The difference between paranoia and intuition

I have spidey-senses. That tingle. That know.

I have intuition like we all do when we choose to access it. I can point to very clear instances when I trusted my intuition and when I didn’t.

I knew that my third child was coming, and coming 10 weeks early, without any physical reason I could put my finger on. I knew I shouldn’t have accepted that person as a client, again without any logical reason I could put my finger on.

But as meditation has taught me to be a witness to my thoughts, I have realized that I also suffer from intuition’s ugly sister: paranoia.

Paranoia and intuition both appear to deal in significant forecasts.  How do you know the difference between the two? These days my paranoia seems to be ratcheting up as I leave aspects of my comfort zone behind. I recently had to sit down and consider the difference.

This is what I believe to be true:

  • Intuition comes in a whisper. “Pssst. Sonja, call that friend now on the phone.” Paranoia comes in hostile, angry,  pitying or accusatory tones. ”Sonja! That person in your boss’s office is here to take your job! You should have seen it coming. Didn’t you get a sideways look from your boss two months ago? This is what you deserve!” All right already, shut up.
  • Intuition is calm, neutral. The insights and feelings are not emotional, just matter-a-fact. (Even when you’re having a premature baby!) Paranoia brings strong emotions of fear, self-loathing and anger. *A few words here about labeling “good” feelings intuition and “bad” feelings paranoia. The second to the last time I saw my dad alive, I started crying on the plane ride home. My intuition told me I wouldn’t be seeing him anymore.  He died three months later. If I were to distinguish between the tough emotions of intuition and paranoia I would say this: Intuition emotions seem to radiate out — a feeling of sadness about the love/loss of a father, the feeling of danger at getting into that person’s car. While paranoia emotions are inwardly generated and knock around your body like a pinball. 
  • Intuition often inspires action. While I sensed the very early arrival of my baby, I didn’t do a lot of hang-wringing. Instead I requested three days off work to rest up and I finished putting together the baby’s dresser and stacking all the onesies in it. Paranoia instigates reaction.Paranoia causes us to spend hours ruminating on what we fear will come to pass and engage in self-destructive behavior: Overworking, overeating, over-compensating, overtraining, etc…. “Sure, I’ll have another cocktail, why not,  he’s having an affair!” (Sniff) “I think.”
  • Intuition may not make sense but it feels right. I started clearing away clutter and packing infrequently used items two weeks before I got a job offer and had to quickly relocate. Luckily, I lived alone and didn’t have to answer the question about why boxes were everywhere.  I couldn’t have really told them anything anyway except, “Um, yeah, I think it’s a good thing. Because, well, you never know…” Paranoia makes all kinds of sense, now that you think about it. And think about it some more and some more and some more and some more. Of course, my co-worker doesn’t like me. There was that time he asked me me to join him and his friends for dinner after work. But it was the waaaay he asked. Like, you can come if you want. Or not.  And there was that time I emailed him about a project and it took him two whole days to get back to me.  And, also, I’ve never been part of his design team. I’m sure he had something to do with it.  
  • Intuition does not go away after a good night’s sleep.  If the feeling, knowing, gut reaction, persists — pay attention.  Paranoia may suddenly disappear after eight hours of sleep or a shared laugh with friends. What? What was freaking me out so bad yesterday? Must have been something I ate.

Have I gotten intuition and paranoia confused? Certainly I’ve mistaken paranoia for intuition. Maybe as I continue to observe my intuitive thoughts and paranoid feelings a little more, it will happen a little less.

4 Responses to “The difference between paranoia and intuition”

  1. 1
    cookbooklady

    Excellent explanation! I always recognize intuition, but for some reason I’m slow to dismiss the paranoia. Maybe now I’ll be able to take a breath, go through the “checklist” and let it go sooner!

  2. 2
    Vee

    Thanks so much for this Sonja. I just goggled intuition vs paranoia wondering if anyone else had this issue. I’m still struggling with learning to trust my gut, but also learning to differentiate it , from paranoia. especially in times of stress.. Your discriptions were right on point.

    I actually feel guilty at times about my “snap judgements” of people and situations. 98% of the time I’m right though. It could be a look, body language, or something very minor they’ve said that speaks volumes to me about who they are, or whats going on In my efforts to cultivate a more generous spirit , I often overlook my feelings and give whoever or whatever the benefit of the doubt to my own detriment.

    oh well still learning.

  3. 3
    Vee

    Thanks so much for this Sonja. I just goggled intuition vs paranoia wondering if anyone else had this issue. I’m still struggling with learning to trust my gut, but also learning to differentiate it , from paranoia. especially in times of stress.. Your descriptions were right on point.

    I actually feel guilty at times about my “snap” judgements of people and situations. 98% of the time I’m right though. It could be a look, body language, or something very minor they’ve said that speaks volumes to me about who they are, or whats going on In my efforts to cultivate a more generous spirit , I often overlook my feelings and give whoever or whatever the benefit of the doubt to my own detriment.

    oh well still learning.

  4. 4
    Sarah

    I definitely agree with this! It makes so much sense. Intuition is definitely calmer and paranoia makes you have a meltdown. I feel sometimes paranoia will have an element of truth to it, which makes it hard to ignore sometimes. We just need to think positively!


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