TRANSCRIPT: Gut-Feelings: Their Possible Role in Intuition & Dream Interpretation
Hello and welcome episode three of Amber & Amulets! In this episode I will be talking about gut-feelings and their possible role with intuition and dreams from a scientific perspective and because of that I will not go so much in depth about folklore or magickal aspects of dreams and other oneiric practices one could use. That is possibly for another episode! This is my UPG, unverified personal gnosis, based on what I have read on the gut-microbiome and brain health, the subconscious, and how I thought about that information in context with the dream and nightmare work I do.
According to Dr. Siri Carpenter:
“The gut microbiome can influence neural development, brain chemistry and a wide range of behavioral phenomena, including emotional behavior, pain perception, and how the stress system responds… The human gut can be referred to as the “second brain” since it is the “only organ to boast its own independent nervous system, called the enteric nervous system, an intricate network of 100 million neurons embedded in the gut wall.” (Carpenter, 2012)
Research on gut bacteria affecting psychological well-being in humans is still being explored, but very exciting!
It is still unclear to science why we dream and the gut-brain connection is still relatively new to research. This is my UPG on how gut-feelings/intuition may play a role in dreams and nightmares based on the information I’ve read. Due to my beliefs, I do acknowledge that other forces may still play a role in premonitions and the like. I also believe that entities, spirit guides, ancestral spirits, etc. are able to enter your dreams for any reason. However, that is a conversation for another time. This episode will primarily focus on exploring dreams and intuition in a more scientific lens because I think it is quite interesting.
If you want to learn more about any of the topics here, I encourage you to do research on your own time. I also implore you to use discernment, be mindful of the sources you read and the biases they may hold. That includes this podcast episode.
Just some quick vocab before we begin:
⚝ Subconscious- part of the mind one is not completely aware of; can influence feelings and actions
⚝ Unconscious- not awake/conscious
*I thought it was important to distinguish these two words since some people use them interchangeably even though they are different.
⚝ Cognitive- relating to cognition (the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses)
Background / Gut-Feelings
So, gut feelings, what are they?
You may have heard the saying “trust your gut” or “follow your instinct” but do you know where those feelings and instincts may originate? Sometimes, people call this intuition, the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning and is true to an individual. Unfortunately intuition is often ridiculed if it is used to make a decision since there is typically no logic, data or hard facts to support the decision. So, why do people still trust these gut feelings? There are a few theories where these feelings come from purely from a scientific standpoint for now.
1. Neurotransmitters- A chemical signal sent from one brain cell, called a neuron, to another, and part of the brain-gut connection (Dictionary.com). It’s quite possible the gut microbiome could affect the mind (Carpenter, 2012). According to Siri Carpenter’s (PhD) American Psychological Association, about 95% of your body’s serotonin is produced in the gut which then influences emotions and mood (Nawal, 2022). When I am hangry, hungry and angry at the same time, and then eat food, my mood instantly gets better. “When high serotonin levels are produced due to an external cause, it may make you feel safe or in danger depending on the situation [such as] getting lost in an area… you haven’t been before,” (Nawal, 2022). This can be translated to an instinctual fear or a feeling that you shouldn’t be where you are.
2. Brain Processing- So this theory is focusing on the information from our real-life experiences we are consciously aware of, or subconsciously aware of (direct or indirect). Our past-experiences and knowledge also help us to prepare for a multitude of situations (Nawal, 2022). For example, you see an email from an unknown email address or an email address different from the legitimate companies and you have a feeling not to open it because of hearing of your friends or family being scammed in this way. In other words, using discernment.
3. Emotional Awareness- There is a part of our brain called the amygdala which people call “the emotional brain” since its function is to regulate our emotions and store memories (Nawal, 2022). A study led by psychologist Dr. Pegna discovered that the amygdala processes information two-tenths of a second, and it takes three-tenths of a second for us to become aware of what we see (Nawal, 2022). So there is a “feeling” we can get from a stimulus that our brain processes before we are aware of it. A lot of stimuli from daily activities about our environment gets processed subconsciously, meaning you aren’t fully aware of what you see and interact with in your surroundings, but your brain picks up those details while your primary focus is elsewhere. For my UPG, this could explain why when you’re thrift shopping you get a weird feeling from either the store or object/area and you can’t explain why, or you are talking to a stranger and know something is off but can’t explain why. I just want to clarify that this is different from fear or any preconceived cognitive bias you have towards the way someone looks which we will be going into shortly.
