To understand the pain that your expectations of others can bring, I’d like you to answer the following question:
Are you disappointed that others don’t react as you expect them to?
Don’t worry, we’ve all been there.
Expectations as values
An expectation is a thought or belief, a wish or illusion, a feeling of hope that you experience about someone or something.
That expectation is determined by:
- the education you’ve received
- your personality
- the way you relate to others and, above all,
- your values
And how were your values created?
As a child, you were a sponge, that is, you absorbed absolutely everything your parents, educators and important people told you.
Back then, you weren’t emotionally mature, so you accepted the values of your people, especially your parents, as “the norm”. Even back then, you could believe what everyone thought, felt and did based on the same criteria.
If your parents were always “available”, in the sense that if someone asked for help, they’d give it to them, you probably grew up with that value, the one that urges you to help others.
So, when a friend of yours had a problem and wanted to tell you, you were always “available” to her and helped her as much as you could.
Because to you, “helping” and “being available” was or is “the norm”.
Let’s imagine that, as an adult, you have a problem, and go to that friend you’ve helped so many times, and it turns out she brings up any excuse to not be “available” to you.
So you ask yourself:
How can this be?
You think: it’s “normal” to be available and help others, right?
That would be “desirable” but you CAN’T expect everyone to react like this.
Because each person has experience, values, beliefs and a way of looking at life that, generally, isn’t the same as yours.
We could say that there are as many ways of reacting as there are people in the world, because each person is unique.
Is your suffering caused by others or by your own expectations?
This is a very interesting question, because usually, you tend to attribute the cause of your suffering to the “unexpected” response of others.
But tell me:
Who assumes that “others” will act as you want them to?
Ok… I’ve done it too.
I acknowledge it… lots of times.
And I suffered a lot, because I COULDN’T understand.
I couldn’t understand how values can change so much from one person to another.
And how some people’s reactions can be so different from what I’d do.
But that doesn’t mean that my answer is better, it simply means that others have a different answer and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Based on other people’s responses, I’ll be able to know my values better and whether I should relate to that person or not.
But if you fool yourself thinking that others will react as you want them to, you’ll suffer a lot.
Because they will disappoint you sooner or late, because even though you may have the same values in some situations, in some you won’t.
And that’s where you need to have all the understanding in the world to know that others are independent and have their own way of reacting.
Ideally, even if their first reaction may hurt you, don’t take it personally.
The important thing is for you to understand that:
Every time expectations about others take hold of you, you’ll get excited.
You’ll create your own fantasy.
And of course, as it’s a fantasy, when it’s not fulfilled, you become disillusioned, you’re disappointed and you suffer.
I know it’s not easy.
But, in general, others are NOT responsible for your pain.
It’s your own expectation that’s making you suffer.
Having expectations continuously and therefore having uninterrupted disappointments, can
push you into a spiral of rage, aggressiveness or even depression, for being unable to understand that what others think, say or do, doesn’t have to do with you, but with
If you can understand this, you’ll stop suffering.
Can you avoid having expectations about others?
I think you can, but it takes practice because you’re also used to “expecting” a certain response from others, expectations happen automatically.
This means that you’re never aware of this process.
But I wonder:
- What if you, from the very start, acknowledge that others will think, feel and act differently than how you “expect” them to?
- Wouldn’t that make you stop imagining things?
Perhaps you could simply ACCEPT that others are different from you and that if you open to
other alternatives, you could even broaden your vision.
Using expectation as a resource
Here’s a small exercise:
Imagine a round table with empty chairs around it. In the center of the table, you’ll need to
place the problem or situation that’s worrying you.
You choose the first chair and imagine how you’d react in that situation.
Then, you change chairs and start looking for other alternatives, other perspectives.
This can also help you imagine how you think other people would react to the same
- How would Juan react about it?
- How would Maria act in this situation?
- How would Laura feel if the same thing happened to her?
- How would Felipe think about this problem?
- What would your mother/sister/friend say… about it?
The idea of this little game is to broaden your perception, your way of seeing things.
That way, you won’t get caught up in your personal and closed perspective of what life, people or situations should be like.
Not so much to not have more expectations, but to start expanding your perspective.
If you manage to keep your expectations about others under control, you can greatly improve your relationships, even your relationship with yourself.
As De Heinz von Foester said:
That means, don’t expect things to be a certain way, your way, open up to the other possibilities and expand your repertoire, that way you’ll be able to choose what suits you best.
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