The Danger of Assumption

by Fernando Perfas

| Photo courtesy of reference.com

Google dictionary defines assumption as “a thing that is accepted as true or as certain to happen without proof.” It amazes me how much of “assumption” rules our lives and often treat it as fact. We hold a trinket full of them in our head. From the moment we are born, as we expand our awareness of the world around us, we gradually acquire various categories of assumption. We snap them left and right as an intricate part of our psychosocial development, from the introduction to the religion we are born in, our social and cultural environment, and, most definitely, to our personal relationships. Assumptions are the basis of most of our expectations and what others expect from us. It is also the root of countless erroneous thinking that we hold as truths.

The other day I got very upset with my daughter for failing to respond with alacrity to a demand that I considered urgent. There are a few assumptions involved in this that have caused my disappointment; first, that she should have figured out that the demand was of an urgent nature; second, I consider myself responsive toward her and I expect the same from her; and third, I’m her father and by God she better respond quickly to me.

“The trouble with assumption is we tend to treat it as self-evident, a fact. A group may hold a common assumption of how the world works and impose the same assumption and expectation on others.”

The trouble with assumption is we tend to treat it as self-evident, a fact. A group may hold a common assumption of how the world works and impose the same assumption and expectation on others. On a personal level, we hold assumptions on how our partners and family members ought to behave, how friends relate with us, including how people in general interact with us. We hold assumptions of what an orderly society should look like and what a predictable world should be. And when things don’t live up to those assumptions, we think the world has gone helter-skelter.

“The point is to take assumption for what it is, a formulation of what we think things ought to be, not a fact.”

Assumption is not bad. It is often necessary as a tentative working model that allows us to function and navigate our social environment. It may or may not be confirmed by actual experience. When confronted with a novel situation we quickly formulate a plan of action based on several assumptions that have held true in the past, sometimes unaware that they may or may not work this time. As it often happens, we inject our emotion to the equation, which further muddies up the uncertain situation. Our brain is biased to things that worked for us in the past and tends to generalize them to all situations. Often our heartaches are the result of failed expectation fueled by our valid or invalid assumption borne out of experience. Take the case of love relationship. There is so much assumption riding on it determined by our individual conditioning and experience, leaving us vulnerable to many missteps. It requires some level of self-awareness to stay on top of our assumption, the source of it, and the feeling we have invested on it.

The point is to take assumption for what it is, a formulation of what we think things ought to be, not a fact.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR Dr. Fernando B. Perfas is an addiction specialist who has written several books and articles on the subject. He currently provides training and consulting services to various government and non-government drug treatment agencies regarding drug treatment and prevention approaches. He can be reached at fbperfas@gmail.com.

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