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  • Resilient Practice

Managing Expectations

“I am not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine” – Bruce Lee

We have said before that much human suffering has its roots in fear. Fear arises when we feel that we are at risk of losing something that is important to us, be it possessions, reputation, respect, relationships, status, health, or time. When we feel fear, we are usually projecting ourselves into imagined scenarios and in doing so we invoke a similar stress response within the body to that experienced from real events.

Another very common cause of human misery is that which arises from not having our expectations met. By allowing ourselves to set expectations for ourselves and others we imagine a future with certain things in place. In time, if reality does not measure up to our vision, we are hurt, disappointed or frustrated. We move into fear.

Not having our expectations met invokes fear because it affirms our negative core beliefs about the Self. When we perceive that we have been failed by someone of whom we expected certain attitudes and behaviours, the two negative beliefs that are common to us all, ‘I am not worthy’ and ‘I am broken or not whole’ are seen to be confirmed as true.

I am not worthy of a good life because my friend failed me.

I am not worthy of loyalty.

I did not warrant love/loyalty/attention because I am defective/unlovable.

This evokes fear and brings about behaviour which stops us from moving forward.

Our expectations of Self are unconscious agreements that were made long ago as a result of our conditioning. Conditioning is hugely responsible for who we perceive ourselves to be and the version of Self that we show to the world. It can be split into three parts: experiences of being parented, life experiences and genetic make-up. Each of these have a bearing on who will we become. They are also hugely responsible for our unique model of the world, the individual lens through which we view everything that happens to us. We cover this in great detail in our book:

Our expectations of others are usually imaged and unspoken agreements that assume that everyone we interact with has the same world view as we do. This is where we can come unstuck. Our model of the world is unique. No two models are alike. Even if we have been brought up in the same environment as another, our experiences and perceptions will be different.

It is impossible to see the world as someone else does.

Since our expectations are borne from our experiences, they are entirely individual to us.

No-one in our lives is privy to our world view and therefore their understanding of what we expect of them is limited. Consequently, when aiming to live up to someone’s expectations, we are, at best, projecting what we would expect in that situation, and all too often the two are not aligned.

Remember that your expectations are an illusion based on your understanding of the world and no-one in your life is obliged to live up to them.

Try this:

When you are faced with disappointment in the behaviour of another you can activate your Observer Self as we have discussed so many times before.

You can learn to notice when you have become upset by the failure of another to meet your unconscious expectations, and you can choose whether or not to allow those emotions and behaviours to play out. This is outlined in great detail in our book, and we call the process Observation and Choice.

Alternatively, you can trial an Expectation Fast.

Set a time limit, for example, a week.

Set the intention that for a minimum of one week you will completely desist from imposing expectations on yourself or others.

That you will release everyone in your life from the binding of all expectations you have of them, leaving them free to pleasantly surprise you with their inherent goodness and allowing them to be met with neutrality if they do not offer anything up.

Agree with yourself that, if you find yourself hurt or disappointed, you will simply observe those emotions with detached curiosity, understanding that you are being shown where you have bought into old expectations which are borne from your own experiences and understanding of the world.

Take no action to remedy the situation, only actively accept things exactly as they are. Allow the people you are close to, to simply be themselves around you.

It takes a great deal of energy to maintain expectations, monitor whether they are being met and emotionally invest in complaining when they are not. When we agree to completely ditch our expectations, we free up all of that energy.

This very liberating and like our Complaint Fast can become a bit of a game.

We can feel a profound sense of being set free from having to engage in heavy, negative thought processes. This results in a feeling of increased time and energy and elevated mood.

The responses of those around us are interesting too. When we set others free, they can offer us truly positive interaction and support, and not out of duty but out of positive regard. They are free to truly express themselves without scrutiny.

Even when you do not disclose your intentions, you will notice changes in the behaviour of those around you as they respond to your altered mindset. You will be presented with a true representation of your relationships without contamination.

Once again, everybody wins.

Give it a try and be pleasantly surprised!

Thank you for Reading

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