The Quiet Governance of Instinct

By Candice Louisa Daquin

I grew up in a rational household. With people who tried to be rational all the time and usually were not. Despite this, I cleaved to the notion, rationality above emotionality or any other kind of reasoning.

My grandmothers were ridiculed for their superstitions and their gut instincts and women whose hands flew to their chests as they felt deeply, were laughed at. The provable, science of reason was the raison d’etre that ruled the day.

In living this way, two things happened. Firstly, I neglected my other instincts entirely. Secondly, I was wrong many times.

Reason cannot explain everything. It merely presupposes itself to be objective and thus, empirical. But as with any man-made presumption, it’s only as good as its maker, who of course, is anything but rational. Furthermore, there’s value in instinct — that gut instinct, someone has walked over my grave feeling your grandmothers had and you laughed at. Looking back, I cannot tell you how many times my gut instinct about a person or a situation was right and I ignored it because it wasn’t rational. For those of us who are non-believers, it’s very hard to believe in something less tangible than reason. But when we realise we have only believed reason is tangible, we can see all is fallacy and begin over.

Beginning over means being open to all possibilities including those that are not easily explained.When I get a feeling about something, I cannot point to its cause and explain it. So many times, I ignored it. More fool me, given it was nearly always right. It’s hard to explain to someone why you don’t want to get to know them, because your instincts say it’s not a good idea, so you go ahead and you ignore that, tamp it down, and later on realise, when they reveal themselves to be the unbalanced person you thought they were initially, how you should have had the courage to be honest. But how do you honestly explain to someone you don’t trust them just based on a feeling?

Instead, we do the socially approved norms and we neglect our instincts because how can we honestly get away with basing everything on feelings?

It is then, a huge irony that feelings, those initial thoughts we have upon meeting someone, are so often right. It may be as simple as an instinct like other animals have, and the accuracy of it is based upon the same natural instincts all animals share, that has just been forgotten by humans. We should make room for the validity of gut instincts and ‘senses’ given how accurate they are. They may not fit well with modern society, we may not be able to tout them as we do science, math, provable things. But when we realise so much of math and statistics is created by us, and thus, is only as empirical as we’ve made it, we can see everything is subjective and there is room for other modes of thinking and feeling.

I’m continually astounded by how accurate my gut instinct is. I met a woman once who I ended up working with extensively on a project. By all accounts she was a professional and a boon to the project. However, my first impression of her was she raised the hairs on the back of my neck. There was just something ‘wrong’ but I ignored this, feeing absurd for my feelings, and proceeded to work with her and have a friendship through that work. With time she revealed herself to be mentally unbalanced and worse, nothing of what she purported, and I found myself wishing I had known, when in reality I always had.

Rather than kicking ourselves we should applaud ourselves when we do have the courage to stand by our instincts. They have always been with us, they are not artificially imposed, they don’t worry about what others think and they’re not subject to whim as much ironically, as ‘facts’ can be, in this day of mutable truisms.

When something feels wrong, it’s probably wrong. When someone doesn’t seem right, they’re probably not. Don’t let their faux-shaming of your instincts, or your own, stop you from doing what you need to do to ward off potential calamity. We have instincts for a reason, and just as your cat knows when a predator is watching it, you know when one is watching you.


Candice Louisa Daquin is a Psychotherapist and Editor, having worked in Europe, Canada and the USA. Daquins own work is also published widely, she has written five books of poetry, the last published by Finishing Line Press called Pinch the Lock. Her website is www



5 replies on “The Quiet Governance of Instinct”

I agree, Candice, it’s time that we realize we are more perceptive than we think. It’s often hard to put into words what we’re feeling, but it would save us so much suffering if we followed our instincts more often. You’re right, animals do all the time. Have we been led to believe that we are more rational and perhaps more highly evolved than they are? Not! Perhaps we should look to Nature more often for guidance on how to live a good life and realize that we are a part of this great realm.

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