As I continue re-reading The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, I’m reminded how insecure humans are as a species.
"We have millions of questions that need answers because there are so many things that the reasoning mind cannot explain…We have the need to justify everything, to explain and understand everything, in order to feel safe…It is not important if the answer is correct, just the answer itself makes us feel safe. This is why we make assumptions" (Ruiz, p. 73-74).
Allow me to repeat Ruiz’s words, “It is not important if the answer is correct, just the answer itself makes us feel safe.” This intense need to understand drives us to fabricate stories that validate our beliefs. If we text a friend and they are silent too long, we automatically create a story in our head. “Did I say the wrong thing?” “Was my comment offensive?” “Are they mad at me?” “I guess they just don’t care.”
Isn’t it interesting that we usually jump to the most disastrous and negative thing? Unless we stop and make ourselves think about the situation for a second (or unless we know our friend really well and know it takes them forever to respond), we create a mini hell for ourselves so that we have something to worry about to occupy our minds. Just having a story about why they haven’t responded makes us feel safe.
But why does a negative story in our heads make us feel safe?
Because we are our own worst enemies. Because we prefer to focus on our negative qualities rather than the positive. Because we were taught as children that a portion of our natural nature is “bad” and we must conform to a specific template in order to be “good”. Negative stories make us feel safe because, “We assume that others think the way we think, feel the way we feel, judge the way we judge, and abuse the way we abuse” (Ruiz, p. 75).
If we automatically think negative things about ourselves, then our friend must be thinking negative things about us too. This makes us feel safe because it’s our comfortable space. Even though there is nothing positive about thinking this way, it’s familiar.
The question is then, “How do we get out of this negative yet safe space?” By asking questions!
When we ask questions, it removes our ability to abuse ourselves because it gives us the truth – the answer to our query about why they haven’t responded to our text. Even if their response is, “Yes, you offended me.” Then, at least, we know and can have a positive discussion about it. Remember: If someone takes offense, it’s on them. It’s their choice. It’s their decision. It has nothing to do with us. Whatever their response, Don’t Take Anything Personally (The Second Agreement).
By asking questions and not making assumptions, we provide opportunities for growth – both by practicing not taking things personally and by asking for what we want and need. If we need peace of mind to know that we haven’t offended someone, then by all means we should ask for it. Do we run the risk of appearing insecure? Yes, but at least we are doing something to mend that insecurity.
Every time we practice not making assumptions by asking questions, we are growing and becoming less insecure. Part of that growth is learning to care more about caring less what people think. Their reality is their reality. Our reality is our reality. We will be much happier living life on our terms than we ever will living it according to someone else’s creation of how we are supposed to live.**
By not making assumptions, our stories change and we no longer have the need to abuse or judge ourselves. Instead we create opportunities to build new safe spaces based on positive self-thoughts and self-beliefs.
Ruiz, D. M. (1997). The four agreements. San Rafael, CA: Amber-Allen Publishing.
**For more information on living an authentic life and discovering your “right” way of living. Check out my free e-book Finding Your “Right” Way: Three Practices for Self-Discovery.