12 May

Why bad things happen when you make assumptions

Assumptions… Everyone makes them, every day. They are automatic thoughts, clouding our judgements, and fueled by our inner language.

Assumptions are different than gut feelings. Whatever your subconscious, or your ID in Freud’s words, is trying to tell you, is what makes up our gut feelings. That little emotion you get when you first meet someone. Not the little voice, but the very first feeling, instinctively knowing whether someone is a good or a bad person.

Then that little voice inside your head, your assumptions, takes over. It’ll tell you why someone is a good or a bad person, or why the situation is good or bad for you. This little voice might sound like it’s wording your gut feeling, but it’s actually made up of values and morals you’ve learned from society, from your parents, and from the world around you.

We take this little voice for the truth, and follow its commands and suggestions. Does it tell you that people will laugh at you if you speak your mind? Or that your spouse was too friendly with the waiter so they must be flirting? Or that people will judge you when you go to the gym, so you stay at home instead?

Learning to distinguish our emotions from our thoughts, is an important factor in learning to see things for what they are. Not for what we think they are. Making assumptions does not always mean that it is the wrong assumption. Sometimes you might get lucky and assume right. But 95% of the time, making an assumption means that you have made up your mind and are not accepting other explanations. This in turn can lead to feelings of anger, depression, anxiety, stress, and so on. It can lead to fights and arguments, misunderstandings, and even divorce.

When you learn to put some space between you and your thoughts, you start seeing different possibilities, and create a different relationship with your thoughts. Instead of taking them for the truth, you start to see them for what they are. You stop assuming, start seeing the reality, and become aware of how your thoughts influence how you feel.

Next time you have a negative thought, ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Is my thought the absolute truth? For example, if you’re thinking that people will laugh at you when you go to the gym, is that the truth? No, it is more likely that everyone’s too busy focusing on their own workout and won’t notice you at all.
  2. How does this thought make me feel? What feelings are you holding on to? Notice any anger, resentment, feeling of guilt, or jealousy.
  3. How would things be different if I did not hold onto this thought? What are the possible benefits, alternate beliefs, or feasible alternatives that open up if you would not go along with your initial negative thought? 

Ready to give it a try?