There may be no greater power in our lives than the power of our assumptions. Our assumptions form a fence around us in a way that both comforts us and limits our potential.
ASSUMPTIONS AND MOODS
Once life presents us with the raw material of our experiences, our assumptions form an assembly line that produces our moods. One of the most common (and most researched) forms of therapy works by confronting faulty assumptions. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is commonly used for anxiety, depression, addictions, phobias, eating disorders and more. Some of the most common assumptions (or distortions) are listed here.
CORRECTING FAULTY ASSUMPTIONS
Scholar Marshall McLuhan once said that “We don’t know who discovered water, but we know it wasn’t the fish.” How do we know if we have faulty assumptions? We usually don’t. The whole point is that our beliefs feel like “facts” to us. They are like a computer virus that runs imperceptibly…until things start to slow down and malfunction.
You know are infected with a “faulty assumption” when you experience any of these symptoms:
- Frequent frustration with other people
- Persistent anxiety, depression, or anger
- Frustration with the way “things are” but no clear idea of how to change them
- An inability to make a necessary change
- The feeling that we are somehow stuck or stagnant
So how do you get rid of the “assumption virus”?
It’s Not Easy
Our assumptions are a part of our identity. We inherit them from our parents, borrow them from our peers, and absorb them from our culture. We will subconsciously defend and protect them, ignoring any contrary evidence. These harmful beliefs can persist even after years of psychotherapy. And yet it’s one simple thing that can set us free.
When we become curious about the beliefs of successful people, we have a chance to change our own. Granted, we’re already curious about what famous people do, i.e. where they vacation, what they look like in frumpy clothes, etc. We also like it when they give us “Tips for Success”, but they usually turn out to be the same tips for success that unsuccessful people might give us. In the end, our success or failure depends so much more on our inner world of our assumptions than any “How-to” list.
THREE STEPS TO CHALLENGING OUR ASSUMPTIONS
This is a sure way to discover the beliefs that hold us back:
FIRST: Find someone (a friend?) who is more successful than you at something. Or better yet, find someone who seems to have sense of peace or joy that you wish you had.
SECOND: Listen to them carefully, noting what their beliefs are about their own potential, the priorities of their day, what helps them, how they interpret the actions of others, and their thoughts about living in general. Listen for what they believe is possible and what is not.
THIRD (and this is the key): check your own REACTION. Whether you say it out loud or in your head, listen for statements like these:
“But aren’t you worried that…?”
“Doesn’t it bother you that…?”
“But what if … happens?”
“I can’t imagine how you…”
And there is the virus. Right there is the crossroads where their assumptions have given them freedom and ours have created a fence.
And all that remains is the courage to change our thinking.
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