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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Assuming, Agreeing and Asking

"When you assume, you make an "ass" out of "u" and "me"."
-- My Dad

I'm sure my father wasn't the originator of this popular phrase, but I heard it from him quite a bit growing up, so he gets all the credit.  I never really gave it much consideration; just always thought it was kind of funny.

Well, you know what?  The older I get, the smarter my parents get.

Have you noticed that too?  When you were just a young whippersnapper, wet behind the ears, I bet you thought you knew it all.  I know I did.  I often wondered, "how did I end up with such clueless parents???"

And then, one day, you wake up as an adult and you say, "wow, they were right about so many things."  Of course, I'm still not buying the whole "don't go outside with wet hair because you'll catch a cold" argument, but, for the most part, they were right on about stuff.

Case in point:  when you assume, you DO make an "ass" out of "u".

I experienced this personally last week.  I won't get into the gory details because, quite frankly, it's pretty embarrassing, now that I think of it.  But, let's just say that I constructed this elaborate scenario in my mind involving a couple of people in my personal life.  I took a little bit of what one person said, combined it with the actions of another person and mixed my own conclusion which could have been a recipe for disaster (pun intended).  In my mind, I was convinced that they were involved in something that EVERYONE knew about.  Except for me.  Because they were deliberately keeping it from me.  In other words, I was feeling left out.  Excluded.  And VERY sorry for myself.

I was so sure it was true...and that I was right!

Have you ever heard of "The Four Agreements" by Don Miguel Ruiz?  According to Wikipedia, "Ultimately, it is about finding one's own integrity, self-love, and peace by way of absolving oneself from responsibility for the woes of others."  The Four Agreements are:

  1. Be Impeccable With Your Word.
  2. Don't Take Anything Personally.
  3. Don't Make Assumptions.
  4. Always Do Your Best.

Seems pretty simple, right?  And smart.

Here is an excerpt describing the third agreement:

The whole world of control between humans is about making assumptions and taking things personally. Our whole dream of hell is based on that. ... Because we are afraid to ask for clarification, we make assumptions, and believe we are right about the assumptions; then we defend our assumptions and try to make someone else wrong. It is always better to ask questions than to make an assumption, because assumptions set us up for suffering. ...

Which pretty much sums up, in a nutshell, what happened with me last week.  I told no one of my "assumption", save my husband.  To his credit, he said nothing in response to my paranoid ramblings.  He just listened.  Once it became apparent that I had conjured up the whole convoluted scenario, I told him so.  Once again, to his credit, he admitted it took every ounce of self-control he had at the time NOT to call me crazy. 

I was afraid.
I assumed.
I believed I was 100% correct.

Perhaps, I could have alleviated my suffering by asking the questions.  Truly, all of this could have been avoided it I just ASKED.  But, I was afraid.  What was I afraid of exactly?  Well, it could have been lots of things.  Maybe I was afraid of trusting?  Of being disappointed?  The good news is, I don't have to retrace my steps, reliving my entire childhood to find out where this behavior originated.  I could deal with it in the now.

Not only are there four agreements, but there are also four questions.  Byron Katie developed a concept simply titled "The Work":

"The Work is meditation. It’s about opening to your heart, not about trying to change your thoughts. Ask the questions, then go inside and wait for the deeper answers to surface." 

In its most basic form, The Work consists of four questions and your turnarounds. For example, your statement might be “[Name] doesn't listen to me.” Find someone in your life about whom you have had that thought, take that statement and put it up against the four questions and turnarounds of The Work.

Step 1 Is it true?

Step 2 Can you absolutely know that it's true?

Step 3 How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought? 

 Who would you be without the thought?

Katie describes a turnaround as "a
n opportunity to experience the opposite of what you originally believed"  and says they "are your prescription for happiness."  She goes on to say, "As I began living my turnarounds, I noticed that I was everything I called you. You were merely my projection. Now, instead of trying to change the world around me (this didn't work, but only for 43 years), I can put the thoughts on paper, investigate them, turn them around, and find that I am the very thing I thought you were. In the moment I see you as selfish, I am selfish (deciding how you should be). In the moment I see you as unkind, am unkind. If I believe you should stop waging war, am waging war on you in my mind."

Beats the heck out of assuming, doesn't it?

I didn't follow the process above to the letter, but examining the questions did make me think quite a bit about what I had created with my thoughts.  In my case, I decided that even though I FELT like I was right, I couldn't absolutely know it was true.  Because, as you know, I

As it turns out, I didn't have to ask the people I made the assumption about whether it was true or not.  Life showed me the answer once I went a little deeper within myself.  And now I know.  Chances are, I won't make that same assumption again.  Thanks, Don Miguel Ruiz.  Thanks, Byron Katie.

Most of all, thanks, Dad.

So, next time you believe something to be true, ask.

And then, do the work.  You just might surprise yourself.


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