Insecurity also comes in the form of disillusionment. The following are examples of disillusionment, complaints with subsequent reactions:
Complaint: He doesn’t talk to me.
Reaction: I’ll nag until he does talk.
C: My life is stressful.
R: I will let stress control my quality of life.
C: He didn’t do the laundry like I asked him to.
R: I’m going to tell him he’s lazy and no good.
C: She won’t stop nagging me.
R: I’ll make her wish she hadn’t nagged me.
C: I didn’t get the job.
R: I probably won’t get the next job I want.
C: I told him how I felt; he said he doesn’t care.
R: I must not be loveable.
C: They said my idea wasn’t good enough.
R: I have no talent.
The above statements sound as if they are laced with disappointment, frustration, and resentment, because the expectation of the person did not match up with reality; they were not mentally or emotionally prepared for what life might bring them. Now I’m not saying that the complaints were not valid. No one likes to feel disrespected, devalued, or stressed out; however, there will come a time when things won’t go the way we would like for them, too.
In the above examples, these people were not prepared for the possibility that things would not go their way and since it is a common thinking mistake for all people who believe that things better go my way or else they were overwhelmed with self-defeating thoughts — which results in self-defeating emotions and then self-defeating behaviors. This chapter is about how to face life with realistic expectations, so that self-defeat does not happen to you.
The act of “expecting” is passive. It is unnatural for a person to actively think, “I’m going to say this and he or she is going to do this” or “I’m going to do this and this is going to happen for me.” It is typical that we go along with our “doing” and our “saying” thinking that life will be the way we want it to be or people will be the way we want them to be.
The fact is that when we expect something:
• We set ourselves up for the possibility of failure and…
• We don’t realize that we set ourselves up for failure because we “expect” that things are going to go our way.
The fact is that until we take personal responsibility for our expectations:
• We can expect to have negative reactions and negative feelings of inner turmoil.
Personal Responsibility …
… is the willingness to know that your actions — and only your actions — are the direct cause of your consequences. Fulfilling the obligation of personal responsibility is a common problem with all people; it was a problem with me and I experienced this phenomenon while counseling juvenile offenders.
Personal responsibility was a principle I preached to my clients and to my joy these boys more often than not would rise to meet the challenge, but sometimes when they met their obligation they did not get the response they expected.
The following conflict between a client and his peer illustrates the dilemma of failed expectations:
Client: I apologize. It was disrespectful of me to call you anything other than your name.
Peer: [rolls his eyes, looks away] Whatever.
At this point, the client looks at me with frustration.
Client: Ms. Heather, I apologized and he was disrespectful.
Me: You are right. What can you do?
Client: Before I came here I would cuss him out, hit him.
Me: What is a self-respecting way you can handle it?
The client looks at me with expectancy.
Me: Can you control what your peer says or does? [client shakes his head “no”.]
Me: Can you control the global situation? [client shakes his head “no”.]
Me: What can you control?
CLIENT: I can only control my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
Me: Knowing that, what can you do?
Client: I can decide to be okay that I acted with respect, although I was disrespected.
Me: And what do you now know about your peer regarding control?
Client: It’s now his problem, not mine, because I did all I could do to make it right.
This client learned something most people in civilized society never learn, which is that:
• Sometimes things don’t go the way we prefer.
• When reality is in conflict with our expectation we have no right to respond with disrespect.
• Self-defeat is counterproductive.
This was a hard concept for me when I first became aware of it and I only began teaching my clients this concept after I had a similar encounter.
One day I was walking through the room when a co-worker made a condescending comment:
Co-Worker: You know you don’t have to do that.
Me: [It’s procedure and I’m doing it.]
Co-Worker: Hey! Why did you do that?
Me: [It’s none of your business why I did that.]
Co-Worker: [laughing and not sounding so superior] Hey! Why did you do that?
I did not respond to my co-worker, because to do so would have fulfilled one purpose — amuse him. I chose to remain silent because the co-worker’s question was not relevant and it served no purpose. Also, in the minute that this event transpired, I weighed my options:
1.) I could respond to him with respect (passive)
2.) I could respond to him with disrespect (aggressive)
3.) I could not respond (assertive)
The reason I list the first option as “passive” is that I almost responded out of a sense of obligation, but then it dawned on me that just because he expected me to answer didn’t mean that I had to do it. By electing to ignore his remarks, I affirmed my independence.
