So far we have explored the first two agreements, “Be impeccable with your word” and “Don’t take anything personally” . By now you should start seeing a pattern. Each agreement has an emphasis on how you interact with yourself as well as with others. The agreements are simple enough to apply to almost any relationship. Now let’s explore ways to apply the third agreement,“Don’t make assumptions.” to living with migraine. For starters, take a look at what the author has to say:
|“Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.” – Don Miguel Ruiz|
You might remember from the first post in this series that I spent most of my life trying to hide the fact that I had migraines. I made the mistake of thinking that it was something shameful. I assumed that people didn’t want to know about my “problem”. Learning how to put this agreement into practice took a lot of the stress and drama out of my life.
Making assumptions can get us in a lot of trouble. After all, human behavior is rarely straightforward. But we do it anyway, don’t we? In the absence of hard facts, the human brain has an uncanny knack for filling-in-the-blanks. This talent is sometimes called “making assumptions” or “jumping to conclusions”. Our instinctive leaps to make sense of the world can create misunderstanding, frustration, hurt feelings, and damaged relationships. It is better to question, clarify, and verify the truth. That takes time and effort. We need to slow down in order to avoid making assumptions.
Here are some tips for helping you avoid the pitfalls of making assumptions.
Be yourself around others
Be authentic. So often we worry about what others will think of us. So we put on a mask and pretend to be what we assume others expect from us. Yet we rarely know what others truly think. We jump through imaginary hoops and tie ourselves into twisted emotional knots trying to be what we THINK others want. In doing so, we rob others of the opportunity to see who we really are. We also destroy our own self-esteem in the process. We can get so distracted trying to act the “right” way that we lose the ability to truly know ourselves.
We keep this inner dialogue running all the time that constantly tries to correct our course. Learning to silence this “inner critic” can be a challenge. It often sounds a lot like a parent and is really good at shaming us into conforming. It will take practice to challenge our assumptions. It starts with recognizing when we are making assumptions and challenging them in the moment. So what do these assumptions look like when it comes to migraines?
- We assume that others will respond to treatments the same as we have.
- We assume that others will have the same rapport with doctors that we have.
- We assume that others have the same symptom experiences we have.
- We assume that others have the same triggers we have.
- We assume that others can recognize when we have a migraine and respond accordingly.
- We assume that others will remember all our triggers and help us avoid them.
- We assume that others remember how migraine affects our memory, vision, and other senses.
- We assume that others don’t want to hear about migraine.
- We assume that others will be offended if we ask for accommodations.
- We assume that others think we are faking it.
- We assume that others think we are crazy.
- We assume that other people’s negative reactions are our responsibility. (See “Don’t take anything personally”)
Shall keep going? Because we make these assumptions, we try to alter our behavior to fit what we think others want from us.
Learn to ask questions
To avoid making assumptions, we must learn to ask questions. Then we will know the truth. We will know who is offended by our migraines and who is just having a bad day. Go ahead and ask if the food has known triggers in it. It is your right and responsibility to know! Ask if there will be trigger-free beverages or a quiet place you can rest so you don’t have to leave the party. Don’t assume that person will refuse your request. Find out what people really think and want by using just a few well-timed phrases:
- “I heard you say _____________. Does that mean ____________?”
- “Please tell me what you mean by _____________.”
- “I’m not sure I understand. Can you explain it another way?”
- “When you say/do ________, I feel/think _______. Is that the response you expected?”
- “My doctor says I need to avoid _____. Can you accommodate that?”
Ask for what you want
Other people are not mind-readers. It’s not fair to expect others to anticipate your needs. They won’t know what you want or need if you don’t ask. They also have the right to say “yes” or “no” regardless of how urgent or critical your need may be. Their answer has nothing to do with your worthiness. It only informs you about them.
Sometimes people will refuse to accommodate your needs. They have the right to do this. Instead of getting angry or feeling resentful, just walk away. You do not need people in your life that will not be sympathetic to your need to avoid triggers. No relationship is worth consciously exposing yourself to the very things that make you sick.
Relinquish the need to change others
We all want and need people in our lives who will accept us as we are. In order to attract these kinds of people, we must behave in the same way. Unconditional acceptance is necessary for any successful relationship. If you feel you must change someone, then it is better to let them go.
Instead of trying to convince people that your pain is genuine and your need for accommodation is legitimate, just let them go. You cause yourself unnecessary suffering when you continue trying to change someone who doesn’t want to change. Better that you release that person and open your heart to someone who is exactly what you want and need.
For discussion: How might your relationships with others change if you didn’t make
assumptions about them?