Give Your Assumptions a Reality Check

by Cathy Lumsden 

What are Assumptions?

Have you ever heard yourself say, “I think she’s thinking I’m …” or “He’s doing that because …”? In those moments you’re acting like a psychic with a crystal ball. You assume you know what others are really thinking, and why they’re behaving the way they’re behaving. Unfortunately many of your assumptions have a negative slant. How often does your crystal ball assume they’re thinking you or they are wonderful, awesome and intelligent?

Assumptions are usually judgments about a person or situation. They are internal story-making games produced by your mind. There is often little or no proof.

 What happens next when we assume? We actually believe it’s true. Our minds are machines that create stories and we tend to trust those thoughts. For example, if a teenager is quiet and sullen many parents think he’s angry at them or being rude. Consequently, the parents become frustrated because he is being bad-tempered and disrespectful (“after all the things we’ve done for him”). This response creates the foundation for an enormous blowout. Other parents withdraw or pull away. In either case it doesn’t lead to any resolution or connection with your child, when all he really needs is a little TLC. Most likely the reality is that your teenager had a fight with a friend or teacher, or didn’t do well on a test that day. It has nothing to do with you.

I’m sure you’ve heard the fun definition of assume: to make an ass of you and me. In fact,  when you hang onto wrong assumptions in life, it’s very limiting and can destroy relationships at work and at home.

Exterminating Assumptions

  1. Watch what you are thinking. First and foremost you need to realize when you’re assuming. Ask yourself if you are feeling or behaving the way you “think” someone else is. Often we project what’s going on inside us onto others.
  2. Is this fact or is it an assumption? Assumptions are not supported by facts. Remember assumptions are in your mind. If you didn’t hear it from the source, it’s an assumption. Ask questions of the person you are assuming about. If you’re unable to ask, teach your brain to look at the person or situation from at least three different perspectives. Expanding the possibilities of what may be occurring reduces your negative thoughts and feelings.
  3. Stop personalizing and thinking everything is about you. When you assume, you are personalizing what’s going on in your world.
  4.  Intuition is different from assumptions. When you’re using your intuition you’re feeling calm and accepting. Frequently, when you make assumptions, you are angry, worried, frustrated or afraid.

Change Your Assumptions to Positive Thoughts

In couple relationships, it’s common to make assumptions. What I find interesting, as a psychotherapist, is that many of these assumptions are similar across thousands of people. Our minds are extremely homogeneous. Common assumptions I’ve heard over the years of counselling have included:

  • He says I’m sexy or good looking just because he wants sex;
  • She doesn’t really love me, she just wants stability or a babysitter;
  • It’s his/her job to make me happy;
  • If s/he gets jealous it’s evidence s/he still loves me,
  • If s/he doesn’t, it must be that her/his love is gone.

There are many more. Some of these assumptions are conscious and others can be subconscious. Imagine if you turned those negative assumptions into positive ones. For example, if you believed your partner when he says you’re sexy, and doesn’t always want sex, then you would most likely feel valuable and desired. Likewise, retelling yourself, ‘My spouse loves me and would still choose me again’ counters the second assumption presented above. Basically, the trick is to catch your mind in the story-telling game and turn it into a positive narrative, which is most likely closer to the truth. This simple step can enhance communication and may even save your relationship.

As a parent you probably also make assumptions unknowingly. For example, many parents assume misbehaviours are challenges to authority and need to be responded to in the same way. Children and teens act inappropriately for many reasons and the main reason is often to test boundaries as part of their growing independence.  Challenges to your authority are unavoidable and I encourage you to see them as stepping-stones to learning and growing for both of you.

Miguel Angel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements, encourages us, in the third agreement, not to make assumptions. He states that they create unnecessary poison in all relationships. Miguel further writes, “We make assumptions, we believe we are right about our assumptions, and then we defend our assumptions and try to make someone else wrong. We even assume we are right about something to the point that we will destroy [a] relationship in order to defend our position…. With just this one agreement [no more assumptions] you can completely transform your life.”

I challenge you to become aware of your assumptions, even for one day, and see how eye-opening it can be!

Contact Cathy at Adlerian Counselling and Consulting Group, 613 737-5553.





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