Let’s talk about EXPECTATIONS!
Drum roll please for the alternate universe we all seem to have one foot in at all times. The universe of expectations; the fulfilled and the God forbid – UNFULFILLED ones.
We all know the funny aspect of Expectation vs Reality, as it is so widely popular online with probably millions of memes denoting the travesty. You may also remember this scene from 500 Days of Summer where they so blatantly show us the insane gap between sometimes what we expect to happen (happily ever after) vs what actually ends up happening (fucking heartbreak).
The point is, expectations are useless, if they are based on assumptions.
I will say that again more clearly:
Expectations are useless and painful if we derive them solely from baseless or unrelated assumptions. The problem with this is that sometimes we cannot determine the difference between a fair assumption and a baseless one.
Mind Reading and Assuming on Behalf of Others
Mind reading is a skill we develop mainly due to a conditioning of guessing what others are thinking. Why would we do that you might ask? The answer is usually around these parameters: We learn the art of mind reading and assuming what others are thinking and feeling when we are in close relationships with people who don’t express thoughts and/or feelings. So in order to keep up such relationships, be it with parents, friends, lovers or anybody close, we start drawing assumptions and guesses on how they feel and what’s going on through their minds in order to be able to better interact with them. So we learn to make good guesses, mind read and infer based on their patterns of behavior; we then use those guesses to engage with them accordingly.
Where is the glitch in that coping mechanism?
The glitch in this, is that it teaches us wrong pattern guessing, which leads to wrong or awkward expectations. So if your father always sat in his reading chair after dinner instead of going to the sink to wash the dishes, it meant he was upset; which essentially meant for you to NOT ENGAGE in that moment. You expect a bad reaction.
However, fast forward to your lover displaying similar behavior after dinner, and you simply choose to NOT ENGAGE with them because you are fearing a bad reaction based on your previous conditioning.
This expectation is wrong. You are placing expectations on a person based on your own assumptions, where they never actually said that they were upset.
No Expectations No Disappointments
Personally, I was a sucker for this line which ended up causing me a lot more harm than good. This mind set similar to that of mind reading leads us all into the weird dark side of the universe of expectations. Why is this bad?
Expectations are OK. There is nothing wrong with expecting to be treated well in a relationship; to expect food to nourish you and not make you sick. More so, it is ok to place some positive expectations on yourself as well, such as expect yourself to show up, to do good where you can; expect yourself to show kindness… The list continues on, but in the same manner. That is, realistic expectations based on realistic desires and aspirations. Not being able to meet such expectations, is also ok; and if it is important to you to fulfill that expectation, then you will do better next time. Knowing that you act on what’s in your control, all else is surrendered.
If you enter into a new relationship, and you know that you are doing your best to be a good partner, it is fair to expect your partner to be good to you. If you go with no expectations no disappointments then the only person you are fooling is yourself. Why? because you are starting off with a bar so low, that you do not even expect to be treated well.
Don’t be afraid of expectations
It’s so easy to crumble underneath the immense expectations set upon us by society, family, work and lovers. Sometimes, we place immense expectations on ourselves too; ones that seem outside of us, directly implied on our sense of value. There are so many layers to that and it becomes incapacitating and paralyzing. The practice is to determine your own parameters. What do you realistically want from/for yourself? What do you truly need from others? and where are all the other bounds for you to feel well and happy?
We have the ability to expect good things from each other, and step up. We have the ability to lift each other up. Sometimes, a person’s expectations for you come from a deep sense of faith in you. It is helpful to uncover those things and recognize the difference between positive realistic expectations, and inconceivable, pressuring ones.
Regardless the outcome, the beauty of this process is in showing up, in doing what’s necessary and honoring ourselves throughout.