Trust Your Gut ~ An Encore (Plus a New Release!)

by Kassandra Lamb ~ Since I’m elbow deep in editing right now (To Bark or Not to Bark is coming soon!), I figured this was a good time for a re-run of the popular post, Why Trust Your Gut? I mentioned this post in my recent series on Forgiveness.

And we have a new release for you, a psychological suspense story from Shannon Esposito, in which “trust your gut” is definitely a theme.

Why do we call it a gut feeling anyway?

Probably because fear and anxiety are often felt in the stomach… knots, butterflies, nausea. And usually what we call a gut feeling is a sense that something is off or wrong about a situation, which causes at least some anxiety in one’s gut.

But these gut feelings don’t originate in the gut.

trust your gut
A brain on high alert! This is where gut feelings really originate.

They originate in a tiny little section within a slightly larger section of the brain called the basal ganglia (I just threw that in there so you’d be impressed that I know the parts of the brain 😀 )

This little mechanism alerts us when something is out of kilter in our environment. For lack of a better term, I will call it the alert signal.

The most common example of the alert signal is that nagging feeling that we’ve forgotten something.

This is, btw, one of the things that goes wrong in people with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Their alert signal gets stuck in the ‘on’ position, so they almost always feel like something’s wrong. Then their mind goes looking for something wrong when there isn’t a real problem.

But unless you have OCD, when the alert signal kicks in, there is something wrong. It might be something as trivial as that item you thought about taking with you, and then the thought slipped out of your conscious awareness. But some part of your brain is remembering it and trying to say, “Hey, you meant to take that thingamajig with you!”

Or it may be something that your brain has picked up on unconsciously that indicates danger.

We tend to think of our brains as a bunch of storage containers of information. But the only part of the brain that’s active, we assume, is the part that is currently consciously thinking about something. Right?

Wrong. There are parts of our brains that are constantly processing, interpreting, analyzing, emoting, etc. outside of our conscious awareness.

Suppose you are driving along a road in the mountains and you get a gut feeling that something’s wrong. But it’s a beautiful sunny day so you consciously decide your gut is nuts and ignore the signal.

trust your gut
Rockfall on a mountainous road. Good thing this truck driver has learned to trust his gut; he swerved just in time.  (photo by Swen Dirk, Wien, CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

However, a part of your brain (most likely the right hemisphere of the cerebral cortex) has registered a flicker of movement out of the corner of your eye and it has signaled another part of your brain (the amygdala, where fear and anger originate). That part is now screaming “Danger, danger!” at that little alert gizmo in the basal ganglia.

All this has happened in about a second, way too fast for your conscious mind to process what is going on. By the time it does, you’ve already got a boulder headed for the roof of your car.

Listen to Your Gut

Another example: you are out on a first date. The guy (or gal) is quite charming and attentive and you’re consciously thinking, “Hmm, he (she) just might be a keeper.” But you’re getting this gut feeling that something is off. (Okay, I’m just gonna use the male pronoun from now on; too awkward otherwise. But don’t take it personally, guys. Women can be weird too.)

LISTEN UP! A part of your brain has noticed that he has a funny little twitch in his right eyebrow every time he says something nice, or that his tone is a tiny bit flat. That part of your brain triggers the alert signal. “Beware! This guy might be a lying creep!”

You start to feel like something is off, and you’re getting a little queasy. Don’t dismiss that as you ate some bad fish. Or worse yet, do NOT mistake the butterflies in your stomach as excitement or love. (Ick!) Trust your gut!

Now, I’m not suggesting you jump up and stomp out of the restaurant, but be on guard. Get to know him a WHOLE LOT better before you let him into your house, much less into your heart. And don’t try to talk yourself into dismissing the gut feeling. You are having it for a reason. Until you identify that reason, be careful.

Think of that alert signal as your dog.

My dog barks at anything that gets within fifty feet of my house. It may be a delivery person bringing a package to my front step, a cat that has had the audacity to invade our backyard, or someone trying to break into the house.

But it is always something. It’s his job to alert me that something is coming into our territory. It’s my job to determine what it is and whether or not it’s a big deal.

That niggling little gut feeling is your barking dog. Listen to it, figure out what it’s trying to tell you, just in case it’s someone trying to break into your house.

Have there been times when you’ve trusted your gut and it’s saved you from grief? Or other times you didn’t listen and wished you had?

In Shannon Esposito’s new release, Book 1 in a new psychological suspense series, the main character, Frankie O’Farrell, is a journalist who has learned to trust her gut. But she’s had that trust shaken by a screw-up at her old job. Now she’s freelance, doing a feature story on a wildlife rescue center, and she will need to learn the lesson, trust your gut, all over again, as she tries to unravel what happened to a missing girl. (And if she wants to stay alive, in the meantime.)

Buried In the Dark, A Frankie O’Farrell Mystery

On her 21st birthday, Cate Flores finds the courage to flee her life with nothing but a trash bag of belongings and a black eye.

A help-wanted ad brings her to the Coastal Wildlife Rescue Center on Gull Island, where her dream of training to be a veterinarian seems possible. She’s finally found a safe place that feels like home, and the people there become family. Life couldn’t be better… and then on a warm September night, she disappears, never to be seen or heard from again.

Four years later, journalist Frankie O’Farrell—who’s hiding from her own demons—arrives on Gull Island to do a story on the rescue center. While looking through photo albums, she spots one of Cate and is immediately taken with the pure joy radiating from the girl. When told about Cate’s disappearance, Frankie becomes obsessed with figuring out what happened. But someone doesn’t want her to find Cate.

As the investigation brings Frankie closer to the truth, she receives threats to her life. Can she face her own devastating secret and risk everything to uncover the secret someone is desperate to keep buried?


Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida. Plus she has started a new police procedural series, also set in Florida—The C.o.P. on the Scene mysteries. And she writes romantic suspense under the pen name of Jessica Dale.

Misterio press produces an array of quality crime fiction. We post here twice a month, usually on Tuesdays, to alert you to new releases, to entertain, and to inform.

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