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The Four Agreements for Migraine: Don’t make assumptions

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?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Jules2dl
    5 years ago

    I often respond inappropriately in my marriage to certain situations which remind me of my previous marriage, which was verbally and emotionally abusive.
    Once in awhile my husband will get frustrated with my migraine brain and yell at me for whatever reason. I can’t deal with his anger, it throws me right back in to my 1st marriage where I put up with 27 years of anger before I was told I was a burden and got served with divorce papers. Husband anger scares me. It doesn’t matter that I know for a fact that my ex is incapable of truly loving someone other than himself, or that my husband now does truly love me.
    Last week he was frustrated one night and I didn’t get to see him before he went to work. He didn’t play any of our words with friends games, didn’t text me at all, didn’t leave a note, didn’t call at break time. I was getting really scared. I’m positive he’s furious with me. My headache is getting worse. Finally I couldn’t stand it any more and I called him. I was crying so hysterically he thought someone had died. Turned out he wasn’t angry at all, he was just very busy at work that day. He was quite concerned that I had worked myself up to a point of hysteria about nothing though. I guess that old line about never assume still holds true.

  • Katie M. Golden moderator
    5 years ago

    You’re a strong person to have survived your first marriage. The stress of never feeling good enough can easily carry into other relationships. Does your husband realize that you may overreact due to your past? Does he recognize that he may have some anger issues himself? Have you ever thought about counseling either together or separately?

    I can absolutely relate to your situation. My first marriage was verbally and emotionally abusive as well and it took me a long time to not let those issues carry into new relationships (but sometimes it still does). Alleviating any stress in your life can really be beneficial to managing your Migraines.
    I wish you the best and we’re always here for you!

  • ddnben
    5 years ago

    I’m curious. I live in CO but other than online, are there any support groups for migraineurs or are we so isolated do we not reach our like other people suffering from a disease? I talk to my sisters about our struggles because the three of us have the same issues. But it is tough when you go through a spell to have to explain it isn’t “just a headache”. And I don’t know that walking away is always an option. But I do like what Tammy has said here and this whole site has opened up a whole world to me that has made me feel less isolated.

  • Janet
    5 years ago

    Your article is nothing short of outstanding!!!

    As for how my life would change in relationships if I wouldn’t make assumptions…since moving to atlanta in the past 14 months from 21 years in Las Vegas ..I have been unable to make relationships (friends) here because I’ve been in a bad season of migraines.

    There was a period of time just about a year ago where I thought I had developed friendships and understanding in a church my husband and I found. It became aware to me when the pastor visited our home this past April to ask why I hide behind sunglasses in church and don’t greet and appear unapproachable and standoffish …..all the while I explained the sunglasses and migraine at the as you say not everyone has to understand nor should I expect anyone to…so honestly, right now I haven’t a single friend where I live…our son, wife, and 2 year old baby brought us here and baby number 2 is due in December.

    So back to your question…assumptions…on both sides of the coin I can see how it would be spectacular if both parties didn’t make any. Didn’t have this situation in Las Vegas…friendships dropped in leaps and bounds because I was someone too difficult to work around…so I’m trying the mindful route and reading the four agreements I’m praying will help me gain the self esteem lost.

    Thank you again for this terrific article.


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