Assumptions Kill

In order to really give merit to our perspective on the world, we need to make sure it’s grounded in reality first. Our subjective experiences are often what constitute our “reality,” but sometimes making assumptions about situations and other people can take us down really wrong roads and set ourselves up for failure. Our assumptions about other people and the world taint our reality, many times creating negative paths for our lives, relationships and success in love, work and general happiness.

For example, if you are feeling fundamentally unlovable or not good enough, it’s natural to project that onto people and assume that those closest to you don’t love you, or that they act toward you in a way that resonates with the underlying message you carry that “I’m unloveable.” The assumption then becomes the bridge between the two things.

Even if it’s not people’s intention to harm or disrupt you, you may translate negative messages from their behavior, and then turn around and create a situation that reinforces that tightly held belief. You may then become withdrawn or aloof from that person or situation, or attack them, which will then communicate something back to the person or situation that makes them react negatively in kind, setting up a series of unwanted and reactive behaviors. It’s a vicious cycle from assumption to behavior, and back again.

Basically, if you plant the seed in your mind that “I’m unlovable,” you may grow relationships and situations in your life that reinforce that belief, and then it’s easy to be upset or blame the world or the people in it for reinforcing your fundamental unlovability. You may fall into self-pity, or victimization, and never really get out of the trap you’ve helped create for yourself. You become a prisoner of your own making.

The goal is to work on changing out the “seeds,” or starter beliefs, that then end up growing into those negative situations or relationships you find yourself in. In a more direct way, it also means checking out those beliefs in the real world with the people that trigger you, and challenging those tightly-held assumptions head on.

Summoning up the courage to ask people about what they intend when they do what they do, or say what they say, is a great way to dispel assumptions before they start growing out of control. Sitting people down, taking ownership through “I” statements, taking about your experience about what they said or did that affected you and challenging those fundamental belief systems are all antidotes to assumption building.

I’ve found that if you check out assumptions with people, and really communicate it with them in a way that they can hear you, your assumptions will often be dispelled. If you don’t attack people, and take responsibility for your assumption or your feelings about it, many times people have other intentions involved. It takes some practice, to get to the root of the assumption, and to be able to communicate it directly, but you’ll find that many of your assumptions are rooted in the same dysfunctional beliefs based in fear, rejection, failure, inadequacy or powerlessness, to name a few.

Moreover, we usually think people are thinking about us way more than they actually are, especially when our assumptions perceive people’s bad intentions towards us. People are usually wrapped up in their own lives and matters to worry too much about us, but checking it out with them is key. Assumptions kill when you don’t test them in the real world, and keep them privately stewing to yourself.

How do you work on changing out the “starter” seeds? Much of this work can be done in a counseling setting, because those seeds can be well planted in the ground of your unconscious. It takes some “unearthing” because they are often not available to you, as they’ve been years in the making and usually start being created when you’re a child. Sometimes, they are available, and you know what’s driving your thoughts and feelings about your assumptions, which makes it easier to identify and change.

False assumptions can create all sorts of problems, especially ones that were never there to begin with. Checking out assumptions in the real world with the people and relationships that trigger you is something that takes practice and courage, but will ultimately help you sift out your work from the imaginary malevolence you attribute to others.

About Jason

As "The Man That Men Will Talk To," Jason Fierstein, MA, LPC is a private practice counselor and psychotherapist for men and couples in the greater Phoenix, Arizona, area. He works with struggling men to find happiness in their lives, and with their wives.
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