I have found that peace only truly comes to me when I first accept my decisions and their outcomes and then open myself up to receiving the gifts of more in-depth understanding. My experience is these gifts of perception are what heals my mind and gives me peace. It amazes me that as soon as I open myself up to healing my mind, healing comes. 

Remember To Use Your Gut

Remember to use your intuition and listen to your gut. It is your life line to your Divine inner wisdom. What an amazing navigation system we all have within us.

Jill McPhersonComment