Assumicide attacked our home this weekend. Casualties were great.
In my pale celery green kitchen, my hands full scooping out eggs for brunch, my oldest man-child loomed in the doorway and kindly called me on an assumption. Ouch.
See, the day before, Michael, I and this same 17-year-old, had a similar conversation in the very same kitchen doorway. (By the way, can we stop having conversations in doorways? In or out!)
Anyway, we made an observation about how his assumicide sent him into a cyclone of frustration. Dang, he’s a quick study.
Assumicide is the spiral of assumptions that self-destructs a relationship, either in the moment or over time.
Assumicide rolls out the red carpet for conflict. Sure on the surface, the argument is about meeting a deadline or not wanting to stop another rerun of The Office to pick up the yard.
Underneath are expectations that come from our personal culture—our perspectives, feelings, values, thoughts, beliefs, interpretations, actions. Put simply: our normal.
And our normal roots itself in unconscious messages—the lies that just won’t die—we’ve lived with for years. So long, they’re just, well, normal.
If we’re unaware, assumicide becomes an invisibility cloak protecting ugly, tattered old lies, letting them wreak havoc in our lives and our relationships.
Assumicide rolls out the red carpet for conflict.
When my son held up a mirror to my assumicide, it revealed yet another way this unconscious message squishes out sideways.
As I’ve learned the Enneagram, I see the pattern of my assumptions often comes back to one main message, lurking just under the surface.
And the kicker: You have a different message lying to you. No wonder we have conflict!
Here’s the big secret:
Do not assume everyone sees, feels, thinks, believes, or interprets information as you do.
It’s so simple to read that sentence, and yet it’s just as easy to forget and slip into a cycle of assumicide, believing our normal is the same as everyone else’s.
Here’s how to pull yourself back from the brink of assumicide.
Pause and Breathe:
(It’s not quite the bend and snap, but it’s effective.)
When we feel awkward, uncomfortable, angry, sad, ashamed, offended—any kind of intense negative emotion—we frequently stop breathing. Your brain shuts down logical functions and goes into the lizard brain of fight or flight. Your brain stem is really good at keeping you alive, not so much with the self-control, emotional regulation, or logical thought.
So, take a breath: a literal, fill-your-lungs-with-air-and-get-oxygen-to-your-brain-so-you-are-in-control-of-yourself breath. With the oxygen, the other lobes of your brain reactivate, returning to the executive functions it’s designed to accomplish.
1) Am I seeing one of these unconscious messages coming out?
For each Enneagram type, there is an unconscious message, a lie that just won’t die:
- Type Eight: It’s not ok to be vulnerable or to trust anyone.
- Type Nine: It’s not ok to assert yourself.
- Type One: It’s not ok to make mistakes.
- Type Two: It’s not ok to have your own needs.
- Type Three: It’s not ok to have your own feelings and identity.
- Type Four: It’s not ok to be too functional or too happy.
- Type Five: It’s not ok to be comfortable in the world.
- Type Six: It’s not ok to trust yourself.
- Type Seven: It’s not ok to depend on anyone for anything.
Replace this message with this truth:
- Type Eight: You will not be betrayed.
- Type Nine: Your presence matters.
- Type One: You are good.
- Type Two: You are wanted.
- Type Three: You are loved for yourself.
- Type Four: You are seen for who you are.
- Type Five: Your needs are not a problem.
- Type Six: You are safe.
- Type Seven: You will be taken care of.
Now, I know some of you are scoffing right now. Sure, just tell myself this and all is well! It’s simple, but not instant. And each time you remind yourself of this truth, each time you fight through it, the lie has less power over you.
Ask Some More:
Am I assuming this person thinks or sees this situation as I do?
Usually, your answer will be, “Why yes, self, you are.” This is a nice way to help you realize you are centering yourself as the normal. The act of asking yourself the question reminds you of the big idea: Everyone sees, feels, thinks, believes, or interprets information differently.
It’s time to ask the other person questions. Asking clarifying questions is, perhaps, the most effective tool against assumicide. You are allowing the other person to communicate their thoughts and perspective instead of only using yourself as the only data point. When you understand each other’s goals, experiences, hidden messages, you can work toward a solution instead of spiraling into conflict.
Learning more about your personal culture, growing in self-awareness through the Enneagram, jump starts this process. You are less likely to compete with another person’s normal when you have pulled the invisibility cloak off your own unconscious messages.
Over brunch at our dining room table (finally, out of the doorway!), my son and I asked questions and talked through our frustrations from the kitchen. Turns out, it wasn’t a big deal. A couple minutes of discussion calmed the cyclone and cleared a path for restoration. All before my eggs got cold.
What’s your assumicide hiding?