“I wasn’t included in the group message; I’m not important to her.”
“No one responded to my group message; they don’t care about our good news.”
“No one said anything to me after my lesson; everyone hated it.”
“My son is so anxious to move out; he really doesn’t like it here and he doesn’t really love me.”
“He’s not talking to me; I must have done something wrong.”
What do all the above statements have in common? They are all assumptions.
Assumption: as-sump-tion; noun; a thing that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof
Notice the last two words in that definition: without proof.
I believed all the assumptions listed above, believed my interpretation of what happened, even without any concrete evidence. But… it turns out that the real story about the group texts was a glitch in technology. It’s quite possible that the lesson I taught was thought-provoking and many of the women would ponder it for a long time to come. Perhaps my son was just ready to be responsible for himself and he does love me even though he doesn’t want to live with me. And, maybe the person not talking to me is simply giving me some space. (FYI: at this writing all but one of these alternate possibilities have been verified as true.)
Last month I read a book that talked about assumptions. Since reading the following words, my mind has been noticing all of the assumptions I make on a regular basis. Here’s what caught my attention:
“It is very interesting how the human mind works. We have the need to justify everything, to explain and understand everything, in order to feel safe. We have millions of questions that need answers because there are so many things that the reasoning mind cannot explain. It is not important if the answer is correct; just the answer itself makes us feel safe.” (Ruiz. The Four Agreements, 73.)
Think about that for just a minute. Your mind, my mind, all of our minds want any answer ~ even if it’s not true or if there’s no proof ~ because apparently having some kind of explanation is more comforting to us than simply not knowing or understanding.
As a mom of a rebellious son, how many times have you assumed a variation of these: “There’s no hope for him” or “All of this is my fault” or “I’m doomed to be miserable for the rest of my life” or “He will always hate me” or “There is no way we can ever recover from what just happened”? It might sound silly but each one of these assumptions does bring some comfort. If I keep telling myself there’s no hope for him, I won’t be continually disappointed. If I take all the blame, I can beat myself up way better than anyone else can. If misery is all I can hope for, I don’t have to spend any time or effort seeing any of the good that is always there (no matter the situation). If he hates me I can hate him… and myself so much easier. And if recovering from your latest slap in the face isn’t even in the realm of possibility then no effort is needed on your part to even try.
Suddenly, it makes sense that all of our assumptions fill a need in us… even when they’re not true, even when they’re hurtful.
But you don’t have to keep making assumptions just because that’s what you’ve (unknowingly) been doing. Especially if you’re in the habit of assuming the absolute worst about you and your relationship with your son. After all, Albert Einstein defines insanity as “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”!
What can you do to interrupt this automatic response?
First ~ spend some time just noticing all the assumptions you do make. However, do not use this as an opportunity to beat yourself up. Instead, look for ways that your assumptions seem to protect you.
Second ~ after becoming aware of some of your most common assumptions, pick one to challenge. Ask yourself and/or the other person questions to get some clarification and a better understanding.
Third ~ decide what you want to believe about the situation and start reminding yourself that you want to think about it in that way. It might take some practice but most things worth doing take repetition.
Then, repeat with other assumptions that make you feel beat up and hopeless.
I used to always assume the worst about myself and often doubted that situations dear to my heart could ever turn out the way I wanted them to. It was miserable to always assume the worst. When I began believing that I am enough (instead of assuming I’m never enough) things changed drastically for me, most especially my relationship with myself, as well as my relationship with lots of other people, including my difficult son.
It’s never too late to realize your normal way of doing things ~ like making assumptions ~ isn’t working for you and to do something about it. Now is the time. Why wait?