When was the last time you did something you knew deep down you shouldn’t do? It might have been as simple as saying yes to a friend’s invitation to lunch when you had planned to do something else at that time, or as sensitive as agreeing to babysit for your grandchild when you hadn’t slept well and were too tired to chase a toddler around. You can probably think of many other examples.
The first question I would ask is why did you say yes when you really wanted to say no. The second is, before you answered, did you have a moment of knowing what you wanted to say? Maybe it was a slight tightness in your chest or an instant headache that came out of nowhere. Whatever the clue was, you ignored it and said the opposite of what you wanted to say.
I was a teenager the first time I noticed this. When a certain boy asked me for a date, and I wanted to say, “Oh I’m sorry, but I’m busy Saturday night.” Even when my stomach was in knots, I usually said, “Sure. That sounds great.” In other words, this behavior goes way back.
What is the inkling to answer honestly, and why do we rationalize it away? I’ve thought a lot about this over the years and long ago gave it a name: The Jury of the Deep. (That’s not original, by the way. I appropriated the concept from John Steinbeck’s book, The Winter of Our Discontent.) I know this is hard to believe, but on more than one occasion, my Jury of the Deep went to great lengths to get my attention. It was pretty unsettling the first time it happened, but it certainly made me aware of its existence.
I would venture to say we all have a jury that alerts us to do what is in our best interest. The voice or thought or feeling that steers us in the right direction is inherent. It is our inner wisdom—our subconscious mind—which is the source of intuition and inner knowing, among other attributes. Our intuition informs us of something we may not consciously know; our inner knowing guides us to the actions that will protect our safety and well-being.
Why does this matter to us at our age? While this may not be the “winter of our discontent,” for many of us, it is the winter season of our lives. How is being introduced to our personal Jury of the Deep going to help us at this stage? By letting us know there is nothing we should do; there are only actions that will contribute to our physical and emotional health.
One of the best ways to “age with grace” is by staying in touch with your inner wisdom—your jury—and acting on its messages. When it affirms that you would rather take a nap than play Mahjongg, pay attention and gracefully decline the invitation to play. Your body knows you really need a nap.
So, just do it!