We are making choices at every moment about everything
we think, feel, and do.
The trouble is, most choices are made on auto-pilot. We’re rarely aware that we’ve made a choice, or that other choices were possible. Even when we know that we had a choice, we often make them by default, consensus, out of habit, or based on unconscious assumptions we hold.
Based on Assumptions
These assumptions are based on the ways we made sense of the world when we were very young. Due to our lack of maturity and experience, these assumptions are filled with illogic. This includes generalizing – stretching information to fit more than is realistic – “EVERYTHING ALWAYS goes wrong in my life”. “Crystal-Balling”leads to assuming we can accurately predict the future – I will NEVER improve”. “Awfulizing” leads to the assumption that something is far worse than it is – “ It’s HORRIBLE that he didn’t ask me to that party”.
Effects of Assumptions
These ways of thinking affect every aspect of our lives, including our emotions, self-confidence, and relationships. In all these areas, in the blink of an eye and completely without our awareness, our assumptions quickly inform our thoughts, lead to our feelings and propel our actions.
An example would be a friend calling us to ask for a favor. We are swamped, and the self-supporting choice would be to say no. However, if we assumed that we had to please and be liked by everyone, that would lead to thinking that it would be wrong to say no, to feeling stress mixed with guilt, and an unbidden “yes” flying out of our mouths.
The good news is that we can build understanding and skills with which to check out and correct the exaggerations inherent in our assumptions. We can learn to think in terms of sometimes, and some things, expand from certainty about our imagined futures to the ability to see a range of possible outcomes, and to understand that while we may not like certain situations, they might not be classifiable as “awful”. We can develop a way to look at our feelings, confidence and relationships through a lens that encompasses shades of gray, and build and act on more effective, self-supporting beliefs.