Sunday, September 23, 2007

Learning Realistic Expectations

I think one of the most important things that I learned through therapy had to do with expectations. As most victims of abuse would probably tell you, they felt like they could never do anything right, no matter how hard they tried.

Treatment like that leads to the thinking that you must be perfect. Yet the reality is that no one can be perfect no matter how hard they try. As a victim, striving to control a situation, gives one a false sense of having power when the victim is really powerless. It is yet another trap keeping the victim stuck under the thumb of an abuser.

Once a victim is free of the abuse, he/she will carry with him/her that need to be perfect as well as apply it to those around them. The quest for perfection comsumes everything. Because it can't be achieved, the victim feels he/she has more proof of his/her own inadequacies. Those around the victim who also cannot be perfect come across as not really loving the victim after all. It is a viscous trap with no way out as long as perfection is the measure of success.

I know for me learning to take a step back and reassess that measure on pretty much everything in my live made a huge difference in my relationships and my self esteem. When I could look at what I could accomplish in a day based on reality instead of perfect, I found out that I had spent most of my life setting myself up to accomplish things in time frames that no mere mortal could pull off.

But the biggest place it has made a difference for me, is just with life in general. And I mean that literally! Life cannot be perfect and for that matter probably fair. Once I quit expecting life to be perfect with no bumps in the road, I quit being so stressed when the bumps happened. Also, I quit believing that those bumps were somehow because I deserved them.

Recently I drove a friend down to pick up her car at the mechanics. The place was closed when we arrived but there was supposed to be a key put aside for her in a secret location. When she checked that place, the key was not there.

My friend was mortified. She had a second set of keys but they were back at her house. She apologized over and over for her stupidity while I laughed and told her not to worry. Stuff happens it life, it was no big deal to me.

Unfortunately, my friend was serious about believing it was her fault that the keys were not where they were supposed to be. She could not get over the fact that I did not yell and scream at her because we needed to go back to her house to get that second set. Later she wanted to take me out to lunch for my understanding.

This little story is a great example of how little things in life can become huge things just because our expectation of life in general is that everything is going to go smoothly all of the time. Having gotten to the place where I know that's never going to happen is a much easier place to live.

I can appreciate when life does go smoothly. I don't have to be rattled when life serves me up a curve ball. And I don't have to feel like it's somehow my fault that S _ _ _ happens. It's been a liberating lesson.


BarnGoddess said...

well written.

It is so much easier to 'go with the flow'. It took me several years to realize this.

Perfection is not what it appears to be.

keepers said...

do-do happens is a fact of life, no way around it, so one might as well accept it and deal with it and avoid stepping in it whenever possible

peace and blessings


Donna said...

I too lived my life trying to be perfect so I would be invisible, if I didn't do anything wrong I couldn't be singled out for punishment or humiliation. I was a chameleon with friends, changing my behavior, my speech, my handwriting, just to be more like them in their presence, so I would be accepted. Therapy also helped me realize that doing that was so very harmful.