Its something we talk a lot about, don’t really understand much, and don’t tend to trust a lot. Its those niggling little feelings that arise from somewhere behind our belt buckle, deep in our tummies, that try to influence our thoughts and actions. Often, we don’t trust them, and tend to ignore what they are telling us, most often, at our peril.
In an animal, let’s say a pet dog for example, we would call that sort of thing an “instinct.” But in humans, we seem to deny ourselves the benefit of instincts because we seem to think instincts are animalistic and not worthy of humans. We forget (or are in denial about) the fact that humans are animals, too, and way, way back in the darkest past, we, too, relied on those instincts, those feelings we couldn’t really explain the origins of, for our very survival!
Modern culture seems to demand that we understand everything we experience, or we must discard the things we can’t explain as superstitions. It’s a good thing we didn’t think that way, way back in those dark early periods of our development from baser animals to humans. If we had, we would probably have gone extinct long before we started developing culture.
I know it took me a long time before I stopped trying to explain those feelings to myself and just accepted them and acted on them. These days I accept them as valid pretty regularly, and always with a good result. I’ve come to realize that just because I can’t explain why that new person I’ve just met makes me feel uneasy or distrustful of them doesn’t mean I should just trust them implicitly. To me, it means I should extend my trust to them, if at all, in small bites and watch closely to see what they do with it.
Intuition has served me well over the years in managing the ATC, too. For example, some folks you meet just seem to inspire a great deal of confidence in you, and some others, not so much confidence as caution. When your gut says “go slow,” confidence, like responsibility, should be dispensed carefully and in small quantities, based on your instinctual feelings, and the results assessed before extending any more.
An example of that is how I tend to assess strangers who approach the ATC about affiliating. I believe there is no better way to assess them than to actually meet face-to-face with them and their group (if a group already exists). The ‘vibes’ I get from such a meeting have never failed to be spot-on. Out of fairness, I don’t just stop my investigation of them then. I ask for references in their area from prominent Pagans whose names are familiar to me, or better yet, whom I have met. Usually, that information confirms my feelings.
Not all references need be good. A bad reference from someone you don’t respect may be a lot more reliable validation of your good gut feeling than a good reference given out of politeness. It is true we may be known by who our friends are, but even truer still that we may be best known by who doesn’t like us!
In the magical traditions of Western society, intuitive feelings are encouraged more than in the society in general, but still held to some degree of suspicion. Based on my own fairly long experience* in that area, I encourage you to trust those intuitive gut feelings while still being cautious. Eventually you will come to learn which ones are reliable, and it will become a matter of course in your every-day decision-making. It has for me, and I have very few regrets. (*Well, except maybe for the secretary I hired many years ago against my negative gut feelings. She wound up stealing $600 from me, but did teach me to rely more on my gut!)