Trust Your Instincts | Gill Watson on her Soap Box

Trust your nstincts

Trust your nstincts

I’ve had my phone nicked again. Last time it fell through a hole in my coat pocket and was picked up by the man behind me at the petrol station. This time I stupidly left it on a suggestion box in an
art gallery after needing both hands to shake the money down my leg and out of my boot when it fell through a hole in my jeans pocket. If I’m going to continue buying all my clothes from jumble sales and charity shops then I need a live-in seamstress.

When I realised my phone was gone I screamed for the manager, demanded that the receptionist called the police, insisted that I was shown the CCTV footage of everyone leaving the building and then… a lady approached me and said: “I hope you get your phone back darling.” Instinctively I knew, beyond doubt, that this woman had my phone. It was just a pity there was bugger all I could
do about it because you can’t ask the police to act on a hunch. Or can you?

Many years ago when I lived in London, I had a stalker and with the help of a clever copper I found out who it was.

The stalker left voice-disguised messages on my answer phone warning me to be careful when I was walking home from work. Then he smashed a window and left me a lock of hair.

A week into the horrors, a police sergeant came to see me. He told me that in many cases the stalker is known to the victim and I should trust my instincts to tell me who the stalker was. I didn’t
believe this for a minute but humoured the sergeant when he told me to close my eyes and tell him the first person that came into my head. I had an image but didn’t really believe it could be this man; a man that I had no logical reason to distrust.

When the sergeant asked if I had the man’s phone number because he would like to speak to him I nearly died but then, when my clever copper called the number and asked: “Do I have a lock of your hair in my hand?” my stalker admitted everything.

Now, when I’m out on the streets working with families in some of the poorest areas of Pendle, I have to trust my instincts. You may think this means knowing when it feels safe to enter a house
on my own or to decide if someone really is in need of a food parcel when they tell me their story and you’d be right but the times when I’ve really had to trust my instincts is when I’ve been presented with two sides to a story and had to decide who was telling the truth.

When I spoke at the Lancashire Food Poverty Conference last month, I swore on my children’s lives that a lady I was taking food parcels to was telling the truth about her situation even though the Job Centre and the job club said she was lying. At that time I had no evidence, I just had my instincts. Looking around the conference hall I could see that people thought me at best naïve and at worst stupid. A week later I found the evidence that proved I was right to trust both the lady and my instincts.

Instinct also told me that I could completely trust a heroin addict I know. I’d be happy to leave my children in his care, confident that no harm would come to them. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the same about a young mum I met. Her very plausible story of leaving a violent partner for the sake of her children didn’t ring true and I knew I had to act to make sure the children were safe.

Instinct is not logic and that’s why we’re so afraid to trust it but once, a long time ago, instinct was all we had to keep us safe and ignoring it would be a dangerous thing. And remember, you can’t look at an application form or a written statement and use your instincts. You have to be with a person, look them in the eye, even smell their scent. Then, all you have to do is trust yourself to act on your instincts responsibly.

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