07 May Living The Four Agreements: Tricks to Stop Harmful Assumptions
“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. This is why we make assumptions.” — don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements
Yesterday I watched my mind make up story after story about why someone important to me hadn’t called when she was in town visiting.
These ranged from “She is angry at me and never wants to talk to me again,” to “She didn’t even think about me; she doesn’t care about me,” to “She knows I am in a writing retreat for another two days and she is being respectful and waiting to call me.” All of these were creatively varied versions of something I actually know nothing about.
When our mind makes assumptions we usually don’t just make up one; we manifest a whole “rack” of assumptions and accompanying stories. We try each one on to see how it fits and feels, as if we were out shopping for clothes at a major sale.
Each time my mind replayed an assumption it added more accessories and details to the story. My judge and victim then joined the party, not wanting to be left out. When my mind tried on the assumption “she is angry with me” I went through the history of every possible reason that she could be upset with me, alternating between judging myself, judging my friend, and feeling victimized by the situation.
Not much fun.
When we try on new clothes it is easy to focus on what we don’t like about our bodies: legs too fat or too skinny, tummy too round, chest and butt too flat or overly abundant. The parts we don’t like constantly hook our attention like a stain on a clean shirt.
Assumptions seem to be the same way. The quiet assumptions are easy to overlook. But the fear-based, worst-case-scenario assumptions keep catching our eye.
I have three tricks I use with myself when I find my mind trying to feed me a scary or emotionally-charged assumption.
The first is to ask myself, “What is actually the truth?”
The truth is always very simple. So my recent assumptions boil down to the two things I know for sure. One: My friend is in town. Two: I didn’t receive a phone call from her.
When I got clear about what I knew to be true, beyond the stories, I took action and called my friend to find out what her truth was. She shared why she had not called me. Even though she didn’t want to see me while she was in town, my mind could then relax and stop making up stories to fill in the space.
Be aware that as you start to comprehend /understand the truth, which is information you can validate with your senses, your mind will probably try and drag you back to filling in the gaps. Your mind would rather make something up than sit with not knowing.
Even when we get clear about the truth of a situation, it is often uncomfortable to not fill in the gaps, to resist explaining, defending, or trying to figure things out.
The remedy is to be comfortable with “not knowing,” to rest into the unknown. Then from this open-hearted clarity we can decide if we want to get more information directly.
My second trick is to do what I call an assumption overload.
The moment you notice yourself making an assumption, start consciously making as many assumptions about the situation as you can. Be creative and playful and outrageous. Write them down. Here is my assumption overload about my friend not calling me:
She has amnesia and doesn’t remember me. She is only in town for a short time and she wants to spend good, quality time with me so she hasn’t called on this trip. My friend is actually not in town, it is a mistake. She thought she had already called me. She was abducted by aliens and now can only talk to people whose names begin with the letter “K.”
You want to keep making up as many plausible and impossible assumptions until your brain “overloads” and you feel a sense of lightness and space.
I’ll share the third trick in my next blog post: Tips on How To Not Make Assumptions Part 2
This week: Practice telling yourself the truth when you notice you are making an assumption. Notice how it feels to release the story and rest into “not knowing.” Can you refrain from filling in the gaps?
Alternate between telling yourself the simple truth and playing the assumption overload game by making up as many assumptions as you can.
Heather Ash’s apprenticeship with don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements, began in 1994, and she now teaches with the Ruiz family. She is the author of The Toltec Path of Transformation and founder of Toci, The Toltec Center of Creative Intent. www.toci.org