I have spoken here about self-trust and a willingness to stay open to whatever is encountered on ones path or journey. But all of that includes the willingness to be wrong, on occasion. For some, that might be really difficult. Being wrong can appear as foolishness, and there are those who would foolishly define it as stupidity. It is anything but.
No one, other than Robin Williams or Jim Carey, really wants to look foolish. Those two get paid really big bucks for their antics, the rest of us just get negative feelings and lots of self-doubt. And that in itself, may be the biggest obstacle in trusting our own intuitive abilities.
Gavin DeBecker, in The Gift of Fear, tells us how and why the human species had a deep need to develop that particular aspect of the brain. It stems from a time period when human beings were definitely at the bottom of the food chain. Each individual had to develop a keen sense of his/her surroundings and everything within them or risk being swallowed whole by much bigger, stronger, and more aggressive creatures needing food to survive within it. In other words, we had to learn to trust our perceptions and act on them in the moment, or risk our own lives and those of others of our kind.
Question is, has that really changed? We may have moved up on that food chain, but there is also the reality that some of our kind are definitely bigger, stronger, and far more aggressive in obtaining whatever they see as their own particular or peculiar needs. At the same time, being wrong might look foolish, or simply appear as weakness to those so inclined, making that one who is wrong a target for a lot more than a leisurely lunch.
All of that knowledge is there inside our brain. Both the need to perceive and act, and the awareness of what could happen if we are wrong. It’s hard-wired into the system. It stands to reason that a willingness to be wrong, on occasion, might become a major struggle for a great many people. Instinct says, “You better not be wrong on this one.” When we encounter that instinctual response, it creates a great deal of confusion and ultimately an unwillingness to act or to speak out. Keeping ourselves safe is, or becomes, a matter of self-preservation.
Yet, here I am, encouraging you to take that risk. Why? Simply put, because intuition has many more uses other than that of keeping us from becoming lunch. It isn’t just a preventative or form of protection, it is also a gateway into new knowledge and wisdom. A threshold for learning. And learning means that, on occasion, we can and do get it wrong.
Learning is a process that takes place over time. Some of that time, we actually get it right, other times we miss that mark. But, each time, right or wrong, we learn a bit more from our own experience. Truth is, we learn a great deal more from our mistakes because they usually make a greater impression on our psyche. And if we are alert, we also learn a great deal from the mistakes of those around us.
Have you ever watched the movie The Messenger? It is the story of Joan of Arc. Although it takes a great deal of liberty with her actual history, there is a very pertinent message to be found within it. Joan had visions. She acted on those visions and made a great deal of difference in French history. But, she was also burned at the stake. Not because she had visions or because those visions were wrong. In all actuality, she was burned because she wore trousers instead of a dress when she led her troops into battle.
Her decision to do so made a great deal of common sense. But, she existed in a time period that forbad women to dress in that manner and she was punished for breaking those rules. She also existed in a time period when the common folk, of which she was one, were fed on the belief that their King and Church were supreme and only had their best interests at heart. Her mistake was in trusting that particular mindset.
In the movie, there are many scenes of Joan in prison, caught up in that self-debate of ‘did I get it wrong or right?’ (that confusion and indecisiveness I spoke of earlier). Dustin Hoffman plays the role of her conscience, arguing with her about her actions. In one scene, he asks her about her original vision of her with sword in hand, leading men into battle. When she came out of the vision, she found a sword lying in the grass within her reach.
She assumed that was a signal that she must act upon. She interpreted it to mean that she was meant to do what she had seen in that vision. He, after she tells him of that experience, sets out to show her how many other interpretations one could get from that experience. And she ends up just as confused and indecisive as one can imagine. That, in turn, leads to her pleading guilty to whatever charges have been brought against her, and later, after further discussions with him, a recanting of that guilty plea.
Those scenes from the movie, were for me, the best graphics I have ever come across concerning what happens to us when we try to follow our intuitive leadings. Because those leadings are based in fleeting subjective impressions, they also bring to the surface that instinctual need to self-preserve, to be right and never wrong. Joan’s life didn’t depend on her being right or wrong, it depended on the power of those around her who were willing to use her, then discard her when she had served their purposes. Ugly? Yes, but there is something to be learned in all of it.
Being wrong, on occasion, might get us burned on some emotional or psychological level. But, taking the chance, and finding one is right is also one of the most healing things that can take place for any individual and for the world he/she inhabits. Is that a risk I am willing to take? Yes. I have been taking that risk for many years and finding that healing, as well as the wisdom and knowledge to be learned from it. I am taking it in this moment by writing this blog.
Are you willing to be wrong, on occasion?