I was recently reminded that one of the problems with assumptions is that they are always based on your beliefs, most of which are not accurate. You may believe you know someone, but you may very well be completely wrong.
Assumptions are assertions of your belief system reinforcing itself. When you make an assumption about someone, event, or action, it is always based on what you already believe about that person or life in general. When you accept that assumption and act on it, you reinforce whatever is the underlying belief. However, if you question the assumption, you also have an opportunity to examine the belief–or beliefs–on which it is based.
Of course some assumptions are helpful and necessary. You may safely assume, for example, that the sun will rise every morning. You can count on it without having to question the underlying personal belief. You can also assume that if you lose your balance past a certain point, you will fall; and if you get hit by a car, you will most likely be injured. These natural assumptions about the effects of gravity and motion are very reliable.
We call these assumptions “scientific facts” or “universal laws” about how the universe at large works. These kinds of natural, reliable assumptions are, of course, based on beliefs shared by the vast majority of people on the planet. They have been tested for thousands of years.
You can also assume that if you follow a particular route in your travels, you will eventually arrive at your destination. Homes, offices, towns, and cities generally do not move from their location. However, you can sometimes get off track, perhaps miss a turn or a landmark, and if you do not check your assumption about where you are, you may miss your destination and possibly get lost.
However, there are no “universal laws” about people.
When you judge someone, most often you are measuring them or their actions against your own underlying beliefs about how people are or “should” be. Of course, you assume that your view of the world is correct and that the person “should” behave or believe differently than they do. And you may feel offended and perhaps angry.
Being angry at someone often indicates that you believe they should behave differently, that they should be more like you. That assumption is not true. They should be exactly as they are, of course. It is YOUR belief that would better be questioned.
Making judgments about people tells more about you and your beliefs than it does about others. As a result, examining what you judge can be helpful in tracking down your own limiting beliefs.
Beliefs About People
One of the most troublesome problems with assumptions has to do with communication and interaction with people. People are very complex. They change all the time; they are seldom static. They flow with the state of their emotions; they change based on experience; and over time they become completely different.
Yet because of how your operating system works, it is generally easier to assume that “people never change” or your partner “always acts that way.” In fact, if you really pay attention and challenge that belief, you will find it is simply not true.
We explored in a previous article that reality is filtered. Once you hold a particular belief, your entire operating system goes to work to prove that it is true. This happens not only in how you think but also all the way down to perception. Sometimes, you literally do not perceive things that conflict with your beliefs.
In an argument, for example, consider that you may not be hearing correctly. It could be that your entire translation of the sounds that you hear may be wrong because you are actually hearing different inflections — and possibly even missing or adding words — than the person intends. You assume that you already know what the person is saying and what they mean, and you hear what you expect, no matter what is really being said!
When you find yourself in situations like these, when you catch yourself in the middle of an argument or feel unable to communicate, stop talking. Take time to really listen instead.
Almost everyone has the experience as an adult of returning home for the holidays and being treated like a teenager or being misunderstood. This happens because the family expects you to act and think as you were the last time they saw you, or the last time you lived at home. The beliefs they have of you have not changed, but you have.
In a large family, the pressure to be someone you no longer are can be very intense, because each person has a different recollection of who you were. Your parents see you one way, your siblings another. Cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents all remember you differently and expect you to have remained the same. You would have to be a neurotic chameleon to meet all those demands, so you wind up getting exhausted.
And it may be that you believe the family has not changed when actually they have. Consider, too, that your perception based on assumptions and beliefs about them may not be accurate.
These same dynamics occur to some extent in all of your relationships with others. The vision you hold of all your friends and relations is subject to the same interplay of beliefs and reinforcing assumptions.
Changing Beliefs, Becoming New
If you are committed to changing old patterns and becoming genuine in your relationships with others, it is a good idea to consider your own assumptions and how they reflect your beliefs about the world. Expect that you will be shown those invalid beliefs.
Do your best to know who you are and to be grounded in that knowledge. When you can stand in who you are when everyone around you insists you be otherwise, you find an inner strength emerges. Not that it is easy to remain solid in the face of demands that you be otherwise! It is the difficulty in doing so that helps you to be stronger and to better know yourself.
Pay attention to your judgements and what you think about other people. Listen to what you tell yourself, as well. Remember, you have beliefs and make assumptions about yourself as well as others. Test those old assumptions, especially the negative ones, to find the beliefs on which they are based.
Change your thoughts, change yourself.