Always Assume the Worst?

by Andrea M. Darcy
Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

Sure you know how the world works? And what people are thinking? But somehow, you tend to have problems in relationships and difficulties in life? Or always feel down?

It’s time to learn about the power of assumptions.

What are assumptions?

Assumptions mean you assume things are a certain way, even though you have no factual evidence it is so.

Often we don’t even realise what thoughts and beliefs are or aren’t assumptions because we have believed them so long, even since childhood. It’s never occurred to us to question them.

Examples of assumptions

  • 'Women are always bad drivers'.
  • 'Men never understand anything'.

These are obvious examples, yes. But it can be very easy to spot someone else’s assumptions, and much more difficult to recognise our own.

Of course assumptions can be far more subtle.

Note the use of ‘always’ and ‘never’. These are two key words you can listen for that often signify an assumption is being made.

  • ‘This world will never get better’.
  • ‘He won’t like her, trust me’.

Another hint is when you are predicting. This includes predicting what someone else thinks, or what they will do. Or it might be predicting the future. Unless you are a mind reader or psychic, you are making assumptions.

  • 'The world is a dangerous place’.
  • 'You can't trust people’.

These are generalisations. And yes, generalisations are also assumptions.

Why are assumptions a problem?

For starters, assumptions are often negative and what is known as ‘cognitive distortions’ — thoughts that deviate from reality and cause mental spirals of hopelessness.

Assumptions also have a habit of slamming doors in our faces. Meaning we don’t progress in life, and miss opportunities. We assume we’d never get the job so don’t apply and stay in a job we hate.

One place assumptions really cause problems is in relationships. We assume nobody would date us so don’t ask anyone out and remain single. Or we assume we know what a partner is thinking so never ask, spending years without proper communication and mired in many misunderstandings.

The end result of assumptions can be mental health issues like depression and loneliness, or addictions due to a sense of hopelessness.

Sure, there are Pollyannas amongst us who always assume the very best. But even then there can be issues. If we refuse to see a balanced viewpoint we can not process our sadness and anger until we have health issues. Or we can still end up lonely, when others find we don’t listen, or seem fake.

So how do I escape the assumptions trap?

1.Recognise there is a problem.

Learn to listen to what you say and think. And accept that you are not right about everything but might be assuming things.

2. Ask good questions.

Learn to ask, "Is that true? What proof do I have? How might I be wrong? What might I not be seeing here?" And ask good questions of other people instead of assuming you know what they think and feel.

3. Communicate better.

One of the best ways too not make assumptions is to learn how to listen more. The more we listen, the more we understand, the less we assume.

4. Try mindfulness.

Mindfulness helps us to be more and more in the present moment and less distracted. We can notice more about situations and people, meaning there is less of a need to assume things.

5. Learn to perspective hop.

Assumptions are connected to perspective. And learning to see the perspectives of others means we again understand more and assume less.

Assumptions bringing you down? Can’t seem to shake your negative thoughts? Therapy helps. Book a therapist now and start moving forward.

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