After I asserted myself to my co-worker — and it was the first time I had ever asserted myself — I felt empowered. I was not harmed. The co-worker was not harmed. Life went on.
Since that time, I have talked with others about the obligation to fulfill expectations. One woman told me that she feels guilty if she doesn’t return a voice mail or text message immediately:
“Sometimes I don’t have my phone with me or I’m busy or I forget; and then when I do return the caller’s message I am met with frustration because I didn’t respond in a timely manner.”
It seems that we live in a culture that demands for reality to meet personal expectations.
When it comes to our personal expectations, the fact is:
• We need to prepare ourselves by factoring in the various outcomes — which is called prescience — instead of taking for granted that the outcome will be ideal.
• If the situation has passed, we need to develop the ability to analyze the situation in retrospect as a safeguarding practice against future mishaps.
• We can’t control anything or anyone beyond ourselves.
• We have no right to disrespect others when we don’t get what we expect.
• Failed expectations are no reason to give up.
• Negative thinking reaps nothing but stress.
• Positive thinking reaps calm — even during storms.
Should or Shouldn’t?
The negative emotions of failed expectations are preceded by thinking mistakes or irrational thoughts. A common mental mistake people make is to think that something or someone “should” be. A friend of mine said recently about her husband:
Friend: He ‘should’ put the load of clothes in the wash when I ask him to.
Me: Well, maybe he ‘shouldn’t’ and before you object let me explain why I suggest this:
1. He was raised by parents who believe that women should do all the housework and childcare.
2. His actions and words have indicated that he is apathetic to your needs.
3. He did not believe he needed to put the clothes in the laundry.
Me: Now, I’m not saying that his actions are respectful; however, I am saying that he does not currently believe what you believe.
Friend: Well, I have needs, too …
… Right here I want to interrupt the vignette and introduce the thinking mistake of “needs vs. wants,” which is a concept I first learned from Dr. Aldo Pucci.
Me: The only “need” any person has is food, water, shelter, and sometimes medication. I know that it feels like you need him to help you, but what you really feel is a desire for him to help you. If you do not have one of your “needs” met, you will die; if you do not have one of your “desires” met, you will surely live; there is a difference.
The reason why I mention the importance of using words with accuracy is because inaccurate words skew our perception. If I call someone a pig, I will begin to think of them as a dirty, sloppy thing. If I call someone a “person who is not tidy and does not value cleanliness”, then that is how I will envision him or her. When we think of someone as less than human, we treat them accordingly … and it is wrong to treat a person anything less than human.
More about “Should”
When the obstacle is a person
Thinking that someone “should” do something is an unreasonable expectation — I say this because no one has the right to tell another person how to live life … no matter what the relationship. When faced with the obstacle of expectations versus reality in regard to a person, you can make the healthy choice to either:
1. Accept who the person is and find healthy ways to relieve stress.
2. Don’t accept who the person is — without infringing upon the person’s right to retain basic respect, you may try solutions like:
a) Respectfully ask the person to discuss the issue; make an effort to understand the person’s perspective, convey your perspective with respect, and try to reach a compromise.
b) Attend counseling.
c) Discontinue the relationship.
When the obstacle is a situation
Thinking that something “should” be different is an unreasonable expectation and this is an occasion where you can make the choice to either:
1. Accept the situation for what it is and find healthy ways to relieve stress
2. Don’t accept the situation; make the effort to change it by:
a) Thinking of alternative solutions to meet your goal (e.g. organizing, delegating, evaluating, exploring other opportunities)
b) Telling yourself that the situation does not have to be permanent and make a plan to change it.
More about “Needs vs. Wants”
As for “needs vs. wants”, if you think that you “need” something your brain will read it as lacking something to survive; As Pucci has stated, your brain is your humble servant and it will think whatever you want it to think and cause your body to respond accordingly, such as acquiring a physical ailment (e.g. depression, anxiety).
Be careful to understand the difference between a need and a want, so you can make the right choice of how you want your body to feel and behave.
In conclusion, to be realistic about expectations:
1. Become aware of thinking mistakes.
2. Choose to think rationally.
3. Prepare for alternate realities before they happen…
… then you will not experience the insecurity of disillusionment.