So, in short, gut feelings are “internal impetus that makes you feel, behave, or react in some way due to an external cause” (Nawal, 2022). Trusting your gut feeling may seem illogical to some individuals, but it always feels so right when you trust yourself and listen to that instinct. Gut feelings are not produced out of thin air, they are connected to your brain to help you make decisions. These can be explained by the gut bacteria helping to produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin, glutamate, GABA, serotonin, and dopamine (Chen et. al., 2021), there are emotional and other sensory experiences that your brain processes in the everyday, the amygdala (emotional brain) could play a role as well since it processes information faster than we are consciously aware of them.
Even though your gut feelings may be reliable since they seem to be rooted in emotions and environmental processing and observations, they serve a purpose and I do not recommend relying heavily on these feelings. Think through situations to filter out if what you’re feeling is necessary/appropriate, assess risks and benefits, and be aware of your biases. (Not the k-pop kind if you know you know)
Now, it is important to keep in mind that everyone has their own cognitive bias when it comes to intuition. Cognitive bias is “a systematic pattern of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment. Individuals create their own ‘subjective reality’ from their perception of the input” (Wikipedia, 2023).
“Biases…affect our memory for people, events, and information… affect how we perceive certain events and people, [there are] biases that we use when we have too little information and need to fill in the gaps, and biases that affect how we make decisions” (Alicia Nortje, Ph. D., 2020).
According to research done by Alicia Nortje, Ph. D., a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Psychology at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, “when considering the term ‘cognitive biases,’ it’s important to note that there is overlap between cognitive biases and heuristics. Sometimes these two terms are used interchangeably, as though they are synonyms; however, their relationship is nuanced” (Alicia Nortje, Ph. D., 2020).
Heuristics (which is based on a Greek word meaning to find, discover), are the strategies derived from previous experiences with similar problems (such as trial and error, a rule of thumb, or an educated guess) (Alicia Nortje, Ph. D., 2020). Oftentimes, these “short-cuts” are not optimal and are often imperfect, but satisfactory and adequate enough to find a solution in a moment to lighten the load of cognitive decision making (Wikipedia, 2023).
There are over 180 known cognitive biases, but to keep things concise, these are the four most common biases according Dr. Nortje:
1. Confirmation bias
This bias is based on looking for or overvaluing information that confirms our beliefs or expectations (Edgar & Edgar, 2016; Nickerson, 1998). For example, a police officer who is looking for physical signs of lying might mistakenly classify other behaviors as evidence of lying.
2. Gambler’s fallacy
This false belief describes our tendency to believe that something will happen because it hasn’t happened yet (Ayton & Fischer, 2004; Clotfelter & Cook, 1993).
For example, when betting on a roulette table, if previous outcomes have landed on red, then we might mistakenly assume that the next outcome will be black; however, these events are independent of each other (i.e., the probability of their results do not affect each other).
3. Gender bias
Gender bias describes our tendency to assign specific behavior and characteristics to a particular gender without supporting evidence (Garb, 1997).
These following examples from papers written in 1997, 2004, and 2018 focus on the binary, male and female, but this is applicable for all genders. So, for example, complaints of pain are taken more seriously when made by male, rather than female, patients (Gawande, 2014); women are perceived as better caregivers than men (Anthony, 2004); specific clinical syndromes are more readily diagnosed in women than in men (Garb, 1997); and students often rate female lecturers lower than male lecturers (MacNell, Driscoll, & Hunt; 2014; Mitchell & Martin, 2018).
4. Group attribution error
This error describes our tendency to overgeneralize how a group of people will behave based on an interaction with only one person from that group (Pettigrew, 1979).
For example, a negative experience with someone from a different group (e.g., a different culture, gender, religion, political party, etc.) might make us say that all members of that group share the same negative characteristics. Group attribution error forms part of the explanation for prejudice in social psychology. (Alicia Nortje, Ph. D., 2020)
There are over 180 known cognitive biases so for more information, please check out the Cognitive Bias Codex created by John Manoogian III and Buster Benson. “The codex is a useful tool for visually representing all of the known biases that exist to date” (Alicia Nortje, Ph. D., 2020).
