By venegas under CC

I have often prided myself in my gut reactions being accurate. I think there is a science behind ones “gut” reaction or intuitive thinking. This too was my gut reaction to gut reaction, till I started poking around and found Gerd Gigerenzer, a German social psychologist, who is known for his studies on intuitive thinking. Here is a really good research piece on thinking the fast and frugal way as they call it. Obviously its a more complex argument and field of study than what I know/understand. However it does make sense when I want to rethink my gut reactions and the ability to rethink gut reactions no matter how painful they are.

In the past, I have tried to break down my process of (gut) reaction to a person, object, interaction etc. Its a fairly complicated process and often I give up as I feel insufficiently prepared to do justice to the process. But when I am forced to rethink my gut reaction then I am given an opportunity to not only understand the process but what I was “missing” in the whole equation. Now it can be quite hard to say whether it was something “missing” or an unknown that cant be really missing if its not known. Which is what happened to me when I was upset about my partner’s obsession with turning every outdoor activity into a performance improvement activity. That is to say, measure performance and seek to improve it and measure that improvement  and so on (I am sure there is a term for this but obviously I dont know). However, when the opportunity to re-evaluate my gut reactions is in front of me, I most often pounce on it. I will come back to the pouncing on it attitude as it is extremely unsettling to have to re-evaluate your own gut reactions no matter how sound and accurate they looked at the time.

This attitude of his to make it into performance measuring and improving exercise irked me great deal. That was my gut reaction. When I tried to analyze it I broke it down to the way I see doing an activity. For me most activities are for the “joy” of it and the way I define joy is not based on optimizing my performance on that activity. Of course the definition of joy for my husband is different and that is fine but irked me. This was supposed to be an activity we did jointly for the joy it brought us in doing it with each other. The moment you insert measuring performance and optimizing it, the joy was taken out of it and it became something I had to make the most of, even though he never asked me to do so. For me joy and performance measurement are divorced of each other.

We talked about it and I communicated to him my cause for frustration and why this activity no longer seemed like an activity we enjoyed doing together but became something that was aimed at being improved upon and measured. He understood my concern and suggested removing the measurement aspect from it when we did it jointly. Then I came through this piece on the said activity and it made me *completely* rethink my gut reaction.

I am generally not scared of acknowledging to anyone that I am wrong or my conclusion may not be inaccurate. But its not easy to acknowledge to myself that my gut reaction was missing something. It makes me question my own gut reactions, not just a particular one but all other ones made thus far. What if I missed something in other reactions and have wrongly believed in something or done something because of that. That fear can be quite crippling. But the fear also gives way to something else which is the other side of the way we think which is based on information we have, the information we gather, to ensure that our decisions are sound or at least informed. The uncertainty of gut reactions forces us to want to gather as much information as possible so that along with the gut reaction this information prepares us to make the *right* call.

This message was originally posted to the GYCA group, you can read it here.

Hello from India.I have read with amazement and a bit jealousy all the wonderful activities you all have been conducting all over the world. As luck would have it I was travelling from the 29th November till the 1st of December for Bangalore. So I could not really be part of any large activities in the city, but I tried to make the most of time on the train. I thought that it would be a good idea to talk to people on the train about HIV/AIDS. It was rather an after thought, once i boarded the train!!

Anyhow, I decided to go and talk in each of the two interconnected compartments (a total of about 100 people) about this issue. I elicited some very interesting responses, based on which I decided to hold a small skit in my compartment on HIV/AIDS on the 1st December morning.

I asked for some volunteers from among the passengers, who would be the different characters in my skit, and tried to address the issue of stigma and discrimination of the HIV infected. We did a 40 minutes skit on this issue ( I know it was long, but there were some really interesting actors amongst the team). Most of the dialogues were scripted (by me!!!) though there were some impromptu acting too. It was a really interesting experience as I had two days in the train with other passengers, who assayed the different roles, for which I literally auditioned :), but I had one of the most enriching experience. At the end of the skit, everyone discussed on the theme, and I did try to document the reactions and responses.

I was not carrying any pamphlets with me, which I thought was the biggest disadvantage, though I created some leaflets for the passengers, based on the information that I remembered. Some co passengers wanted to discuss till late in the night, and I even conducted some one to one and group sessions!

I am not sure if this kind of exercise has ever been conducted before anywhere, should it be, or whether it would have any long lasting impacts, but I strongly suggest that all of us in this forum as well as other forums should think about using “any”, and I really mean “any” platform to talk about HIV/AIDS.

I would be conducting some followup with some of these passengers, lets see what happens then, as I want to evaluate the effectiveness of this exercise. I hope all your activities too were as fruitful as mine. Lets keep talking and sharing,

With lots of love

PS: If any of you wondering how much time did my journey take, it was 45 hours, almost two days. My longest and best train journey ever, God bless the Indian Railways!