Expectations: Are we looking for “happily ever after”?

Do you have an expectation that what you do will create those happily-ever-after endings from children’s story books?  Remember the one about the princess and the frog or the Knights of the Round Table?  Expectations often go hand in hand with preconceived ideas of creating a particular outcome.  Often these expectations are connected to our belief system – frequently an old belief.  Ask yourself, “What are my expectations based on?”  “Are my expectations realistic in my current life situation?”  Situations change over time.

A princess kissing a frog

Take a few minutes to step back and become aware of the true reality and immediate experience of a situation.  It is important to recognize that experience forms belief, and belief forms experience.  Self-reflection can be both frightening and valuable.

This process will often involve letting go of control.   If you are able to take time to reflect or become mindful, a space in your thought process will develop and you can re-evaluate your expectations.  You may find that your thoughts, expectations and desires change and you make adjustments that are healthy and work more effectively for you. We can shift in our beliefs and expectations.  We can find a new pathway to approach the situation.

There is however a wrinkle that may need to be addressed, and that is: denial.  It is not uncommon to deny our experience in order to bolster our belief.  This is the vicious cycle in which experience forms belief and then belief forms experience.  When denial is present we become unable to accept new ideas, concepts and situations which are in conflict with our situation.  We become ridged in our thoughts.  This rigidity blocks our perception.  It also takes a lot of energy to grip, hold, and not let go.  This in turn depletes our strength and builds up tension, both on a mental and physical level.

So how do we become more flexible?  The short answer is to remain open to new experiences – without judgment.  For most of us that is a tall order and takes practice and time.  Having more understanding can help.  We all have a self-perpetuating cycle that goes like this:

Our perception registers an experience – which makes sense of it in order to survive – and that perception triggers feelings or “gut reactions.”  Then, we make a judgment of what we need to do to meet our emotional needs from the situation.   This can be an unconscious choice based on feelings of acceptance or rejection.

By becoming more aware of our expectations in a situation it enables us to make different choices.  Choices that are more realistic for the situation may create a different way to respond and hopefully bring about a healthier situation; a situation which will meet our emotional needs.

It is not always possible to achieve this combination.  Sometimes we come to the realization that certain interactions in our life are toxic.  Coping with making changes in these situations can be difficult.  We are left feeling stuck.  If this is your situation take the time to reflect what changes you would like to make.

Think about how you feel, why you feel that way, what hurt you, what makes you happy, etc.  Ask yourself questions about yourself.  Always make sure that your physical and emotional safety is protected.  Go slow, and think through the choices you are making.  It is always a good idea to have someone who can support you through this time, someone you can bounce ideas off, a friend or a registered counsellor.

Mental health means striking a balance in all aspects of our life.  We can learn to cultivate and sharpen are ability to notice how things move and change in our environment, to become aware of the subtle imbalances that arise within and around us.  Information holds both learning and teaching for us.

We will not gain happiness by continuing to repeat patterns that bring unhappiness.