Relation to Dreams
Dreams are quite complicated. Some people think that they are the subconscious mind trying to work out a problem, reveal unfinished business, or just nonsense jumbled together. Some people even ask specific questions they are trying to solve or work through before going to sleep to have their dreams guide them or show them a path or answer to solve that issue. It is possible the brain can use the subconscious information or “gut-feelings” taken from throughout the day to create a dream (Psychology Today).
Exposing how one truly feels about something or someone within the dream. I personally believe dreams are a combination of all the above, and it takes practice learning to discern what is filler and what is meaning especially if you remember most of your dreams.
However, I believe science and magick are two sides of the same coin. I also believe dreams can have premonitions embedded within them or the full dream itself is a premonition. I believe dreams are when individuals are most susceptible to attacks either by other individuals or entities on this plane and even things greater than ourselves. Dreams also provide opportunities to communicate with our spirit guide(s), higher self, ancestors no longer in this realm of existence, aid in astral travel, shapeshifting, and more.
Dreams, tell you what you know, what you feel about something. For the most part, a dream has fluff meaning you have to sort through what actually means something and what is filler. Dream interpretation allows one to think about their dream and find relevant images, symbols, or meaning from key elements of the dream that invokes a strong response to you. Since dreams are unique to the individual, they are subjective, meaning that symbols to one person can mean something different to another. Like one person can view snakes as beings of evil, pain, and suffering and another can see them as a symbol of rebirth or starting over due to their ability to shed their skin, someone may fear something that another doesn't, and so on. So to do dream interpretation you need to ask yourself questions like what is my dream trying to tell me? Are there any metaphors or symbols? What could have caused the dream? Does it actually mean something or is it because I watched a zombie movie last night? It is thought that if you were to dream that a friend is having a difficult time, check the physical world first, the mundane. So reachout to that friend and ask if they are okay. If they are (and being truthful) then dive into questions like, am I worried about something happening to someone I care about or am I the one going through a difficult time and need comforting?
If you have a dream about something that you believe is symbolic, I suggest writing down what you remember and doing some research about that symbol or symbols. Some books I suggest using to get you stated are:
⚝ The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images by Publisher Taschen
⚝ A Dictionary of Symbols by Juan Eduardo Cirlot
Aside from what I just mentioned, dreams and nightmares can hold a lot more than just symbolism or answering a question. Entities, spirit guides, ancestral spirits, messages from deities, etc. are able to enter your dreams for any reason. With dreams and even with nightmares, there are moments of clarity and moments of fogginess within themselves and it is up to you to discern, dissect and pull out those important bits, and ruminate on what may be going on in, around, and to you. How you do this is based on your collected knowledge, your experience, your upbringing, and relationships you have with symbols, animals, and other spirits.
Culture & Experience Matter
When taking into consideration dreams and how dreams are interpreted with a culture or one's own personal experience, aside from the scientific musing, dreams become a lot more nuanced than they already are.
In Mexico, I know that there are quite a bit of different forms of dream knowledge. Every culture has their own unique, yet similar way of interpreting dreams. These methods and knowledge were passed on generation to generation through stories, teachings, songs, and more. Omens, superstitions, and symbols are also part of cultural folklore, lore of the people. You may have heard to throw salt over your left shoulder if you accidentally spill salt to ward off negativity or bad luck, or what about breaking a mirror brings seven days of bad luck? Depending on what your dream contains, whether it be a situation or recurring symbol, think about what it means to you and your culture or personal experiences with their meanings.
Again, depending on your culture and heritage, some dreams can be prophetic or hold premonitions of some sort, so I encourage you to explore, embrace, reconnect with your roots with respect and healthy curiosity. Keep in mind that DNA does not equal culture. Think about culture as how you grew up, what were you taught, what was passed down, and what is practiced today within a similar community.
