As a therapist, I frequently help people grapple with their emotions around expectations. Usually, it is about feeling let down and being left with a surprising, and frequently unwanted outcome. This realization can be, quite frankly, a giant bummer. And because I help others doesn’t mean that I have reached a place where unmet expectations don’t effect me. Ha! I am human. I wrestle with this on a near daily basis. Okay, truth be told, even at times, several times a day.
This unmet expectation, or bummer (a clinical term, I assure you) usually comes from a place where I thought I had set myself up for an outcome and I come to realize that I have really missed my mark. I so want to blame someone else for my feelings and passive-aggressively throw imaginary blocks up to keep me from connecting with or reaching out to that person and letting them know what I really wanted or how I am feeling.
However, while it is important to let others know our feelings and why we feel them, we can’t expect others to always ‘get it’ and then come round. This is a really hard place to find yourself. The wake up lesson is that we have put our happiness in the hands of someone else. They then hold the power to our moods and we feel powerless and, frequently, really pissed off.
I have learned a lot from the parenting approach of ’empathy with limits’ often written about by Dr. Laura Markham. Her support at A-ha Parenting is soothing and calming. Her blog is a helpful oasis of parenting support when I am struggling with my inner child in full tantrum.
I try to really hear my kids when they are upset, even when I am wishing for magical ways to get them out of the door on time. I try to listen when what I really want to do is redirect them toward my demand. The directing may get results the same way that a passive aggressive response might get someone’s attention but, in the long run, the outcome doesn’t feel good. It feels punitive towards my children and ‘stompy’ or even ‘stabby’ towards my grown up counterparts. And then I am left with myself, usually regretting my impulsive response, having to send out embarrassed faced Emoji’s out to my confused friends or family members.
The setting of reasonable expectations is hard. Identifying those expectations can be really daunting too but, oh so helpful. When I realize that I have set a ‘pie in the sky’ expectation of a meeting or social event and I can go back and outline the ‘reasonable and achievable’ parts and even the minimum, often I can take a big weight off myself by recognizing my lack of control of others.
At times, I really want to choreograph someone else’s abilities, however, it can also be liberating to realize that I don’t have control over someone else and I can set out a reasonable path for myself to enjoy a day or event. I control me.
I often struggle with the people I am rather close to or have known the longest. My work to self talk myself off a ledge of unreasonable dream scenarios can be very soothing once I recognize what is going on inside me. Sometimes, I am a little late to
the game. My awareness of my deep-seated wishes are being dashed and my feelings have already been hijack, however, if I can hand-hold myself back to safer territory of the realm of the possible and logical I can be soothed.
This is a tough subject because we are often taught to want or demand the best.
My redirection of my levels of expectations is not giving up or wanting good things it is identifying the reality of what I can and cannot control. This can be hugely calming in the face of an emotional eruption.
There is a lot more here to write about and I will get there eventually. Today is a day for soothing my ego and sketching out reasonable expectations. Thanks for reading.