If you’ve driven for any length of time, you’ve likely encountered a situation that left you shaking your head. Perhaps it’s evoked enough anger to make you shake a fist or worse. My personal favourites are when someone darts out in front of you and the Sunday driver who slows down traffic for miles. But are they really the evil arse-hole we think they are? Can our assessment of these scenarios be flawed and or inaccurate? Ah, the great power of assumption. It can surely be wrong, no matter how right we think it is.
Is what I am seeing in front of me really what’s going on?
The answer to this question is likely “yes.” Or at least, that’s the case a lot of the time. In fact, it’s not limited to our experiences on the road. We are constantly making judgements about every encounter we have. The roots of this phenomenon can be found in our neurology.
It would seem as though we are hardwired to judge the actions of others. Now, is this an excuse to run amuck and assume that those assessments you are making are okay or right? Of course not.
If we go back to the driving example, we as humans may assume that the person who sped out in front of us was in too much of a hurry – or that he or she has no regard for our safety. With that said, is this really what took place?
Are my assumptions about people with mental illness actually correct? Beware of the great power of assumption.
The beauty of our brains is that they come with the wonderful ability to re-evaluate a given scenario and therefore, provide us with alternate possibilities. So, was the person cutting you off intentionally? What are the other possibilities that could be true?
For example, could the other driver see you or did you happen to be in their blind spot? If this is the case, then their actions were not malicious. Your reaction to them, however, may have been.
Imagine if the blindspot story was true and just imagine if the incident turned into road rage – all because you were convinced that the driver’s intentions were because they were being aggressive.
This example demonstrates how flawed our innate ability to make judgements based on what we are seeing in real-time is. So, how does this flaw transfer to other aspects of our lives? Moreover, how damaging can it be in other aspects of our lives?
Phew! This is still a mental-health blog and here’s how we tie it all together.
Is what I’m seeing, actually what’s gonig on?
Stigma, simply put, is nothing more than a judgement based on what people are seeing. Sad, right? Despite that, it’s also natural. However, with that said, we can flick our brains off autopilot and ask ourselves: is what I am seeing in front of me really what’s going on? Is that person with depression really lazy because they can’t clean up their house? And is that co-worker with PTSD really calling in sick because they hate to work?
The real question that one should be asking here is: are my assumptions about people with mental illness actually correct? It has done me well to remember that behaviour always happens for a reason, andthis is especially true when evaluating people with mental health conditions. Chances are the judgements you are making are inaccurate and therefore require you to educate yourself.
Remember, judging others is natural but is oftentimes grossly inaccurate. However, with the power of critical thinking and by stopping to ask the right questions, you can uncover what you can’t see until you look under the hood of illness. In doing so, you can effectively beat the great power of assumption.
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