According to Liz Estela Islas Salingas, Dreams in the practice of traditional healers of the Totonacos, their indigenous conception of dreams is that when we dream, we enter an otherworldly space (not tied to our physical world) where we can interact with other spirits. This concept is something my family believes in, and a belief I have been brought up with. I don’t believe this happens everytime I dream, just for some dreams. I had one dream around Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), that I remember where my deceased aunt and uncle and others were bringing food for a holiday family event at someone's house and my uncle was like “you must have apple pie!” so I put an apple pie for him on my ofrenda. I remember calling my parents the next day and telling them what happened in my dream and they also put apple pie on their ofrenda for my uncle.
Keep a Dream Journal
What you will need:
To help remember dreams it is recommended to keep a dream journal. Keep both the journal and writing utensil at your bedside so you can jot down your dreams right after waking. Before you go to sleep, think to yourself, "When I wake up, I will remember my dreams." This may help you remember to write down what you dreamt, or dream more vividly. It is common to have multiple dreams a night, and if you are just beginning to keep a dream journal try remembering just bits and pieces of a dream. This will help with dream recall and it will get easier the more you practice. When you wake up, immediately think about and replay the dream you just had, even if it is a snippet of what happened near the end because that may start a chain of thought to reveal what occurred before then, and before then and so on. Keep repeating it in your mind. Grab your journal and begin writing what you remember. Don't worry too much about the details, just write!
To briefly touch on the magickal aspect of dreaming, I just want to remind you that it is important to protect yourself energetically before you go to sleep. This can be through herbs, energy work, or setting protective intentions when getting ready that evening because of the possible risks involved in dreaming and nightmare work regarding unwanted entities, energies, or anything else that may enter that is not your higher self or your highest good.
Some Plant Spirits that Aid in Dreaming, Astral Travel, and Prophecy Work:
Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla)
Hops (Humulus lupulus)
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Spearmint (Mentha spicata)
Peppermint (Mentha piperita L.)
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata)
Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea)
Valerian Root (Valeriana officinalis)
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus)
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
Lemon Verbena (Aloysia citriodora)
Blue Lotus (Nymphaea caerulea)
Yarrow (Archillea millefolium)
Kava Kava (Piper methysticum)
Butterfly Pea Flower (Clitoria ternatea)
Cloves (Syzygium aromaticum)
Star Anise (Illicium verum)
Tying in the gut microbiome back into dreaming, I know some bitches who do consume some of the plants above in a tea cocktail (a combination of herbs and spices) before bed with the intent of protection, lucid dreaming, astral travel, etc… Those bitches are me. Before consuming anything always research if it is safe to consume for you and your body, if it is safe to consume at all. I personally love butterfly pea flower because it is just so fun, especially if you add honey and lemon to your tea, the acid from the lemon turns the blue water that the flower creates purple. So stunning.
Here are a few tips to help get you started on your research:
1. Go to your local public library and check out books on dreaming. Don't know where to start? Ask the librarian and they can help answer any questions you have.
2. Don't have a local library close to you? Do some research on the internet! There are great public medical journal websites out there such as the NIH National Library of Medicine ncbi.nlm.nih.gov and JSTOR at jstor.org.
3. Talk to friends and family! You'd be surprised at the stories they tell, and what dreams they remember. Oftentimes discussing dreams can open doors to multiple types of conversations, and a wonderful conversation starter to boot! This is a great way to learn and understand people's experiences with dreams and their interpretations. You may also learn more about your familial beliefs as well.
That concludes this episode. Thank you all so much for listening! I hope this got you thinking about dreams and intuition in a different way than you have before. I had so much fun putting this episode together.
If you’d like a transcript of and sources used in this episode please visit the Amber & Amulets website at amberandamulets.com. I hope this episode encourages you to incorporate dream and nightmare magick into your practice, research cognitive biases and recognise any you may have, and think about your own experiences with symbols to apply meaning to them. If you have any suggestions on what you would like me to discuss in future episodes, go to www.amberandamulets.com, click the “About” tab and go to the “STORY SUBMISSIONS / CONTACT” section. Once again, thank you so much for listening, and remember, there is magick in the everyday.
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Chen, Y., Xu, J., & Chen, Y. (2021, June 19). Regulation of neurotransmitters by the gut microbiota and effects on cognition in neurological disorders. PMC Pubmed Central. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8234057/#:~:text=Besides%20short%2Dchain%20fatty%20acids,19%2C29%2C32%5D
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