Yum/Yuck—Amazingly Reliable, Always Revealing [25]

In Spirituality & Personal Growth by Dr. Keith Witt

iStock_000001806047XSmall1 Jill—thirty-seven, an assistant District Attorney raising her ten-year-old son after a difficult divorce—sits across from me in my office, fretting about an invitation she just got from her friend Shelly. “She’s organizing a reunion of four of us who’ve stayed close since high school. She wants to meet in Vegas, gamble, see a couple of shows, and get crazy for a few days.” My clients have had the best of times and the worst of times in Las Vegas, so I’m used to both dread and wild excitement associated with such invitations. I can feel Jill’s reluctance and it makes me curious. “There’s something that bugs you about this.” Jill smiles, “I know. I should be happy to do it. The four of us had fun trips in our twenties, but since Jake was born, I haven’t enjoyed partying as much. The last couple of times it seems I wait around a lot while Shelly and the others drink, gamble, and flirt with guys.” I lean forward, “At this point the trip doesn’t sound much like a ‘yum.’ It sounds more like a ‘yuck.’” Jill laughs a little. “What do you mean? Shelly’s one of my best friends.” I like where we’re going with this conversation. Jill has trouble disappointing people she’s close to. “I know she’s a wonderful friend, and it’s confusing to not be attracted to something you used to enjoy so much. My wife’s spiritual teacher says that our initial reaction to things is usually ‘yum’ or ‘yuck.’ The kicker is that if it’s not an immediate ‘yum,’ it’s usually a ‘yuck.’’ Jill looks confused. “I used to love to party with them at places like Vegas and Tahoe. I don’t know what’s different about me.” I feel a wave of admiration for how much Jill has grown since her divorce three years ago. “You’ve changed a lot. One important difference is that you take your own intuitive reactions more seriously and are more willing to be assertive with people you love. ‘Yum’ and ‘yuck’ are useless unless we pay attention and are willing to act. In fact, if we don’t pay attention we get increasingly numb to intuition. On the other hand, as we listen better to ‘yums’ and ‘yucks’ our intuition improves. You’ve been getting more sensitive to these kinds of messages and that’s probably why you just didn’t say ‘yes’ automatically.” Jill gets that look of “This is making sense,” (a “yum” reaction) that is so enjoyable to see in therapy. “You’re right. I never even considered saying ‘no’ to Shelly before.”   Bruce Lipton, in the The Biology of Belief, describes how cells (amoebas, human cells, plant cells—basically all living cells) are always either growing or defending, but hardly ever doing both at once. If you observe a single cell, it is either metabolizing nutrients and expanding, or reacting to threats self-protectively. This “either you’re growing or defending” dynamic continues up the evolutionary chain to you and me going about our daily lives—adjusting every decision and action to feeling secure (we’re usually growing) or threatened (we’re usually defending). Jill’s ‘yuck’ to Las Vegas is her intuition telling her she’s repelled by the idea of partying in Vegas with her high school friends, but her habitual reluctance to disappoint others pushes her to say “yes” when she wants to say “no.” Such conflicts tend to confuse us. On multiple levels we spend our lives either defending or growing, guided by our immediate responses to circumstances. Our nervous systems react to each new situation with an immediate appraisal of attraction/repulsion, yes/no, or—as I’m fond of teaching—yum/yuck. “Yum” makes us want to move towards something, while “yuck” pushes us away. It is amazing how difficult it is sometimes to just notice this.   How do we ever decide what to do? How do we guide our lives through the incredible intricacies of the world—through the hundreds of decisions we make every day? How do we harness the power of our brain/mind/social systems to understand and thrive? “Yum” and “yuck” cover a lot territory in the decision making process.   Yum/yuck is not a perfectly simple system. We’ll often feel “yuck” to something that’s actually a good idea (the colonoscopy we keep postponing, paying bills, asking for a raise), or “yum” to something that’s harmful (having a drink with that married man, the second piece of chocolate cake, the third glass of wine), but we can’t adequately process anything without first noticing how we feel. Enter yum/yuck, our instinctive appraisal system. Becky has been my best teacher in life. As a seeker, she’s been introducing me to extraordinary people and systems forever. For example, she turned me on to David Deida and Ken Wilber, both of whose work rocked my world and became catalysts for seminal insights and writings. David and I have exchanged emails about our work, and Ken has become a friend whom I love to visit when I’m in Denver. Her teacher, Djwhul Khul (Their relationship is a great story—I’ll talk about Djwhul more in other blogs, and you can see more on http://www.terrinewlon.com/ ) told her that our bodies know what’s good for us—they resonate with “yum” or “yuck” for each choice. When we listen to yum/yuck with interest and acceptance, we make more good decisions and less bad ones.   This is a lot like energy testing, which Chiropractors and Educational Kinesiologists use routinely. Hold an arm out, have someone push it down while you resist, and it will move a little. Now make a false statement like, “My name is Mud,” while you’re friend tries to push your arm down and you resist. Nobody’s named “Mud,” so I know your body will read this statement as a lie, and your friend will easily push your arm down. Now say, “My name is _____ (whatever your name is),” and have your friend push your arm down while you resist, and you’re arm will be much harder to move. Why is this? I—and many others—believe our body/mind systems are integrated instruments of extreme wisdom, connected to all the interlocking fields that self-organize towards harmony from the tiniest atom to the whole universe. Energy testing, or yum/yuck, gives us a little window into this wisdom, if we listen. I suggest you try it out for yourself. If you breathe deeply and attend to your sensations, feelings, and thoughts as you go about your day, you’ll notice shifts of attraction and repulsion—yums and yucks. Remember, if it’s not a clear “yum,” it’s usually a “yuck.” With each “yum” or “yuck,” ask yourself, “What’s the kindest perspective and the best action right now?” If you do this for even a couple of days, you’ll discover cool stuff. For instance, Jill said “no” to Las Vegas, but invited Shelly and her family to spend the weekend in Santa Barbara with her and Jake, and everybody had a great time.