I am sipping my coffee and considering the excellent work week that has ended, and the long weekend ahead. I am feeling eager and inspired, loved, and valued. It’s easy to bask in these lovely feelings and find myself soaking in what eventually could become an expectation that I feel this way, enjoy work weeks such as this one, evenings like those I’ve shared with my traveling partner this week, sleep of good quality, and the resources to continue it all quite indefinitely…only…life isn’t a painting and doesn’t stand still; what I enjoy in this moment may not be near at hand in the next. Allowing expectations to develop over time that are based on experience, but not confirmed explicitly, result in painful moments of disappointment, almost as if scheduled deliberately. When I allow myself to be open to enjoying what is, without projecting that it will always be so into future days, I’m largely free of those painful moments experienced when life finds it necessary to correct my departure from reality.

Assumptions are similar; if I make assumptions about what’s going on in someone else’s mind, or experience, I exist in a fictional narrative. When others make assumptions about me, incorrectly, I feel disregarded, invisible, unheard, or misunderstood. If both conditions occur together, life feels as if I am only visiting, unwelcome in my existence, and of little value. Plus – if I’m making all manner of untested assumptions moment to moment, I’m wrong a lot. A lot. How can I be so sure? Pretty simply, because I see it in my own relationships; people who make assumptions about me (what I think, what I like, how I feel, what I know, what I value, what I want…) are wrong a lot. It’s not always easy to avoid making assumptions; making assumptions is a cognitive tool improving our speed to decision-making. Certainly there are circumstances when deciding whether to run away, or taste that strange food, requires me to make some assumptions for safety’s sake. It easily gets to be a habit.

Making assumptions isn’t easily avoidable, which makes testing our assumptions entirely necessary before we rely on them for longer term understanding of our experience. Assumptions, like lies, don’t have their foundation in what is demonstrably real, or provable – and are no more likely to be innocent of purpose than a lie! The intent of the assumption matters; it says something about the person making it. Most assumptions are not of ill intent, they function for efficiency’s sake, and while that seems harmless enough, there are so many circumstances when asking the simple question would provide better data. Other assumptions are the hallmark of a consciousness that is not invested in knowing, understanding, or building – preferring to just move quickly through circumstances ‘successfully’ to reach a goal with minimal investment in connecting with any other consciousness involved. Assumptions – particularly assumptions about the state of someones mind, or content of their emotions or thoughts – are shortcuts for speed and efficiency, resulting in a significant loss of intimacy. Assumptions are no more real than day dreams, doubts, or fears, and not to be trusted.

In conversation, refusing to make commonplace assumptions can quickly derail dialogue (or meetings) in the most hilarious way; people are very used to making assumptions, and are often quite unprepared for any one member of a group to abruptly stop doing so, asking instead for confirmation of simple things typically assumed (and often incorrectly so, but generally unnoticed). I enthusiastically endorse exploring the amusing delights of refraining from making ordinary assumptions now and then, but must state clearly that the consequences of choosing to do so are also your own to explore; your results may vary. (Remember to keep Wheaton’s Law in play!) 🙂

It’s easy to demonstrate the value of not making assumptions by considering the puzzle of buying a gift for someone else. If I buy a gift based on what I know of my own taste, I am not likely to buy a gift that suits that other person well. If I buy a gift based on common assumptions about taste and current trends in the marketplace, I may have improved on whether I am able to buy a gift that suits that other person – but it’s not a certainty, though it often feels as though it is a better choice. When I buy someone a gift, with what I really know of them in mind, I am by far more likely to select a gift that truly suits them…only…what do I really know about that other person? Is it enough? It becomes tempting to begin to build additional assumptions about them, crafted from what I know, to create a sense of deeper knowledge… it isn’t at all real, or reliable. Then what? Settle for accepting that gifts are often received graciously, however unsatisfying the gifts themselves may be? I don’t really find that comfortable, either, personally. I would rather invest in the delight of the recipient, and put aside my assumptions and ask questions, build intimacy, gain deeper knowledge – both of that other person, and through emotional intimacy and connection, deeper knowledge of who I am, myself. Emotional intimacy is powerful, and nourishing. Sustainable lasting love has its roots in emotional intimacy.

Interacting with those dear to us on the basis of assumptions may actually be the direct opposite of emotional intimacy. This is a new thought for me, in these simple terms. I plan to spend some time considering it further.

My traveling partner was the first to point out to me that expectations are a relationship killer, and I have seen the truth of it. I throw assumptions onto that same bonfire; few things fuel the failure of intimacy with such efficiency. This particularly excellent week of living and working has been peculiar in how few expectations I have had – or held on to – and how few assumptions I have relied upon. It’s been telling, as well as exceptionally connected and satisfying in terms of my interactions with others. Refraining from holding onto implicit expectations, and refusing to make assumptions about others, look like valuable practices, from this perspective.

An artist at work? A student of life. I am having my own experience. (Your results may vary)

An artist at work? A student of life. I am having my own experience. (Your results may vary)

I’ve a long weekend ahead, and even without expectations about what it holds, it looks very promising creatively and emotionally. Where will the journey take me? I won’t assume I know. 🙂