I recently shared my own struggles and joys with the process of being a friend. Additionally, I have reflected on the topic of friendship with my community via IG polls, chats over coffee, sessions with clients, in my therapist’s office, and so on. Through this process, I keep returning of Don Miguel Ruiz’ text The Four Agreements. The language and perspectives he shares provide a powerful lens for healing, particularly in the context of relationships.
Don’t Make Assumptions
I feel this one in my gut. Just reading this phrase gives me pause. An assumption is a thought you have that lacks evidence or facts. It seems like a slow drip of assumptions trickles through my mind all day long. Often times, these assumptions lead to feelings of isolation. For example, if I notice (ugh, because of social media) that mutual friends are out at dinner, I might automatically assume that they left me out on purpose, that I don’t fit in, that they are posting to make me jealous, and that I just don’t know how to have friends. Anyone else ever tossed themselves into this kind of assumption tornado?!
“We have the tendency to make assumptions about everything. The problem with making assumptions is that we believe they are the truth. We could swear they are real. We make assumptions about what others are doing or thinking — we take it personally — then we blame them and react by sending emotional poison with our word. That is why whenever we make assumptions, we’re asking for problems. We make an assumption, we misunderstand, we take it personally, and we end up creating a whole big drama for nothing.” –Don Miguel Ruiz
The use of the word “drama” here feels so pertinent. Truly, when we assume we create untruths, we take things personally, and in order to uphold all of these mistaken beliefs, we have to create more and more.
These are a few examples of situations and assumptions I’ve made:
- Didn’t hear back from a friend for a week or so → “She doesn’t want to invest in this relationship.”
- Was invited last minute to a birthday party. → “I was an afterthought.”
- A friend left a message on “read” → “They’re tired of me.”
- Two friends go to the movies together. → “They didn’t want me there.”
The third agreement offers an invitation to interrupt these assumptions, which come from a wounded, hurt place, rather than from truth.
How to Apply The Third Agreement to Friendships
Assumptions are stories you tell yourself. Humans tell stories because it can bring a sense of protection. Plus, we like patterns, so sometimes, we tell stories on repeat. Remember, though, that these stories are
- Ask yourself “Is this fact or fiction?” Pause and allow yourself to categorize your initial thoughts as fact or fiction (aka assumption). I invite you to do this with compassion, doing your best not to judge yourself if the answer is “fiction.”
- Write your fears out. If you are dealing with a fictional thought or belief, take time (even if it’s just 2-3 minutes) to write out your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. Let it flow, unedited. This is not an essay or even a journal entry; this ia an opportunity to express and explore the fears the assumptions are trying to cover.
- Consider what feelings you might be avoiding. Assumptions can be defense mechanisms. Sometimes, it’s more comfortable or easier to tell yourself a story than to sit with your feelings. In other words, it can be a very human response to find a “reason” to explain a situation. However, through this process of making and holding assumptions, you might bypass some big feelings. For me personally, it can be easier to assume I understand a situation and allow myself to feel angry than it is to sit with the discomfort of my loneliness.
- Check-in with your values. This is a good opportunity to remind yourself of what is most important to you. There are a ton of different core values exercises on the internet– just google “personal core values exercise” or check this one out.
- Create a connection. When you feel ready and able, reaching out and making a connection with someone (either connected to the assumption or not), can help you create a new thought pattern. For example, this can be a 7-second self-hug, calling a loved one, or writing a letter to a faraway friend. When we connect, we can allow assumptions to become unraveled.
- Spend quality time with yourself. As you are unpacking assumptions and creating new patterns, invite yourself to spend time with yourself. You might like to read, collage, take a walk, sit in the sun, explore a meditation or journaling practice, and so on. Assumptions can rob us of time and energy, so it’s important that we reclaim connection to ourselves. Plus, this type of QT will naturally encourage you to explore fears and values. I do recommend limited screen time as it can be easy to drift back into the external world.
Freedom from Assumptions Today
You are loved.
You are whole.
You are worthy.
Today is a perfect day to reconnect with yourself and your human experience. If you’re anything like me, there are some stories that you’ve become reliant on or a little too comfortable with. This process of undoing these assumptions and reconnecting to your true nature of love will take time and patience, but you have already taken the first, powerful step. I hope you are proud of yourself! Again, through this process, you may enjoy documenting your support system, reminding yourself of the many people and places you can turn to for connection.