Intuition, or gut instinct, is the most powerful natural protective mechanism that we have. – A quote just about everyone would agree on in theory
While just about everyone will admit at some point in time that instincts are a good thing, most of us are taught to also question them. We learn from a very early age not to wrongfully judge others, to be kind and loving, and to avoid being a mean person. I used to love walking closely behind Prince as he walked through the mall. He was like a little barometer of goodness. He would naturally gravitate toward people who put out friendly and positive vibes, and would avoid people who have him the willies. By avoid, I mean that he never seemed to care if bad people were insulted by his screaming and he never thought twice about running away from someone who scared him. For example, Prince cried every time he saw Luc. One time he cried so long that he started to hyperventilate which forced the visit to end early. Prince’s gut was fully functional. Prince was a special little boy, but his instincts were not unusual for a child.
When I was a teenager, I went on vacation with my family to Europe. My sister was about seven years old and was easily scared. While we were in Paris, my brother and I were teasing her about how when we went to the Notre Dame Cathedral she should be on the lookout for “Quasimoto”. (Note: For those who don’t know the story of Quasimodo, he was born with a hunchback and feared by the townspeople as a sort of monster.) Just as we left the cathedral, my sister ran smack into a scary looking old homeless man. In true seven year old fashion, she ran away screaming and crying about how she had just seen a monster. Of course, my entire family was completely embarrassed and my parents explained to my sister that it was wrong to judge this man because of how he looked and was dressed. About five minutes after my sister’s very public reaction to this man, we noticed that he was going around pick pocketing unsuspecting tourists. While my parents’ hearts were in the right place, I think my sister had a very protective instinctual reaction that was not simply based on how this man looked. While the rest of us felt bad judging him based on our gut instincts, my sister was right to run away from him because he gave her the willies. She did what most seven year olds would do to protect themselves – run away screaming.
Ignoring your gut:
Everyone reading my blog likely knows by now that my life has recently been filled with all kinds of bad news drama. Some of you might still be wondering how in hell a woman like me got mixed up with a serial killer. While I recognize that my story is on the extreme spectrum of badness, there are a lot of important life lessons that are useful for even the less extreme situations. I have spoken before about how I met Luc online (mistake number one – noted). Our phone conversations had gone well and he seemed to have an interesting story (because it was just a story); however, when I first set eyes on Luc something deep inside me told me to run. The hair on the back of my neck stood up, and he just plain gave me the willies. That feeling in my stomach, sadly, was not butterflies – it was God sending me a sign and telling me things were not right with this man.
So why didn’t I turn around right there in the mall and leave? Why didn’t I just stand him up, make up an excuse, or just disappear and never answer my phone again? I didn’t run because I ignored my gut. I was a good person who didn’t want to be mean by telling him he gave me the creeps before running in the opposite direction. By ignoring those initial instincts and sticking around for that first date, I allowed him to dig his evil claws into me and disarm me with his charm and all out love bombing techniques. It only took Luc a few minutes to squash my gut.
Unfortunately, after I initially ignored my gut with Luc, it became a bit of a slippery slope. There were moments when that gut feeling would come back, but because I didn’t have solid evidence to explain why I had these feelings – I continued to ignore them thinking that maybe I was the one overreacting or just “being mean”. When I was pregnant, I ignored my gut thinking that maybe I was just hormonal. There became a point where I had defended the idea of Luc so much in my head, and to doubtful and rightfully skeezed out friends, that I felt invested in something I should not have even entered into.
Things that inhibit your gut:
In the past, I have cautioned my readers against internet dating. I am going to take this a step further to say that with the emergence of technology, we often enter into situations that inhibit our ability to have that initial gut instinct. For example, con men in other countries run online schemes swindling innocent people out of millions of dollars without ever having to face them in person. It is easier these days for predators and criminals to hide behind a computer screen. Luc was incredibly successful at finding his targets on the internet. He would not have been this successful in person. The nonverbal cues that people give off help us determine whether or not they are genuine. When you don’t have the opportunity to assess these cues, you start out at a disadvantage.
The price I paid:
Ignoring my gut instinct was what initially allowed me to fall for a con man, but the sad reality is that once I figured out my mistake – and realized how terribly dangerous Luc was – the courts forced me to ignore my instincts when it came to Prince. The Judge chastised me for having had a child with Luc, and appeared gleeful at the idea that I would forever be punished – now forced to ignore my maternal instincts and turn my son over to the man who had conned me. Prince only survived three visits before on the fourth visit coming home brain dead and cold. Every single time I said goodbye to my son before handing him over to Luc, my gut would scream bloody hell. My instincts at this time told me to run. I had gotten as far as getting Prince a passport, and was actively thinking about places I could go and hide. Unfortunately, I had ignored my gut for so long that the courts took away my ability to legally follow my gut. I knew that I couldn’t break the law without becoming a fugitive, end up in jail one day, and lose custody by default.
Sadly, I know there are many parents who will continue to face this painful reality. I wish I could provide you with the wisdom that would make it easier to endure. The only possible advice I would offer you is not to let the court make you believe that it’s in your child’s best interest to ignore your gut. Try not to let years in the system make you numb to those instincts that might one day save your child. It might feel easier to ignore those instincts when you are forced to turn your child over despite them. Play the game because you must, but don’t ignore your best defense against evil – instincts.
I am not suggesting that I should have run away screaming and crying when I saw Luc the first time (though this would have likely been better than sticking around). Instead, I am suggesting a happy medium between the screaming child and my adult reaction. Had I to do all over again, I would have slowly backed away and ducked into a random store in the mall. Then, I would have ignored his phone calls or just made up some excuse why I couldn’t make the date and never again contact him. Sure, if for some reason you cannot escape a bad situation without running and scream – by all means channel your inner seven year old and scream your head off. Most of the time, however, we find ourselves in situations where we can easily choose to walk away when it doesn’t feel right.
Right after Prince died, my body felt like it was shutting down on me. I was a perfect target for predators because, frankly, my gut didn’t work right. I have since realized that there were several people who came into my life, and tried and capitalize on my devastating situation for their own personal gain. Luckily, I am starting to come out of the initial fog and have noticed things about these people that have led me to back away slowly before running away (screaming only in my head so not to cause a scene). It has proven somewhat harder to run away from a person you have initially let in; however, it is not impossible. At the end of the day, it is not mean to cut someone off if by doing so you are protecting yourself and your children.
I will forever have little lessons Prince taught me. The lesson of “trusting your gut”; however, is one that Prince reminded me of. When I was Prince’s age, I also had a healthy gut that I managed to ignore countless times as I got older and started to overthink every single situation. While I am not advocating making a snap judgment on a homeless person who may have fallen on hard times, I am advocating for not ignoring your gut instinct about someone just because you feel bad and have been taught to give everyone a chance.
If I ever find myself at the steps of the Notre Dame Cathedral with my future child, and we see Quasimoto’s stunt double trying to rob innocent people, I will grab my child’s hand, swiftly walk away, and say, “Mommy has the willies baby.”