Through expectation, we set ourselves up for disappointment and anger…… and then blame someone else.
Last week I asked my partner to take me into the Bunnings store so I could buy bags of potting mix and manure for my garden. At that time, I was still unable to push a trolley without feeling an unpleasant heavy feeling in my chest, so I needed help. He kindly agreed, so off we went. We got ourselves a trolley, and were heading towards the soil section when he said, “I just need to ask about something”, and off he went. I was left standing there with the trolley thinking he is just going to ask one of the attendants about a product and then come back to help me, but he disappeared.
I wait for a few minutes, then start to wonder if perhaps he had felt unwell and needed to rush to the toilet. I think “well, he could have told me”. After a few more minutes, I decide to push the trolley to the soil section and load the bags myself. I admit it, I am not great at waiting. I don’t like queues. The trolley is quite heavy now and I feel the uncomfortable feeling in my chest – I am not sure if it is my heart or my lungs which are complaining about the strain. Hopefully it is my lungs, if it is my heart, maybe I will collapse in the aisle in Bunnings and create a disturbance – I would rather not.
Now I am starting to feel annoyed. I have been abandoned, my partner was supposed to be helping me. In righteous indignation, I gamely push the heavy trolley towards the checkout. Out of the corner of my eye, I see my partner approaching with a roll of something in his hand. Good for him, he obviously found what he wanted. He hasn’t been caught short and made a dash for the toilet, and here I am, risking a heart attack (really?), pushing my own trolley. See how my mind took its own riotous course.
I am not happy.
He says “you could have waited for me, I was only 5 minutes”. That isn’t the point, thank you very much. I huff and puff my way through the checkout, in martyred silence towards him. He is starting to get annoyed himself. He says “Well, I put myself out to bring you into town, and this is the thanks I get”. Probably a valid point, however I am not ready to concede. Also, I am now not feeling that well. Perhaps the trolley pushing wasn’t as good an idea as waiting for him was.
When we get home, I sit down to recover and take a good look at myself. Why did I get annoyed? I can acknowledge now that I was unreasonable, but why?
I realised that I had created an unconscious expectation of going to Bunnings and getting the potting mix that didn’t involve my partner going off and doing his own thing – especially without telling me what he was doing (yes, guys, communication really does make a difference). The whole situation could probably have been avoided by him telling me he was just going to dash off and get something if I could just wait 5 minutes rather than put the potting mix on then having to push a heavy trolley through the store. A perfectly reasonable thought process you would think. But I Had Expectations. (Of communication too, clearly). I was standing in an area surrounded by plants – which I love. He could be forgiven for thinking I would be perfectly happy just loitering looking at the plants until he came back. Any other day I would have been, But Today I Had Expectations. And somehow, even though I wasn’t even aware of that myself – he should have known. Hmmm.
Absolutely, but in my defense, I had no idea that I even had an expectation . It was entirely unconscious. When things didn’t go as I thought they should – I became annoyed. And the scary thing is – in that moment I felt completely justified. Full of righteous indignation – I mean, he was the one that was in the wrong, leaving me like that – if I had decided to risk my health rather than wait 5 more minutes for him, then that was his fault too. I was busy heaping coals of condemnation on his unsuspecting head.
We both had phones – I could have called him. But no.
In hindsight, I was embarrassed with myself. How ridiculous I had been.
My mind had fooled me.
Our mind frequently fools us into interpreting and believing things that simply aren’t true. When we are acting and reacting unconsciously (without focused thinking), our minds are entirely subjective and biased. But the mind is also capable of objectivity when deliberate thought is imposed and an attempt at objectivity is made.
I apologised to him, and acknowledged that I had been unreasonable. End of story. It could have continued on though if I hadn’t been able to look at my own actions honestly and take responsibility for them. He was more justified in this instance to be annoyed than me, and we both could have ended up ignoring each other, and the rest of the day would have turned sour.
Relationships are full of expectations and subsequent disappointments. And usually we blame the other person for the way we feel. You made me annoyed because you….
Stop right there.
No-one makes us feel anything.
What we feel comes from within ourselves – our own interpretation of the event…. Always.
And our own interpretation of the event is always coloured by our expectations, our beliefs, and our egocentricity. Add to that a desire for control, and we have a recipe for potential disaster in relationships -with anyone. This becomes particularly apparent when our children become teenagers. We are no longer able to control them easily, we have huge expectations about how they should behave and think, and because they are trying to establish their own identity and control over their own lives, they are most likely to challenge our authority and hold a mirror up to our own behaviour. Often our response is anger – a defensive response that is excellent for shutting down the immediate rebellion, but ultimately risks closing down effective communication until the teenager becomes an adult or a parent themselves. Not desirable if we want to be there to help guide them through the teenage years and balance the influence of their peers..
The ability to look honestly at ourselves releases us from hell. It really does. When we can take responsibility for our own feelings and subsequent actions, we stop blaming others. We begin to have closer, kinder, more loving relationships with other people. We are calmer and kinder. We stop having expectations of other people then losing it when they don’t live up to it. Life is less stressful. We begin to communicate our wants and needs more clearly without using emotional manipulation to get what we want. We create good boundaries. We can hold our dignity and express our view without becoming emotionally involved or needing the other person to come over to our way of thinking. We become more tolerant.
Life becomes so much more peaceful and happy because we aren’t wasting energy on getting angry when people don’t behave how we think they should. People behave how THEY think they should. People only change when they see the need to. We only change when we see the need to. Let’s just look at ourselves and take responsibility for our own behaviour. When we are perfect, then we can have expectations of others. (When we are perfect we will CHOOSE not to have expectations of others).
It requires courage to look at ourselves honestly. It takes humility to apologise. When we have been involved in a situation where the other person has behaved badly (in our estimation), we can still apologise for our own behaviour if it has been less than admirable. We humans have a strange view of apologies. We feel that somehow it might diminish us and make us smaller than the other. And yet, the opposite is true. It makes us stronger and wiser. It also allows us to let go of the situation instead of holding on to it. We accumulate so many little resentments and disappointments over the years that clog up our energy. Individually, they may be small, but collectively they are big. They drain us of vitality,
Let’s let go of expectation and live life joyfully and peacefully with our fellow, imperfect human beings..
Drop expectations – it leaves you space to simply enjoy each moment.