Do expectations stop us from observing life? Written by Brendan Mooney Psychologist
We can all relate to having expectations about people and life. Some of us believe we should have high expectations, whereas others claim having low expectations is the only way to prevent being disappointed or hurt. However, have we really considered what expectations actually are and whether they serve a true purpose?
To put it simply, an expectation is any investment in an outcome, irrespective of whether we perceive the outcome as being ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
In other words, an expectation is a projection of what we want or need a situation to be.
But what if expectations actually stop us from observing what is truly happening?
If we create expectations about how life should or ought to be, are we not setting ourselves up to emotionally react when it does not live up (or down) to our pre-conceived expectations?
What if expectations are about investing our energy into something external to us that we cannot control, and in doing so we are at the mercy of whether or not something is going to happen? Have we considered that it is not wise to invest our sense of wellbeing into things we have absolutely no control over, for is this not giving away our energy to an outcome we have no say over?
But how much are our lives governed by expectations? For example, when watching a sporting match are you invested in one side winning? This may sound like a silly example, although consider that even in this situation it is not wise to invest in one team winning over another. Instead what if it is best to simply observe the match but not engage with it, otherwise we are essentially allowing our internal quality to be governed by the outcome of the match. Hence why after a big sporting match we often see one half of the audience elated and the other half disappointed. In fact disappointment is a mild descriptor in the case of some fans who actually become violent and aggressive towards others following big sporting games.
Another note to consider is that expectations taint our current experiences. When we place an expectation on people or situations based on past experiences, we are no longer truly open to the present situation. For example a father may have an expectation that his teenage daughter is a ‘good girl’ despite the fact that she is starting to enter into unhealthy relationships and is being self-destructive. If the father maintains his expectation or picture he holds of his little girl it will blind him to what is actually occurring. In other words, he will choose to see only what he wants to see. In this way being blindsided by our expectations leaves us completely ignorant to what is actually happening, which can be disastrous in family life and in our day-to-day relationships.
And what of the person who has expectations placed on them? For example, the child of musicians who is expected to study music, or an expectation that your wife will be as good a cook as your mother. When we place expectations on people we are essentially asking them to be a certain way that fits our needs and we are not allowing them to make their own choices or to see where it is they are truly at.
So perhaps it is worth considering the following:
Is it not wise to stay open to life rather than pre-judging of it? Otherwise, are we truly living each day fresh or are we bringing in the past to every moment, which may in fact rob us of the quality of life we deserve? Perhaps we ought to not judge having expectations in life as a good or bad thing, but rather something that does not truly support us to observe the truth of the present moment. Whilst we may connect to the potential of a person or situation, if we attach to that potential happening and it does not we are setting ourselves up to emotionally react with disappointment, frustration, anger etc.
Perhaps we ought to examine our personal investment in having expectations in the first place, in other words what we have to gain by seeing others and life a certain way. An honest review of our investment will likely support in letting go of expectations, allowing us to experience each moment fresh and untainted by the last.
More will be written in an upcoming series of articles on this topic. If you would like to read more be sure to subscribe to receive email updates.
BIOGRAPHY Psychologist Brendan Mooney works with adults, adolescents and children. With a genuine interest in people's well-being, Brendan brings a warmth, practicality and an equality that supports clients to truly address underlying issues and blockages that are preventing them from moving forward.
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