Assumptions have a bad reputation. Of course, in many cases, this reputation is well-earned. Assumptions are usually opinions, based more on our expectations and perceptions than on fact.
However, we make assumptions all day, every day. It could be about our commute to work, what the weather will be, and so on. It’s part of the drive for survival to, for example, see a dark and desolated street and assume it’s best to find another route. In other words, not all assumptions are wrong assumptions.
When are assumptions a bad idea?
Often and usually. In the context we’re using here, assumptions are like bad seeds. Unless pruned, they grow and gain strength. Uprooting them later is much harder work than nipping them in the bud before they grow. There are countless different types of assumptions. Here are three of the most common examples:
1. Assumptions based on a single or outdated past experience.
So much of our present strife is born in the past. Even one singular experience can instill a lifelong belief. Simply put, we choose to accept that if it went one way in the past, it will always go that way. This just may be the most common of all wrong assumptions—and for good reason. If you took a chance and were shot down in public, you’d likely make a deep mental note to not try it again. Mindfulness and reprogramming our beliefs can teach us to embrace the present, a place where assumptions are exposed.
2. Assumptions based on our environment.
Where we live, who raised us, and the conditions of our surroundings all combine to form a huge part of our worldview. Wrong assumptions can be actively or passively cultivated by:
- Pop culture
Once embedded, assumptions can travel with us well beyond the location in which they were created. Words like “never” and “always,” “all” and “none,” have power as long as we supply it. Try not using such words and see how it feels.
3. Assumptions based on our fear of change and/or embarrassment.
We all have our comfort zones. Getting out them is a major challenge. In fact, it’s a daunting task just to conjure up a reason to seek change of any kind. We assume change is always scary and dangerous and illogical. Sure, things may be tough at times but this is the “tough” we know so why venture outside that familiarity? This mindset is a breeding ground for carved-in-stone assumptions and beliefs. Fortunately, even humans who have been consciously programmed by cults have shown over and over the ability to free their mind. Critical thinking is what makes us, us. Rarely does critical thinking blossom within a long inhabited comfort zone. Branch out!
First step: Start an assumption journal
A great first step towards recognizing and then addressing wrong assumptions is to write them down. Put ink to paper and give them an honest appraisal. For every “belief,” give yourself permission to write down a counterpoint. Challenge yourself to ask new questions. The question even those questions. Write in this journal on a daily basis and watch the process unleash your potential.
What if we can’t stop making assumptions?
Like any other behavior, our habit of making wrong assumptions is rooted in a lifetime of experience. As a result, their literal existence may be invisible to us. Working one-on-one with a counsellor empowers us with awareness. We can identify self-sabotaging patterns, reprogram our beliefs and reactions and design strategies for change. When our central nervous system and brain are more resilient and open for another way of believing and responding then it is effortless to make healthy choices and either check out our assumptions calmly.
The skills we learn during our counselling sessions make us better equipped to deal with uncertainty and less likely to fall back on the same old wrong assumptions. In therapy, we practice one of life’s most amazing skills: examining our beliefs and assumptions with a resilient, confident, and open mind.
Although, it is important to examine beliefs and assumptions it often is not enough to have the subconscious mind give them up as programming or habit can be strong. When other tools and techniques are given to help reprogram the subconscious it becomes much easier to change any negative habitual beliefs and assumptions to other ways of thinking and responding rationally. No longer is there a program running that requires a reaction of flight-flight-freeze or collapse to survive a perceived danger. With this positive transformation comes ease and freedom!