Having expectations seems such a reasonable thing. Yet they set you up for failure: They kill intimacy, they kill relationship, and what you’re trying to handle with them is actually not achieved.
1) Expectations seem reasonable
Imagine that you have an agreement with someone. Of course you can expect them to keep that agreement? Be it to meet you at the agreed time, to pay the agreed price, to pick you up from the bus or the airport, to go grocery shopping for you both or the family, etc.
It might seem equally (if not more) reasonable to expect your child to love you, to clean up their bedroom when you ask (or tell) them to, to expect your parents to love you, to expect your partner to be nice to you, to expect people around you to be reasonable.
You may also have expectations upon yourself, such as: I should be excellent, I should be perfect, I should be nice, I should have learned that by now, I should know how it goes; I should… (fill in your favorite expectation upon yourself).
All these expectations seem very reasonable. It is how humans learned to relate with themselves and each other.
2) Expectations create resentments
What happens when your expectations are not fulfilled?
You are disappointed. Disappointment breeds resentment, granting you the “right” to be upset with the other, take revenge, to cut them off, to withdraw from them and punish them with cold contempt, or to blame them, to persecute them, to gossip about them, to be righteous, to have moral high ground etc. Families have split up over disappointed expectations. Wars have been fought over them. Marriages have broken up: It didn’t turn out “as expected”.
If you disappoint your expectations towards yourself, you can equally resent yourself, taking revenge on yourself with the invisible whip of contempt, beating yourself up. You may be so familiar with your self-aggression that it has become a constant buzz in your background. Maybe you know what I mean.
3) Resentments serve an unconscious, irresponsible purpose
You are an intelligent person. So, obviously, you wouldn’t create resentments for no purpose.
What purpose do your resentments serve? What are the results of your resentments?
Maybe they prove stories that you have about yourself and others such as “I am not good enough”, “I am worthless”, “I cannot trust anybody”, “I have to do it alone”, “The world is a dangerous place”, “There is no true love”, “Men are assholes”, “Women are bitches” etc.
Resentments serve an unconscious purpose, avoiding responsibility. The result is that things don’t change; they remain as they are. The benefit is that, while this result may be painful, at least it is predictable. By having expectations that lead to resentments, you don’t have to face some of your most fundamental fears. Your Gremlin, the King/Queen of your Underworld, feasts on your resentments, creating low drama and dwelling in unconscious joy that things stay the same.
4) Expectations are based on Assumptions, which are then assumed to be true
At the basis of expectations are assumptions. Assumptions are general stories about certain aspects of life, such as “All parents love their children”, from which — as you believe that story — you can easily create the expectation that YOUR parents should love you, or that YOU as a parent should love your children.
Assumptions, such as this example, also seem very reasonable. Take for example the assumption that “partners/lovers are nice to each other” or that they “look out for each other”. That sounds very reasonable, doesn’t it? How could it be any different?
Bear with me.
Assumptions are stories, and again, they serve a purpose. Underneath the assumptions you create about life, the world, and relationships in particular, lies a fundamental fear.
What would your life look like if none of your assumptions were true? What could you rely on?
You could be scared of the chaos, the uncertainty, and the dangers of living if your assumptions weren’t true. Imagine the constant not-knowing of what will happen next with your partner, your children, your parents, your colleagues. Scary?
Making assumptions and believing that they are true (having expectations) hence is a clever survival strategy. It seemingly handles your underlying fear, and makes life, the world, and your relationships seemingly predictable.
5) It worked. And what are the costs?
As you are reading this, it seems that your survival mechanism worked so far: You did survive by making your life predictable or “safe” through assumptions and expectations, and then resentments if your expectations were disappointed.
What are the costs? What is the price you paid in your relationships so far?
Did you ever cut out friends or family members from your life, out of disappointed expectations, as a form of revenge? Do you have a long list of failed love relationships or live in a marriage that has turned bitter? Do you know of self-destructive behaviours or patterns? How about losing your passion for life? Depression? Anxiety?
These are a high price to pay. And they show: Your underlying fear actually isn’t handled. Your relationships still aren’t predictable.
6) A different way of relating is possible, you simply haven’t learned it before.
“Somewhere beyond right and wrong, there is a garden. I will meet you there.” — Rumi
Many people cite Rumi on this famous quote, and yet: How does it go? How does it go to live without resentment and expectations?
For one, you will need to learn how to handle your fundamental fears which you are unconsciously trying to handle by making assumptions, believing them to be true, and resenting yourself or others for disappointing your expectations. That in itself may be scary. And: it is possible. You were designed to feel 100% conscious fear. If you are 16 years or older of age, it is time to learn that.
When a resentment already exists, you can go through held Emotional Healing Processes of “Removing Resentments”. It is well worth going through quite a lot of these processes, as expectations likely are piled up in your unconscious like boxes in your garage. Such Emotional Healing Processes will provide you with clarity and make space for the garden that Rumi refers to:
When there are no expectations, the space is available for something else. It then becomes possible to radically relate with yourself or another. That includes being vulnerable, admitting your fears, saying what you want, what works for you and what doesn’t, asking for what you want, staying centered, connecting with your inner authority before you connect with the other and meeting them where they are.
An encounter becomes possible. A real encounter between two breathing, unpredictable, living human Beings, untainted by their expectations and resentments.
Let yourself be surprised by the depth of intimacy that is possible between human beings.
These distinctions come from the context of Possibility Management.