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Jackie Schuld Art Therapy Blog

Honoring When You Sense Something is Off

Sometimes I just know something is off. In the moment, it can be hard to say what.

For example, a friend told me he was going to an AA meeting that night. The way he talked about the meeting, there was just something off.

A small circle cartoon character is smiling with an curvy line of energy going to another circular character who has an inquisitive look on its face. This illustration depicts when you know something is off and was created by Art Therapist Jackie Schuld.
"Sensing Something Is Off" Illustration by Jackie Schuld

I didn’t have a specific thing to point to. Maybe it was the way he over-explained why he was going to an online meeting instead of an in-person meeting. Or maybe it was the way he didn’t seem excited about the meeting, like he was about other AA meetings he told me about.

In the moment, I was hesitant to point out my feeling that something was off. I feared that I would sound like I was grasping at straws, being overly concerned, or some other hyperbole.

So I didn’t say anything.

I later found out it wasn’t an AA meeting. It was a meeting for a different topic that he didn’t feel ready to share with me.

So my gut was right. Something was off.

This little example has occurred hundreds, if not thousands of times in my life.

When I feel there is something off about what a person is saying.

When I sense someone is lying to me.

When I am afraid of someone, but can’t quite figure out why.

It happens so much that I have made a word for it: off-sensing. Off-sensing occurs when you sense that something is off because something is off.

The “sensing” is part intuition, part past experience, part awareness, part observation, and part perception.

When off-sensing occurs, what we’re picking up on can feel so vague that it is difficult to justify or explain it to another person.

But the truth is, we’re dead on. We are sensing that something is off because something is OFF.

In some cases, we are able to act on our off-sensing, such as when we off-sense that someone is unsafe and then choose to not be around that person.

Other times, if we off-sense that a person is lying or obfuscating some truth, we may choose to ask for more information.

In some cases, it may not be safe or appropriate for us to discuss our off-sensing with the individual. In these instances, we can choose to keep our off-senses to ourself, which I call off-sense holding (you can read more about this in my essay "Trusting Off-Sensing.")

Whatever we choose to do, it’s important we honor our off-sensing. By giving it a name, we claim our power. We stand firmly with our gut and the powerful information it provides.


Do you want more support claiming your power and trusting yourself? I provide therapists to individuals seeking to do just that.


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