Expectations Great and Small

Sometimes people say, “I won’t have any expectations. That way, I won’t be disappointed.” Is this even possible?

Actually, this is not a healthy approach.

The reason is: You have expectations whether you want to think so, or not. If you don’t consciously choose or identify your expectations, your emotions will (subconsciously) do this for you.

This is why people often say or think, “I don’t know what I expected. But I’m disappointed.”

Such a phenomenon proves exactly what I’m saying.

Any attempt to suppress expectations is an attempt to repress or deny your emotional states. Since emotional states are part of who you are, this amounts to a denial of the reality of your own consciousness. Not a good thing!

Don’t try to evade the responsibility of making your expectations realistic by simply saying, “I won’t have any expectations.”

Instead, examine your emotions first. Your emotions will tell you exactly what your expectations, in a given context, are.

Once you’ve examined your emotions, then submit those emotional expectations to facts and logic. Are your expectations realistic? Why or why not? If not, then what alternate, realistic expectations can you project in their place?

Most of us assume that to make expectations realistic, we have to lower them. That’s not always so. Sometimes our emotions encourage us to expect less than we realistically can or should. For example, emotions might encourage us to always expect the worst of people, despite the fact that people have free will and some people can meet high standards and not disappoint us.

The problem with emotional expectations is that they tend to distort. They can distort in a positive or a negative direction. The work of the conscious, thinking mind is to make sure those expectations are reasonable. Conscious thinking is the bridge between unexamined emotions and objective reality.

Many people try to “protect” themselves by having few or no expectations. “That way, I won’t be disappointed.” But all this does is lead you to a state of denial. Your subconscious mind knows you have expectations, and will go on having them anyway. As a result, you’ll feel surprised or pleased when (subconscious) expectations are exceeded; and you’ll feel dejected or disappointed when (subconscious) expectations are not met.

In short, there’s no escaping expectations, at least not if you recognize the reality of your emotions’ existence in your mind.

I understand what people are sometimes after in their attempt to have “no expectations.” For example, “I won’t expect to meet a new boyfriend at this party. I’ll just go and have a good time.” Or, “I won’t expect to learn everything from just one class. I have to give the entire semester of this course a chance to have an impact.” But as I said, these methods of coping are really an attempt to substitute realistic expectations for unrealistic ones.

An unrealistic expectation is: “I must meet the love of my life at every social gathering I attend.” Ridiculous, obviously. A more realistic expectation is, “I won’t meet a romantic interest at most social gatherings. But the opportunity always exists, so I’ll always be open. In spite of that, I’ll look to have a good time in other ways.”

Or: “I can’t learn something profound or new in every individual class I attend. But the course as a whole should give me something new. I’ll look for that and expect to find that, so I don’t miss out on it.”

It takes some conscious effort and self-responsibility/self-awareness to curb, tame or even elevate your expectations. Living the conscious life enables the kind of serenity and satisfaction people seeking to “curb expectations” are actually aiming toward.

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