Why Expectations Are the Root of All Evil
Unmet expectations often lead to the full range of negative emotions: anger, fear, disappointment, jealousy, annoyance, bitterness, resentment, envy and insecurities.
Unmet expectations about the past create regret, grief, sorrow, shame and sadness.
Projected unmet expectations about the future create depression, anxiety, feelings of inadequacy, impatience and hopelessness.
If you didn’t have expectations, you would simply take things as they came and deal with them. Your judgment of things would be more objective because you wouldn’t be comparing people and experiences to your expectations of them.
Without expectations, acceptance of what is would be infinitely easier. And you would be happier.
The Power of Changing Your Expectations
It’s impossible for the human mind to operate without expectations. Subconsciously, you assume things in the future will behave like they did in the past.
Slowing down to notice, be mindful of, the expectations you carry with you gives you the opportunity to change them to something more supportive.
For example, you wish your partner would act a certain way. Trying to control or manipulate people to your wishes is a sure-fire way of making the relationship worse. Instead of expecting them to be different and getting angry when they aren’t, you could expect them to be exactly like they always have been and be okay with that. They would feel more accepted by you and want to do things that might make you happy. Then they might start acting more the way you want.
Funny how that works — and it really does work. The more you accept the other person the way they are, the more likely it is that they’ll change into more of what you’re looking for. It doesn’t work all the time, but it works more often than you would think.
Either way, you can be happier because your expectations are being met. It’s up to you to decide what your expectations are — ones that will consistently cause you heartache or ones that can help you to be happier.
I recently read Expectation Hangover: Free Yourself From Your Past, Change Your Present and Get What You Really Want by Christine Hassler. This book shows you how difficult experiences can become the best thing that ever happened to you, once you learn to leverage disappointment to gain something from it rather than only suffering through it.
“We suffer when our reality doesn’t match the expectation we are so attached to. If you can relate to this brand of discomfort — the kind fueled by a life drunk with expectations and the resulting crash we experience when things do not go as planned or hoped — then you have experienced an Expectation Hangover.”
“Life often throws us a curveball to get us to look in a different direction, one that is even better than we planned. Before that new direction is revealed, there is a window of opportunity — a chance to change behaviors that keep us in limiting patterns where we seem to face one Expectation Hangover after another. This is your window of opportunity.”
When expectations aren’t met, the most popular ways of coping are:
- Distraction: Putting more on your to-do list, crowding out contemplative time, filling your life with busyness, drowning yourself in work or being obsessive about a hobby or working out.
- Numbing the pain: Drinking or eating in unhealthy ways, working long hours, spending money on things you don’t need, watching TV, escaping with drugs, spending long hours on social media or internet surfing or over-exercising.
- Being strong: Don’t feel the feelings caused by the issue, put on a mask to look strong, power through it.
- Pep talks: Using things like positive affirmations without acknowledging the feelings you’re feeling.
- The “next big thing”: A new job, city, house, relationship, car that you think will make everything better.
- Spiritual bypass: Repressing your negative thoughts, immediately looking for the lesson or blessing.
Christine offers a “treatment plan” for your expectation hangover in four levels of healing: emotional, mental, behavioral and spiritual.
“The walls we build around us to keep sadness out also keep out the joy.” ~Jim Rohn
Most people find a variety of ways to not feel the feelings that come up in difficult times. Thinking about and analyzing them keeps you in your head without feeling the feelings. Denying the emotions (I’m “fine!”) suppresses them. Becoming a victim or using some of the above coping behaviors all allow you to temporarily escape the strong feelings without ever working them through.
“Keeping your feelings inside is like attempting to hold an inflated beach ball under water. You can wrestle with it for a while; but sooner or later you lose your grasp on it, and it pops up, creating a huge splash and knocking you right in the face.”
“Emotions need a way to get out. If you don’t express them, they will find another exit. For instance, through over a decade of working with people as a coach and spiritual counselor, I have noticed that unprocessed sadness creates lethargy and even depression. Unexpressed anger can manifest in irritability and anxiety.”
Christine uses the analogy of The Surfer to demonstrate how to deal with tough emotions. When I was pregnant, the concept of The Surfer was frequently used to describe how to deal with the pains of giving birth (which definitely helped me). Basically, you go with the flow. Don’t resist what’s coming up. Resisting or denying makes it all worse. If you resisted a wave or denied that it was there, it would still come crashing down on you. Might as well surf it.
“Your emotions, just like waves, have peaks but gradually subside, landing you softly on the beach, where you are free from the emotional symptoms of your Expectation Hangover.”
“Thought. It’s at the heart of everything we experience, from monsters to angels and from problems to possibilities. And since we have an infinite potential for new thought, we’re only ever one new thought away from a completely different experience of being alive.” ~Michael Neill
The mind is the realm of the monkey. Your monkey mind is that screeching voice in your head that rarely leads to any good. It tells you why you screwed up again and why you should feel all those negative emotions.
