“In spite of all similarities, every living situation has, like a newborn child, a new face, that has never been before and will never come again. It demands of you a reaction that cannot be prepared beforehand. It demands nothing of what is past. It demands presence, responsibility; it demands you.”
What is the #1 problem in relationships, a major source of unhappiness, and a deterrent to our peace of mind? Expectations.
If you want to be disappointed or frustrated, just expect someone to do or say something, and wait for the fallout. It will come. Holding an expectation is like putting a vice grip around reality, and reality will eventually break free. People do what they do, circumstances happen as they happen, no matter what we think or want.
The Power of Expectations
An expectation is a big, fat should. It creates a scenario of what we want the future to be like – he should…she shouldn’t… And then he doesn’t or she does.
Expectations move us out of the realm of the real and into the mind-created realm of imagination, fantasy, and hope. And by buying into these beliefs, we bring struggle to our own lives and disharmony to our relationships.
A friend of mine recently called this the “tyranny of should.” When we take “should” thoughts as real, we act like a tyrant wielding oppressive power toward ourselves and those around us. We clamp down on people, trying to limit their freedom to meet our needs. I know I have wielded my should’s and expectations in relationships. I have hurt people, including myself. Have you?
Trying to eliminate expectations is unlikely to bring you the peace that you long for. Expectations are the product of the mind, and it seems like the mind has, well, a mind of its own.
Rather than fighting with these thoughts, consider taking the compassionate approach. Investigate them, see if they are true, determine what fuels them, take in the effect they have on you and the people around you. Bring so much awareness to them that they lose their power. Then go forth in freedom.
The Compassionate Approach
- Investigating your expectations requires you to take responsibility. The focus of your attention moves from blaming and a “poor me” mentality to an honest appraisal of your thoughts and feelings. You choose the path of wisdom and intelligence by giving up your need to be right. You are willing to illuminate the truth.
- The fuel that keeps expectations in place is an unexamined feeling. What are you afraid of – being alone, losing control, not getting what you want, not being right? Let these fears surface and receive them with so much love.
- Notice how these fears give rise to the expectation. If you are afraid of being alone, you try to limit your partner’s need for space and independence. If you are afraid of losing control, you react when things don’t go according to plan. See the process clearly: fear ? expectation ? inner reaction ? reaction toward another
- Feel the effect of reacting to an expectation. Is this what you really want – for yourself, for others?
- Align yourself with reality. You can’t control what other people say or do. You can’t foretell the future. Stay open and accepting to things as they are.
- If you are really stuck, go straight to your heart and offer wishes of well-being, happiness, and peace to yourself and whoever is triggering you. Eventually, you will want to thank the other person for helping to bring this problem to your awareness.
If you have a habit of acting on expectations, do yourself a favor. Take the time to do the work. Be willing to be honest and see what keeps you trapped. Lovingly come to peace within yourself. Every person you know will thank you for it.
Do you get trapped by your expectations? What is that like? Have you experienced freedom from expectations? I’d love to hear…