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Jackie Schuld Art Therapy Blog

Trusting Off-Sensing

Off-sensing occurs when we sense something is off about what an individual is telling us.

It typically happens when an individual is hiding the truth or lying. We may not know what the actual truth is, but we can sense we aren’t receiving it.

If you haven’t heard of the term before, it’s because I made it up.

I’ve had enough experiences where I correctly sensed something wasn’t quite right that I wanted a term to name and validate the experience.

I wanted to validate the experience because I often do not receive the validation I would like from others when I am off-sensing.

This is largely due to the factors that generate an off-sense. First, something is off. Second, we can “sense” something is off due to a combination of intuition, past experience, awareness, observation, perception, energy reading, and more.

Thus, what informs an off-sense is not usually something concrete. It’s just a feeling we have that something is off. There is seldom any specific evidence to supply.

If we confront the individual who is lying, we are often gaslit - made to feel that something is wrong with us.

For example. I once dated a guy who came home hours later than planned. After he explained why, I had a strong off-sense. I gently confronted him about it, and he quickly became upset and flipped the script, “Why don’t you trust me? Do you know how it feels to be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t trust you?”

Many weeks later, I found out I was right. He was indeed lying, and he gaslit me to hide it.

While I was lucky in that instance to find out my off-sensing was correct, most of the time we do not receive confirmation of our off-sensing.

An illustration of a woman with long hair who is holding her hands over her heart and stomach. Her eyes are looking up at a thought bubble that has question in it. The illustration was created by Art Therapist Jackie Schuld to capture the feeling off-sense.
"Questioning Off-Sensing" Illustration by Jackie Schuld

We simply have to hold our off-sense and wonder if it’s true.

In the past, I would reach out to others and tell them what I was feeling. I did not have enough self-trust and wanted validation from an outside source. I would ask, “Did something about that conversation feel off to you?”

Typically, they didn’t have the same feeling (how could they when off-sensing is built on one’s own intuition?). I was frequently told I was too sensitive, judgmental, paranoid, or unfair.

With time, I internalized those messages, along with what our culture tells women, “Be nice, be fair, be kind, etc.”

When I would have an off-sense, I would scold myself, “Jackie, that’s not a very nice thought. You should be kinder with your thoughts, who knows the whole story.”

I didn’t trust what I felt.

And who did that harm?


Some of the most painful experiences of my life occurred after I ignored an off-sense. They were painful because my gut KNEW, I ignored it, harm befell me, and I had to sit with that I ignored my gut (I would like to acknowledge that I am in no way saying I am responsible for someone choosing to harm me).

I am done betraying myself though.

I will honor and listen to my off-sense. Even if no one else validates me, I will validate me.

That will mean different things at different times.

If I off-sense that a person is unsafe, I will not be around them.

If I have an off-sense that a new acquaintance is hiding something, I will hold my tongue and give it time to see how it plays out.

If I off-sense there’s something beneath what a close friend is telling me, I will directly ask.

It depends on the level of relationship, the environment, and much more.

We can make those decisions in the moment, but we first have to trust ourselves and validate ourselves.

It means giving ourselves permission to hold the power (for off-sensing is a true power) we have cultivated over our lives and decide how we would like to steward it.


I provide therapy for clients who want to learn how to trust and honor themselves.


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