While the monkey is trying to protect you, it keeps you living a very limited (and not happy) life. It’s up to you to push your mind, your monkey, into new territory in order to get past your old thoughts and beliefs that keep you experiencing the same types of Emotional Hangovers.
“To get the certainly we crave, our mind takes over, but not necessarily in a good way: We obsess over what did or didn’t happen, constantly tuning in to the same mental frequencies of “shoulda, coulda, woulda.” We judge ourselves and engage in negative self-talk. We engage in thinking that creates guilt, regret, fear, anxiety and worry. We perpetuate limiting beliefs because we are not sure what is true.”
Your mind creates stories about how the world should be based on your past experiences. Those judgments and stories create a belief system that creates your expectations. All of this is the lens through which you see the world.
After you create these stories (which are your truths), your subconscious then looks for things that reinforce the stories so that you can be proven “right.” The monkey hates to be wrong. This is why you tend to attract circumstances that fit with your story, even if you don’t consciously want them.
The analogy that Christine uses to manage the mind is The Horseback Rider. “Our mind is similar to a galloping horse in that it seems to run away with us during an Expectation Hangover. We forget that we have thoughts but are not our thoughts. The job of the Horseback Rider is to “ride the mind,” observing its pacing and direction, reining it in and redirecting when necessary.”
“If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place.” ~Nora Roberts
This is the step that’s all about action. The previous two steps are critically important but mean nothing if you don’t take action on them.
This is where you freak out your monkey mind because it doesn’t like change. Your monkey will make you think that you’re “doing something” by mentally or emotionally dealing with the issue. Then it will come up with all kinds of excuses to keep you in your comfort zone by not taking real action.
The analogy for this step is The Scientist. “Your scientific method will be to gather knowledge and collect data regarding your actions; observe and investigate the results you have gotten up to now; formulate hypotheses to modify behavior and predict new results; and then apply your hypotheses to treat your Expectation Hangover.”
“Like a scientist, you will observe your behavior without any judgment; investigate what drives your behavior; hypothesize about and test new behavior; and apply proven methods to motivate self-honoring choices.”
This is your opportunity to use mindfulness to assess your thoughts, beliefs and actions to see if they’re serving you. There’s no good or bad, right or wrong. You simply ask yourself if what you’re doing is bringing you the results you want.
“Know that everything is in perfect order whether you understand it or not.” ~Valery Satterwhite
Spiritual healing involves getting in touch with what I call your True Self. It’s the part of you that always knows what’s best for you.
“Let’s begin with a brief review of what is at the basis of most spiritual teachings, which is this: we are all born aware that the very essence of our being is love. And then things happen that make us forget. We often disconnect from a Higher Power and feel separate. Spirituality is about returning to the place of original innocence and connection. Simply put, it is moving out of the energy of fear and back to love.”
“Returning to love is a removing and remembering process — it is not something you need to learn how to do. Expectation Hangovers become a spiritual tool because the more we allow ourselves to be who we truly are rather than holding rigidly to who we have been expected to be, the less we have the kind of strong reactions that create disappointment.”
The analogy for spiritual healing is that of The Seeker. “By stepping into the role of the Seeker, you discover the lessons of your Expectation Hangover, go toward love rather than goal-line result, and ask for the assistance of your Higher Self and Spirit rather than thinking you need to figure things out with your mind and do it all on your own.”
“We immediately become the Seeker when we ask, “Why is this happening for me, and what am I learning?” rather than “Why is this happening to me?” We then move into the energy of curiosity, avoid falling into patterns of hopelessness and helplessness, and discover the miracles in our life.”
At the end of each healing section in the book, there are a variety of exercises to help you integrate the various levels of healing. I found them to be very helpful.
While it’s impossible to avoid expectations and their associated hangovers, it is possible to learn from them and lessen their effect on your life. If you’re tired of suffering every time things don’t go as you expected, I highly recommend this book.
Christina Hassler is the author of 20 Something, 20 Everything; The 20 Something Manifesto and, most recently, the national bestseller, Expectation Hangover. She left her successful job as a Hollywood agent to pursue a life she could be passionate about. For over a decade, she has been sharing her passion to ease suffering on the planet as a speaker, retreat facilitator and life coach. Christine believes once we get out of our own way, we can show up to make the meaningful impact we are here to make. Visit her online at www.expectationhangover.com.
Paige Burkes has come to understand that we need to find more effective ways of achieving our versions of happiness and success. The traditional methodologies are no longer working for us. In fact, they’re making us more stressed and less happy by the day. You can read more of her ideas for implementing mindfulness to create more happiness and success in your life at Simple Mindfulness.
Originally published at www.simplemindfulness.com on August 4, 2016.