Perhaps you’ve heard the expression, “If you assume, you make an ass out of u and me.” There is a great deal of wisdom in this saying, as when we hypothesize as to what another is feeling or why they are acting in a certain way, we often mistake the truth with our imagined scenarios. Yet, it’s not our misinterpretation of the reality that most affects us. It is our reaction to our assumptions that get us into trouble.
It’s natural to make assumptions. We may assume why another person is late, in a bad mood, or chose a particular action. Sometimes we’re accurate, especially if we know the person well. Yet other times, our assumptions lead to inappropriate responses which can negatively affect ourselves and others.
For example, your friend who is usually open and generous with her thoughts and emotions suddenly clams up around you. Immediately your brain goes into hyper drive trying to determine what exactly you said or did to make her behave this way. In the process, you create a litany of reasons why she might be upset with you. Perhaps you had to cut short a phone conversation due to an important incoming call. Or, her reaction might be due to the fact that you had lunch with three mutual friends but did not invite her. Our minds are wired to fill in the blanks so that another’s behavior makes sense and fits within our framework. It’s human to want to understand the world around us.
But do we always know? Aren’t there facets of another’s life that are private, unavailable, or under our radar? Multiple reasons exist as to why a friend may shift behaviors in our presence. And most likely, none of them have to do with us. Don Miguel Ruiz’s book, The Four Agreements, shares four basic principles by which to live, one being “Do not make assumptions.” Yet, it’s so easy to fall into that trap.
When we assume we know another’s reasoning, we can suffer steep consequences for these suppositions. By giving power to our assumptions, we fall prey to all sorts of emotions… fear, envy, anger, distrust, you name it. In essence, in the process of creating fantasy stories of what may be, we also craft emotional responses to these hypotheses. When we postulate without knowing all the facts, we can paint pictures that are not true. We might make ourselves crazy with jealousy if we suspect our spouse is cheating on us, or we may become overwrought with anger if we believe that an injustice has occurred. But if we don’t see the big pictures, these assumptions can be damaging to us and those we love.
Ali Doyle, the main character in The Dog Walkers, the book I’m currently working on, is a master at assumptions. Her first major assumption that the reader witnesses is that she presumes that the man she’s been dating for two years is going to propose when they go on vacation in Costa Rica. But she’s misread him and completely misinterpreted the situation. Instead, she’s molded the truth into what she wants it to be. Ali’s recognition that she’d assumed incorrectly propels her into self-doubt and ultimately, isolation.
Assumptions don’t only affect the here and now. True damage can occur when these conjectures impact how we live our life. Sometimes, they influence our belief systems, which then influence how we make major decisions. Yet if we take time to examine the assumptions we’ve made, then we are better able to see how these inaccurate beliefs may have impacted our thoughts and actions.
One of my past life affecting assumptions was that I should pursue a career in business. Numbers were my strength, so it seemed logical that I choose a college major that aligned to math or business. During my sophomore year, I declared myself a Finance major, assuming it was the right decision. Yet, because I did not consider all of the facts, like the types of jobs that I’d be applying for and what they entailed, I ended up hating what most people thought was a really great position in a bank training program. Luckily, I was able to go back to grad school and shift gears, obtaining a Master’s in Elementary Education. I might have been talented in math, but I assumed that I’d also like a career based on what I was good at. And while math was one of my favorite subjects to teach, I eventually found my passion for teaching writing, something I never assumed I could do.
So, what would happen if we didn’t assume? Maybe the real question is, “How would it look if we let go of the need to control the unknown?”
By not filling in the empty blanks, we allow for curiosity to surface. Engaging in the wonderment of what could be is when unanticipated opportunities arise. In fact, by not controlling and limiting what outcome we think we desire, we become open to amazing possibilities. But for this to occur, we must stop making assumptions and refrain from trying to connect all the dots in our lives. Instead, try letting go of manipulating outcomes and allow things to be messy. What is happening around us might not make sense at all. However, if we can stop trying to control and accept without anxiously attempting to make sense of everything, then we will be in the perfect position to receive the greatest gifts. The Universe/God wants what is best for us, but when we constantly interfere with the process, we send mixed signals, and what we manifest may not always be in our best interest.
So trust, let go, and allow… then be open to what occurs.