I choose my instincts when doing something, but I doubt it and then do something else or something opposite. When reflecting back on it, I realize that my instincts were true. In short, why do I doubt my instincts and instead take a wrong decision for that task or situation? The answer or solution or strategy is within my reach yet I choose to deny it and later regret it. This happens nearly 8 to 9 out of 10 times. Why is it so?

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    You describe a situation where instincts are contrary to reason. And that is just how it should be in many cases. There's no manual for life, so we learn by trial and error. Even in the absence of doubt (when reason and instincts agree), you will fail, and suffer. That's just how we learn. One day, we become mature and tend to take the right decisions. But there's a long and tough road to get there.
    – RodolfoAP
    Mar 5, 2022 at 13:44
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    @RodolfoAP -- I have to disagree with the premise that we automatically reach a point of assonance in our actions. Many older people still appear to have great unresolved dissonance and its related struggles. No doubt, a general trend of coming to terms with ourselves seems present; but finding inner peace and cognitive consistency looks to take concerted effort, which many neglect to prioritise.
    – Michael
    Mar 5, 2022 at 14:00
  • This type of question belongs on a psychology forum, not philosophy.
    – Chelonian
    Mar 5, 2022 at 17:54

1 Answer 1


This is a great concern for Taoism, and for Zen Buddhism. These can be described as Philosophers or philosophical traditions that reject symbolic reasoning There is great emphasis on acting with simplicity and naturalism in these schools.

In sports science it has emerged that peak performance involves immersion in the activity, without intervention by the verbal mind, and this has been called 'the flow state'. A lot of research has focused on how meditative absorption is also a flow state. Some tasks suit verbal conceptual reasoning, but in many tasks our body 'knows better', and intuition often means muscle-memory, or subconscious processing. Meditation, and other kinds of willed absorption, can help us gain skills at listening to our whole mind, instead of only the verbal conceptual parts.

The Global-Workspace interpretation of conscious awareness, is that we have many parts of the mind operating out of awareness, and only sending things into conscious awareness when they contradict expectations, or in response to seeking things. 30-50% of the brain is involved in visual processing (depending how you define it), and there is huge sophistication to what is happening there. More on that here: What is the best theory about how a person models reality?

It should be noted there is a potential dark side to trusting uncritically to brain processes from out of awareness: cognitive bias, and the human tendency towards post-hoc reasoning, where we jump to unreasoned choices and conclusions then use reasoning to justify those, so that they feel like reasoned choices. Hume dealt with this in his Is-Ought problem. It is interesting to look at how we are nearly the only species to almost always have sex in private, and that while we can explain this as serving our ability to cooperate, we struggle to account for it in terms of reasoning: How do ethicists tackle the question "Is it immoral to have sex in public places?" Is it possible to use rational and empirical ideas to answer? Jonathan Haidt has very interesting work in this area, eg The emotional dog and its rational tail: a social intuitionist approach to moral judgment

As well as subconscious and non-conscious processing feeding intuitions, we can also look at instinct. I suspect very little of what you are describing is actually from this area though, because it means reactions shaped by selection processes over multiple generations. Discussed here: What are the current theories about instinct in philosophy of the mind?

I make the case we can understand wisdom as acting from the integrated centre of our concerns, here: Wisdom and John Vervaeke's awakening from the meaning crises? A mix of tools, like practice, reflection on habits, meditation, and other investigations of our own mind, can help us arrive at deeper self-knowledge. I suggest that your issues are above all over-reliance on your verbal-conceptual mind. Seek out activities that use that less, art, music, craft, sports (I find climbing is great for this, because the body feels total attention us necessary to not fall & die, whatever the reasoning part says - and at the end of a climb you realise you've had a break from the minds churning words). And consider meditation, there are many online guides, things on Youtube, apps, or you can visit groups. There are many different styles, so I recommend trying more than one before going deeper with the style that speaks to you.

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