Sometimes one hears people saying things like “I’ve given up my expectations of X” or “I know better than to have expectations of Y” and so on. When I hear such statements, I hurt for the speaker. They’re kidding themselves and setting themselves up, ever more firmly, for the disappointment they hope to avoid.
It is the function of our brain to create and have expectations. The brain is a huge prediction machine, and is specifically designed to keep us alive by acting on expectations. To try to evade this function is to attempt to defy our very physiology.
It takes a vast amount of training and rigour to even begin to distinguish our expectations, let alone give them up, and most people just don’t have this. It’s also likely that truly giving up expectations requires distinguishing the larger phenomena in which they are embedded such as the “reality illusion” (the illusion that how people occur to us is reality) and the illusion of time.
The biggest issue with the idea of the malleability of expectations, however, is that it fails to take something major into account.
It fails to account for other people’s expectations of us.
While we’re busy declaring we’re giving up our expectations of others, we’re overlooking the entire question of their expectations of us. Yet these expectations are just as likely to cause us trouble than our expectations of others, only more so.
There is an alternative to pretending to ourselves that we’re giving up expectations and getting hurt in the process, and that’s to get interested in uncovering the expectations others have of us.
This path is about recognising that expectations are always with us and getting committed to discovering what they are. It’s about ditching the idea we can be superhuman – ie, above other human beings by virtue of our giving up of expectations – and joining the ranks of human being as one person doing his or her best amongst other people doing their best.
It’s about opening a conversation with X or Y, rather than evading a conversation and remaining in our isolated “giving up expectations” mode. It’s about getting to discover who X or Y actually are.
The way of conversation leads to connection, discovery and intimacy; the other way leads to disappointment and frustration, whatever we may like to say about it.
Image: Expectations by Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912)
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