NOTE: All unbolded text is taken directly from either “The Four Agreements” or “The Four Agreements Companion Book” by Don Miguel Ruiz, and all credit extends to the author. Bolded text is my personal commentary.
I have read The Four Agreements several times in the past, but this recent deep dive into the book has absolutely rocked my world! I have been particularly astounded by the power of the second and third agreements! It’s actually quite amazing that the simple notion of not taking things personally and not making assumptions can be so profoundly transforming!
Let’s understand why they are so important and why they are so exceedingly difficult to do.
We have the tendency to make assumptions about everything.
It is very interesting how the human mind works. We have the need to justify everything, to explain and understand everything, in order to feel safe. We have millions of questions that need answers because there are so many things that the reasoning mind cannot explain. It is not important if the answer is correct; just the answer itself makes us feel safe. This is why we make assumptions.
The problem with making assumptions is that we believe that they are the truth. We could swear they are real.
We literally dream things up in our imaginations. Because we don’t understand something, we make an assumption about the meaning, and when the truth comes out, the bubble of our dream pops and we find out it was not what we thought it was at all.
All the sadness and drama you have lived in your life was rooted in making assumptions and taking things personally.
Take a moment to consider the truth of this statement…
We make assumptions about what others are doing or thinking - we take it personally - then we blame them by sending emotional poison with our word.
The whole world of control between humans is about making assumptions and taking things personally.
Making assumptions in relationships leads to a lot of fights, a lot of difficulties, a lot of misunderstandings with people we supposedly love.
Often we make the assumption that our partners know what we think and that we don’t have to say what we want. If they don’t do what we want, what we assume they should do, we feel hurt and think, “How could you do that? You should know.”
A whole lot of drama is created because we make the assumption and then we put more assumption on top of it.
If others tell us something, we make assumptions, and if they don’t tell us something we make assumptions to fulfill our need to know and to replace the need to communicate. Even if we hear something that we don’t understand, we make assumptions about what it means and believe the assumptions. We make all sorts of assumptions because we don’t have the courage to ask questions.
Because we are afraid to ask for clarification, we make assumptions, and believe we are right about the assumptions; then we defend our assumptions and try to make someone else wrong. It is always better to ask questions than to make an assumption, because assumptions set us up for suffering.
We assume that others think the way we think, feel the way we feel, judge the way we judge, abuse the way we abuse. This this the biggest assumption that humans make.
And this is why we have a fear of being ourselves around others. Because we think everyone else will judge us, victimize us, abuse us and blame us as we do ourselves.
This is the way the human mind works.
We also make assumptions about ourselves which creates a lot of inner conflict.
Have the courage to ask questions until you are clear as you can be, and even then do not assume you know all there is to know about a given situation.
Find your voice to ask for what you want. Everybody has the right to tell you no or yes, but you always have the right to ask. Likewise, everybody has the right to ask you, and you have the right to say yes or no.
Just imagine a day that you stop making assumptions with everyone in your life. Your way of communicating will change completely, and your relationships will no longer suffer from conflicts created by mistaken assumptions.
A dialogue with don Miguel Ruiz:
Question: My question is about knowledge and assumptions. I was wondering if the voices I hear in my head and what you call '‘knowledge” are the same as assumptions?
don Miguel: What is an assumption?
Response: In my case, it’s thinking that I know, so it’s knowledge. Okay, you answered it.
don Miguel: We can divide everything into what we know, which is the known; what we don’t know, which is the unknown; and what we will never know, which is the unknowable. We only know what we know: our knowledge. We only know the information accumulated in our mind by agreements. We know the whole reality that we perceive, we know our dream, we know our point of view.
The unknown is another story. Do you see the woman sitting next to you? You create an image and project it on her. You only know about her what you project, and this is the known for you. But what she has in her mind is unknown. You can make the assumption that you know what she has in her mind. You can make the assumption that you know your children, or your father, or your mother, or even your dog, but you don’t know them. You only know what you believe about them; and it’s only true for you, no one else, because its a dream. The truth is that you will never know them.
You only know what your knowledge tells you. You only know the judgements that you can make about everybody, the interpretations, your personal point of view. You don’t know what other people feel, what they think, what they believe, what they are dreaming. And you make the assumption that they believe what you believe, that they feel what you feel, that they see the world the way you see the world. And it’s knowledge that controls you.
As I said before, if we control knowledge, it becomes a tool of communication. We don’t make assumptions, we ask. We ask, and other people will tell us what is in their world. Then we know what they have in their dream, they can communicate. It’s that simple. We don’t have to make assumptions, but we also know that they will tell us what they know. It doesn’t mean it’s true.
Response: Now I really see how making assumptions causes a lot of misunderstandings between people.
don Miguel: Even if we don’t make assumptions, it’s easy to see why humans hardly understand one another. People send us a distorted image of themselves, because it’s only what they want to project to us, then we perceive the distorted image they send, and we distort it even more with our own beliefs. This is just the way it is. People project the image of their dream to us, and we distort it according to what we want to believe. We have to make everything we perceive fit into what we believe is true. That’s why we are more interested in hooking the attention of other people to project our point of view than in listening to what other people want to say to us.
Our closing meditation:
Oh wise women, I wish you infinite grace and gentleness as you bravely agree to no longer make assumptions!