Assumptions: the negative noise in our brain that leads to misguided thinking


When faced with a situation over which we have no or little control and don’t have a definite answer or solution, our brains go on overdrive. We churn out assumptions—it could be this, or that, or maybe or not at all or all in. We are masters of spinning hypothetical scenarios, the way our dryers spin clothing around and around in cycles until it’s dry. We do the same until we’ve exhausted all possibilities.

We have a good excuse. We’re creative types who cogitate and escalate as if our assumptions will make whatever is in our craw go away or be less disturbing, or just maybe far worse.

But depending on the situation in the end, what happens often has the opposite effect. And if we’re brutally honest, we begin to drive ourselves nuts, crazy, insane!

Where do assumptions spring from? Is it learned behavior? Do we pigeonhole certain personality types and scenarios based on one experience, relying on old information and behavior? For example, we assume a friend doesn’t contact us because she doesn’t care about us any longer when, in fact, she’s having some health issues and doesn’t want to talk to anyone about them yet. She’s still processing. Yet here we’ve gone and made it about us!

We also may make assumptions because we allow our inner voices to answer a question before we think it through. We’re too impatient to wait for the truth to emerge, which has happened with each of us when we don’t hear from one another in sending our work back and forth to work on it together. “She must hate it,” one of us thinks. When in truth, one of us was busy with something else. 

We’ve written about assumptions in a blog before (May 2021), because we think this is a very important topic. We are all victims of making assumptions, which can be harmful, hurtful, even dangerous.   

You have a sudden sharp pain in your head and pass it off as, oh, it must be a migraine. But, as Joe Biden experienced years ago, you ignore it assuming it’s a tension headache or migraine. But it starts to happen daily. You pop 11 Tylenols (bad for your liver and that’s not an assumption) for pain, as Biden did. The headaches do not abate. Finally, like Biden, you take the bull by the horns and go to the emergency room where it’s discovered he had an aneurysm, which was caught in time and surgically repaired.

We see a friend from high school at the grocery store, and she looks great. We automatically assume she must be doing Botox, using fillers or perhaps she had a facelift. We learn later that she just has good genes and great skin. She also uses expensive moisturizers with Retinol.

Then there are the people we know who always assume they’re right, a different kind of assumption. As we all know, no one is always right and now we have Google to verify that so there’s no point in arguing about anything fact-based.

On the flip side, there are those who always assume something is their fault, and more often than not, they’re wrong. It could be technology—every time the computer goes bonkers, it’s something they did. You call your computer guru to fix it or go online to figure out the glitch and discover it’s the computer rebooting or installing a new version of some program. At least the computer could have told us in advance and helped us to avoid making stupid assumptions.   

We make assumptions about those we love. If they aren’t talkative, we assume it’s something we did or said. Or, maybe something happened with their spouse or partner, child or boss. Or horrors, they lost their job. At work, our boss is unfriendly and distracted. What did we do wrong? A shopkeeper ignores us when we walk in; he doesn’t offer help. Do we look too downtrodden to afford their goods? We leave assuming that’s the case when, in fact, it’s the store’s policy to allow shoppers to browse rather than have salespeople hovering over customers asking, “May I help you?” or “Is there something special you’re shopping for?” We find both questions off-putting and assume they’re pushing us to buy when, in fact, they just want to help. What a novel idea!

In the news, we assumed so much with Princess Kate before we knew the truth about her cancer, even though we don’t know about the type of cancer. Some things people assumed weren’t kind. Finally, the truth emerged and most felt great compassion for her and learned how bad assumptions can be. So, we suggest not making more assumptions about the type of cancer it is. If we are to know, we will and if not, so be it and let her have her privacy!

On the other hand, we all assumed years before we knew the truth about Charles and Diana that he still loved Camila. Later, we read that to be true—and now they’re married for more than two decades and she’s a queen. Some assumptions do ring true if we wait long enough to learn the truth.

Fortunately, there are some ways we can cool our jets before our assumptions run amok:

  1. Stop and think. Why make any assumption? Just go to the source, if possible. It’s healthier to act than sit in a stew of faulty thinking.
  2. Have an issue with someone and you assume it’s this or that. Don’t be a wimp. Try not to waste your time playing out several scenarios. Face them, better than texting or emailing, and fess up. Ask: Why did you do thus and so? Explain how it made you feel. You might be surprised and feel so much better that it’s not what you thought at all. Phew!
  3. And if you don’t hear from someone and assume it’s what you said or asked, stop and again ask or email and learn why. If you don’t hear the second time, maybe, it is time to stop and wait, if they want to share.
  4. Even better don’t play out any assumptions and just wait. In fact, waiting is often the best course but a difficult one. Give a situation a few days or even a week or month. Especially now, so many are stressed with work, the world situation and their personal issues. Try to cut everybody extra slack, including yourself!
  5. Forget trying to play clairvoyant. None of us has a crystal ball to predict others’ actions and reactions. It’s counterproductive and very often your conclusion is wrong, adding unneeded stress and anxiety.
  6. Be honest with your assumptions; accept that you might be wrong about what you think is true. Again, go to the source, if possible.
  7. Be creative and productive when an assumption enters your brain. Block it and shift gears. Don’t let it rent any space or for long. Take out your music, your paint box. Grab your weights and bands. Exercise. Pour your energy into these positive pursuits. And though we hate it when some say it, take a deep breath or meditate and RELAX.
  8. If you can, stop having an assumption bother you and let it go. Here again, breathe, relax, meditate, do Yoga or Tai Chi or Pilates. And just make a cup of hot tea, which works for all those characters on our favorite British detective shows and series.

Assumptions can spiral into nonsense. The only positive is that they can make good storylines for TV, movies and even books. Life is trying enough without complicating it with more mishigas. Focus on reality and what we can control. We can obsess and assume on so many levels about politics, the war in the Middle East, possibilities for peace, immigration, our health, others’ health, and on and on. See, it’s easy to escalate and forget the points we stated above.

Negating assumptions requires knowledge. Here Socrates might agree--knowledge is very powerful and can lead to a healthy and happy result.  



  • Audrey Steuer

    Excellent! Very wise words, beautifully expressed.

  • Marianne

    Yup. To assume makes an ass of u and me but who am I stare the obvious? Wish I had coined that saying! Great insights in this article. Thanks for reminding us of how to recenter wayward thoughts.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published