Rattling the chains

“It’s what’s called a floating floor,“ had said the workman who had come to remove yet more chunks of my son’s wet room, “but that will mean absolutely nothing to you,”
“Actually, it does.” Not only is the term fairly self-explanatory, but I was heavily involved in the gutting and redesigning of my son’s home. Had I not known before, which I did, I would certainly have learned about floating floors back then when we had ripped the place apart.
“Oh,” said the workman. “I just assumed…” Yes, he had. And why would that be, then? Because I am a female? And a middle-aged one too?

It was on a par with the other workman engaged to do some maintenance on Nick’s decking, who condescendingly explained to me, several times, how wood swells when it dries in summer and shrinks when it is soaked by all the winter rain. I too had shrunk… from correcting this misapprehension, for I too had made an assumption… that it was a simple mistake and that he really did know how it worked and had simply said it wrong. It was an assumption that would cause havoc with my son’s woodwork…

Making assumptions seldom works out well. My son is very fond of the old saying about what happens when you assume anything, yet we are really good at taking things for granted where other people are concerned. Even with open minds and the best of intentions, we almost automatically work out what we would think, know or do if we were in what we perceive to be their shoes. The trouble is, we are not… our perception is partial at best, faulty at worst and we have no way of knowing the entirety of another person’s experience and knowledge, nor do we have their character. All we are doing s projecting our own onto theirs and expecting it to fit.

We are just as good at making assumptions about ourselves… and often get them just as wrong. The surface levels of the mind are in constant dialogue with each other,  and at least one of those levels is replete with what we think other people will, or might, think of us. Much of this comes from a learned, but  often erroneous, perception of who we are.

“A real man wouldn’t do that…”
“Women can’t change a tyre/put up shelves/lay bricks.”
“You’re too old/too young/too fat/too slim to do/wear/be that.”
You’ll never be able to/be as good as/be good enough to…”

These and a thousand other negative judgements, most of which are blatantly untrue, are picked up from many places as we grow up and grow older and colour our opinion of ourselves. We assume them to be true, even when there is a niggling doubt about their veracity. They can be crippling, often to the point where  we begin to believe they are true and never make the attempt to prove otherwise, even to ourselves.

If the judgements and assumptions that others make about us and superimpose upon us are based largely on how they would behave in a given situation, why does it never occur to us that the perceived flaws that they are projecting onto us may, in fact, be their own?

Those who feel they have no control over their own lives may try to control those more vulnerable than themselves. Those who feel that they are not good enough will often pass that feeling on to those over whom they have authority. It is not necessarily deliberate… it  is the ego’s mistaken attempt at self-defence.

Maybe, if we could see beyond the accumulated assumptions about ourselves that we have simply accepted over the years, we could be and do far more than we think. Why should gender or age define our talents or how we allow ourselves to express our personalities? Maybe confident curves would totally rock that little black dress…and maybe that dream you have held in your heart is no so impossible after all.

It makes all the difference if you have someone who believes in you… someone who is ready to support you as you try and celebrate the attempt as much as the possible success. A little genuine encouragement and belief can make the improbable possible. But we do not all have the blessing of a supportive friend or partner in our lives. Or do we?  Well, maybe we could.

There is one person who is with us every step of the way, from the cradle to the grave and who knows our story better than anyone else… and that is our self. We are never wholly alone, no matter how lonely we may feel; there is always a part of us that exists at a deeper level than the surface chatter of the mind. If we can free ourselves, even a little, from the chains of assumption and judgement that we have accepted from others, we can learn to believe in ourselves. And that makes so many things possible.

The Mystery Schools, from ancient Greece to modern schools like the Silent Eye, have always taught that we should learn to know ourselves. It is a common misconception that this simply means learning to know our own faults and weaknesses so that we can address them and make progress as human and spiritual beings. It also means learning to know and embrace our strengths, gifts and talents…celebrating our lives as whole and entire beings. Works in progress, whose faults are part of the unfinished learning process and whose gifts show a glimpse of the spark of true beauty that can be ignited within each of us.

Change can begin at any point in our lives by challenging the assumptions about ourselves that we have accepted over the years. Next time you say ‘I can’t do that…’, ask yourself ‘why not?’. Is there a practical reason… or do you ‘just’ believe that you cannot? Belief in yourself is a door that only you can open, and when you do, others will believe in you too. You may even find that they always did.

27 thoughts on “Rattling the chains

  1. there is always a part of us that exists at a deeper level than the surface chatter of the mind.

    Love this, so true. Very interesting read, Sue.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I do believe that many people have confidence issues which is why we are afraid to engage sufficiently with others to determine what they know. I have got to a point where I assume people don’t know until they have demonstrated that they do. As I result I am called bossy but that is okay.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hubby’s always telling me that the only person stopping me doing anything is me! He’s right, as I lack confidence.
    In my working life, it was assumed that because I was the friend of the girl who told me about the vacancy I applied for and position I got, I had a same working attitude as she. By the end of my first week, my supervisors and manager could see that I enjoyed my work, was good at whatever job I was asked to undertake, and did not shirk my responsibility, as apparently she did………. a lot.


  4. A wonderful, common sense, and empowering post, Sue. One thing I remember vividly from Castaneda’s book The Four Agreements is how we have a tendency to project ourselves all over the place as we view the world through our filters. Freeing ourselves and others from the tangle of assumptions and judgments is a step toward joy and peace. Thanks for the reminder. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I loved this, Sue. I was thinking about dreamtime, and what I love is that I can play all the parts of all the characters in my dreams – I can be the good person, the hero, the monster, the killer, the crazy person, and I think dreams are healthy because it is the time when we can see ourselves through other personas who control our thinking in our waking life. Not control, per se, but definitely our perceptions of the world and of ourselves. Thank you so much.


      1. That is an absolute truth. And change demands that we put on our hero’s helmet and our strong heart and mind and do what it is that we need to do without fear that it might not be the right thing. I am able to see clearly now and to act when I am afraid in ways that before would have allowed me to be bullied, and I don’t have to be fierce to do it. My strength is not in trying to fight back, for that is exactly what bullies hope we will do. But to instead talk respectfully to them (unless it is a physical attack that can hurt or kill us) and open ourselves to dialogue takes great strength. I saw this in action the last time I attended one of our Mobile Home Residents Association meetings and three people including the City Manager came from the City with an agenda to get our director to react negatively, which thereby ruins his image with the people who trust him to be strong and stand up for them. And it happened exactly as I am certain they intended. When we allow ourselves to become personally infuriated and to react in that way, we are allowing parts of our ego to take over. It is far more difficult not to fight than it is to fight. For in using our intellect to outwit the worst of verbal bullies, we are actually using our strength and coming from the compass of our souls. Nothing is ever achieved by verbal fights. And for that matter, really nothing has been achieved by all the wars that have happened over the many years. Whole cultures, historical structures, and artifacts have been decimated, but nothing has changed within the spirits of mankind. The same stories will be told again and again over the centuries because mankind never breaks free from those things that rule his or her mind.

        Life is best lived using reason and staying out of our egos or outer selves, but apparently the majority of the world lives in them. This is why this study is so important. It is the only hope any of us have for a brighter tomorrow. Thank you all for an excellent post.


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