Julian writes: "I have learned over the years that my 'gut' often tells me a great deal about people before I get to know them personally. When there's romantic attraction involved, however, I can get confused about how to read the information I am receiving.
"There may be tension or fluttering in my gut but it's very difficult to determine what's there. There's something that's afraid and resistant (or at least hesitant) to getting close to someone, and maybe there's intuitive knowledge that this particular person would not be good for me, but it's too murky to tell these apart. Making the matter even more complicated, the parts that feel strong attraction are highly resistant to information that may contradict their point of view/fantasies or suggest that I not bond with the object of their attraction!
"The confusion lies in the fact that all of this, fears and attractions and protective barriers and gut-level intuition, can all register in the same part of the body! As I am just entering a new friendship where all of this is arising, I am wondering if you have some helpful advice on how to apply Focusing so as to lessen the risk of either forming an unhealthy connection with someone, or on the other hand, being run by fearful parts and running away from a potentially nourishing connection."
I think you are very wise to recognize how strong can be the parts of us that want something to be true. Such feelings can tell us a lot about what we want, but they are unreliable guides to action!
Likewise the fears that want us to run as fast as possible in the other direction to avoid getting hurt are unreliable guides to action as well.
Neither of those are felt senses. A felt sense is a fresh sense of a whole situation, felt from a larger perspective. My teacher Gene Gendlin says that felt senses are more reliable than reason because they contain more information than our logical mind knows. Felt senses are also more reliable than emotion -- for obvious reasons!
So the question becomes, How can you tell if what you are experiencing is a felt sense, or if it is the urgent promptings of a part of you?
Felt senses don't urge you to take action.
From being with a felt sense, you might feel the rightness of a certain course of action, but it would come without urgency, without anxiety. The possibility of that action would feel spacious and open. You would be able to sense the nuances of whether it would be right to do.
It's likely that you are experiencing both felt senses and parts. The urgency to take an action, either toward a situation or away, would almost certainly be from a "reactive state" also called a "part."
So here is my advice:
First, the location of the feeling is unimportant. We feel many things, and many kinds of things, in particular places in the body. So unfortunately the fact that you feel something in the 'gut' doesn't make it your reliable guide, despite the fact that you've had good guidance from there in the past.
Second, pause and take time to be Self-in-Presence with what you are sensing. Acknowledge (say hello) to the various feelings. Use the phrase "something in me" to refer to what you are experiencing. "I am sensing something in me that is feeling a strong attraction..."
And then settle down to listen and be empathic to what that part of you is feeling, what it is wanting and not-wanting, and what is deeper, under it. In the process of being that compassionate listener, you will bigger and be that expansive Self that you are. And you will have a clearer access to the wise guidance that is in your whole Self.