Who’s Talking? (Part Two)

Last week, in “Who’s Talking (Part One),” we started to discuss how to discern intuitive guidance from ego directives. In this article, we look at two more differentiating characteristics.

Direct and Succinct

Our inner wisdom gets right to the point. It does not qualify a message, unless we ask for further information. So, true inner guidance is direct and succinct. For instance, when I asked in meditation what I needed to embrace in 2012, one of the messages was: Become vegan. There was no unsolicited explanation about why I should become vegan — such as, it is good for my health, kind to animals, etc. — none of that. I just got a simple and clear answer to my question on what I needed to embrace.

By contrast, when our ego speaks, usually there is an unsolicited back story to go with its messages—especially a grievance story of some sort. The motivation behind wanting us to act is fear-based, and the goal is to control a situation to avoid being controlled by it. Guilt trips, for instance, are the hallmark of ego construction. An example may go something like this: If I don’t call her, there will be hell to pay! She’d once again accuse me of not caring, which is so not true! I’m really sick and tired of this bottomless pit of proving my love! But I’d better call her, as it would be far worse if I didn’t. In this scenario, ego weaves a grievance story, invoking feelings of guilt and pain to make us take preemptive action to avoid incurring the wrath of another person.

Aside from having a back story, an ego-based directive also tends to come with strong attachment to a very specific outcome. That is, we believe we cannot be happy unless we land a particular job or possess the love of a certain person. When I was coaching a young friend on his job transition, I urged him not to get emotionally attached to any specific job. Instead, it would be in his best interest to focus on the conditions he would like to have in his new job – the kinds of colleagues and clients he would like to have, the nature of the work he wanted to do, etc. When he meditated, the guidance he got was not about working for any particular employer. Instead, it was about the broader conditions which would bring him more satisfaction and allow him to grow professionally.

Recurring Nudging

When our higher self knows we are ready to grow, it will continue to nudge us to change something in our life. The same message gets louder and louder in time, until we do something about the call. However, it never reprimands or shames us. Some 9 years ago, I had repetitive nightmares about my failing marriage despite couples counseling. My ex was a good man, but we got married for all the wrong reasons. I simply did not have the heart or the stomach to end the marriage. My inner wisdom jolted me on a nightly basis for months to make a much needed life change that was seriously eroding my health. After all, at 5’3”, I weighed 96 pounds on a good day, and could not function without anti-depressants. Jeremy Taylor, a dream minister and author of the book, Dream Work, says that dreams – even nightmares – are messages from our intuitive wisdom for the ultimate sake of our well-being. Anyone who has been through a divorce knows that it is heartbreaking and numbingly disorienting for a period of time. However, completing that life transition ultimately opens up space for more love and genuine happiness to be awakened and harvested.

That part of us which is our ego is quite tenacious and persistent as well. However, what our ego repeats tends to be derivatives of the same grievance story, triggered by the cumulative pain and shame from the unchanged situation. If the undesirable situation has persisted for some time, there is often reprimand in the back story as well. In other words, whereas the recurring message from our inner wisdom remains direct and succinct without personal indictment, our ego’s lines revolve around the back story and the pain. The story may go something like this: Here we go again. How many times does this have to happen before I get my act together and leave? What am I, a frigging doormat?! Do I have no self-respect left? How much more am I willing to take? I gotta get outta here!

When you feel recurring nudging to do something, pay attention to what is repeated – a direct, succinct call to action, or a grievance story of cumulative shame and escalating pain.

Putting into Practice

Again, think of a recent time when you felt an inner nudge to do something.

  • Was the message direct and succinct, or did it come with a back story and attachment to a specific outcome – along with associated emotions?
  • Was this a message you have received before? If so, what was repeated? Was it the same direct and succinct call to action – regardless of how many times it has been issued? Or was the message around the pain or shame from enduring the same bad situation?

I hope this two-part series on “Who’s Talking?” helps you discern intuitive guidance from ego-based directives and make choices that are for your highest good. (If you missed Part One, you can find it here.)


This article is based on the Act Chapter of my book, REACH Your Dreams: Five Steps to be a Conscious Creator in Your Life.

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About Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Dr. Alice Chan is passionate about developing conscious leaders and organizations. Her path to serve her life purpose has included being an award-winning Cornell professor and a leader in the corporate world for nearly 15 years. She’s the author of the book, REACH Your Dreams: Five Steps to be a Conscious Creator in Your Life, and creator of the program, 30 Days to Living Your Best Life. All content on this blog and website is her own, not the opinions of her employer.

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Randall St. Germain
Randall St. Germain

Thanks for posting this. I have the "Recurring Nudging" often. In fact, in my past, I had a similar experience as you did. It was a difficult time but often, we must make changes for a better life.


Ego and "back story." Such a clear way to express the constant chatter of our egos blathering on about anything and everything reinforcing all it believes we are or are not. I love this! Thanks so much Alice. You really are a gifted writer! Much love, Carl

Alice Chan, Ph.D.
Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Thank you for sharing, Randall. Indeed, life changes often mean stepping way out of our comfort zone, even if we're miserable in it. Our ego would be the last to encourage us to leave something safe. It would be the wisdom of our higher self.

Alice Chan, Ph.D.
Alice Chan, Ph.D.

From one inspired writer to another...thank you so much for your kind words, Carl! I learn a lot from your insights, and it's truly wonderful to be in this human experience together (we already know that we're one in spirit). Love, Alice


  1. […] With my experience outlined above, let me close this article with a few summary points on recognizing when ego is in the driver seat. (For more on discerning between ego and intuitive wisdom, see “Who’s Talking?” Parts One and Two.) […]

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