This week, I continue with the series based on don Miguel Ruiz's groundbreaking book, The Four Agreements. I have written about the first agreement which is "be impeccable with your word," and the second agreement, "don't take anything personally." The third agreement is "don't make assumptions."
We all have a tendency to make assumptions about just about everything. In the absence of knowledge about a person or situation, we tend to make up stories in our heads and then, incredibly, we actually start to believe that which we just fabricated, treating it as though it were the truth. It is absurb when you really think about it, and yet, we do it all the time!
Don Miguel Ruiz points out the ludicracy of our habit of making assumptions about what others are doing or thinking and then making it worse by taking it personally, thus causing us to blame them and reacting as if what we have made up is real. When you really think about it, it is a special kind of lunacy; and the pain that is inflicted upon us is entirely self-induced.
Ruiz says, "We create a lot of emotional poison just by making assumptions and taking it personally, because we usually start gossiping about our assumptions. (p. 64) By buying into the habit of making assumptions and then taking them personally and gossiping about them, we have breached Agreement One with regard to impeccability with our words and Agreement Two with regard to taking things personally. These are habits of thought and behavior that we find ourselves trapped in almost all the time; but we can eliminate the pain if we simply remember to be impeccable with our word, avoid taking anything personally, and leave off making assumptions about anyone or anything.
Part of the reason we fall into this trap is our human need to make meaning of everything and to justify everything so that we can explain and understand what is happening. It helps us to feel safe, and we are constantly seeking the feeling of being safe even if it is an illusion...it is just part of who we are and what we do as human beings.
"We make the assumption that everyone sees life the way we do. We assume that others think the way we think, feel the way we feel, judge the way we judge, and abuse the way we abuse. This is the biggest assumption that humans make. And this is why we have a fear of being ourselves around others. Because we think everyone else will judge us, victimize us, abuse us, and blame us as we do ourselves. So even before others have a change to reject us, we have already rejected ourselves. That is the way the human mind works" says Ruiz. (p. 69)
Getting out of the habit of making assumptions is, admittedly, easy to say but extremely difficult to do. It is so difficult because we so quickly and unconsciously make assumptions about everything and everyone and then we just as quickly take them personally and then we eagerly gossip about them as though they were true. It is as though we were on automatic pilot and we simply can't help ourselves. This pattern of behavior is ingrained into us and has become an accepted norm within our culture and society.
In order to incorporate this agreement into practice, we must do exactly that...practice. We must work at becoming aware of our habits and tendencies. Being aware, says Ruiz, is the first step. But in addition to understanding, one must also take action, and taking action over and over again will strengthen your resolve and help to establish a new habit and way of being with yourself and with others.
Start today and make it a game if you can. Catch yourself jumping to conclusions and making assumptions based on partial and inconclusive information. Practice actually asking for information instead of inserting your own made up story about what someone else may be thinking or feeling. Make inquiry a part of your daily practice. ASK. And don't fool yourself into thinking that even with more information than you had before that you know everything needed to know to make a judgment about a person or event. Avoid making assumptions even when you assume that you know everything you need to know about a situation. It's hard, I know, but think of the sense of freedom that you will start to experience when you let go of your need to assume that you know anything about anything.
Ruiz says that by making this one agreement a habit, "your whole life will be completely transformed." (p. 74) I urge you to give it a try. This one agreement is, for me, the most difficult one to incorporate on a consistent and constant basis. My habits of assuming and jumping up the proverbial ladder of inference are firmly ingrained, But like the other agreements, I find this one useful and beneficial, and I continue to try to practice it even when I consistently fall short of mastering it. It is a practice, after all.