Not So Sure

It can be incredibly helpful to learn to distinguish between what happens and your assessment of it.

What happens:

She didn’t return my call

Your assessments:
I must have done something wrong
She’s angry with me
She hates me
She’ll never forgive me
I’m such a loser
This relationship is over

What happens can be observed and agreed upon by others, if they were there to witness it – even people who don’t know you, or who have very different opinions to you.

Your assessments are what you make of what happens. They are interpretations, arising from your particular perspective, experience, history, values, and commitments.

Assessments can be more, or less, grounded. Sometime they’re based upon a careful study of people and events. And sometimes they are wild flights of speculation and imagination. Or projections of a past situation into the future. Or an extrapolation: based upon an initial impression of someone we fill in all the details of who and how they must be.

Making assessments is necessary, of course, if we are ever to make any sense of a world in which things keep on happening in a way that matters to us. But they can land us and others in deep difficulty when we fail to distinguish them from the events upon which they are based.

When we take our assessments to be the unquestionable truth – and they can easily seem this way to us – we are in all likelihood heading for trouble.

This is why we all need people around us who respect us enough to point out when what we’re most convinced about is in fact shaky, and who can remind us not to be as sure of ourselves as we think we are. In the end, our truest friendship and deepest support comes from those who are willing to tell us that our assessments are assessments. And it’s a huge step forward when we learn from them how to do this for ourselves.

More from Justin at his blog, On living and working.

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