Sunday, December 23, 2007

Setting Ourselves Up for Disappointment

One of the most important things I think I learned in the therapy process was about my expectations. I can't even tell you how this finally dawned on me, only that it did. But the discovery of how my expectations affected my happiness was certainly a big eye opener to me.

Not that there is anything wrong with expectations. Expectations are good as long as they are reasonable. But there in lies the problem. Like most victims of childhood abuse my expectations were based on my stunted psychological growth. While I thought I was mature emotionally and looked that way on the surface to many, underneath it all was a very needy child with the expectations that fit her development.

There's a chart that the professionals use showing the developmental stages of a child and the age that each stage most likely occurs. Many experts believe If the child gets those emotional needs satisfied on a regular basis, the child continues to progress on up the developmental scale. If the needs are not met, the child stays stuck in that stage floundering emotionally.

Of course, this is an over simplification and there can be bleed through across the stages just like other things. But looking back on myself, I can clearly see that in many ways I was emotionally stunted as this idea suggests. Big in that area were my expectations of the world.

It's probably easy for most victims to see that what they expect a family to be is far from the reality of what they have lived. But I wonder how many are aware that the expectation that our family will somehow live up to those expectations is unrealistic. There is lots of history that says what each family is capable of/

All of the literature and most survivor's stories speak to families staying stuck in their dysfunction. With only an occasional member here and there ever breaking free to a better and healthier life. So for a survivor to continue to hold onto the hope that a miracle will happen. their family will somehow come around and become healthy is unrealistic.. Expecting this only sets the survivor up for repeated disappointments and heartache.

Once I let go of those expectations, it was actually much easier to let go of my family of origin. I mean, what was the point? If they weren't going to be there for me, they weren't going to approve of me or my lifestyle and so one, what was the point of even dealing with them? None that I could see.

From there I was able to begin to see the other expectations I held that were unrealistic as well.The easiest aspect of this to see is perfection.

We've all heard that no body's perfect, yet many of us expect ourselves to be and those in our family, our co-workers, the mailman, the list goes on and on. Of course this expectation includes life and the holidays as well. No rocking of the boat in any form should happen, and if it does, it is somehow a personal assault instead of the more realistic view that "stuff happens." Such a view of life is bound to be filled with disappointments.

To be continued.............


Fallen Angels said...

The expectations we place on ourself(ves)are the worst (I'm speaking of we as a system, not the universal "we"). This is one of the things that made this past semester so matter what we did, there was no way we would get an A in Anatomy...and because we were working so hard in that class, our grade in Spanish slipped too, so no A there either. I don't know how many times T said "you don't have to get an A" in the past 5 months...but it was several times!

As far as the family goes, I think we are a little different in that area. We expect that no one will change, they never do. We expect that our needs won't be considered. We expect that we will be bored/triggered/unwanted/whatever. However, this would be limited solely to immediate family of origin, who now live 3,000 miles away from us. So it's really only every 3 or 4 years that we even have to think about it!

There are desires regarding family though...not expectations, more like "I wish this person would...", knowing they never will. That is what keeps us unable to let go of the mother, well, that and a few other things. I think I will blog about this in the very near future.


Kahless said...

Yes RR, I think its about letting go of unreal expectations and having acceptance.

Following the comment thread over at JIPs I am interested in the age questions. I assume it links into what you were discussing at the first part of this post?

Anyway, I hope you have a fabulous christmas. See you in a few days.

Anonymous said...

I've blogged about what I mentioned in the above comment, in our hidden place.

Lily Strange said...

The horror with abuse victims is that so often when they leave the abusive nuclear family they subconsciously seek out abusive relationships. It's such a hard cycle to break.

April_optimist said...

Letting go of expectations is so powerful! It lets us let go of people who are not healthy for us without having to hold onto anger or try to damage them to do so. We are then free to bring people into our lives who will love and value us. The greatest protection against repeating old patterns IS letting go of those expectations. Not easy but so very powerful. Great post.

Rising Rainbow said...

fallen angels, you are right about our expectations of ourselves. I could do volumes of posts on that at well.

kahless, the age questions I asked JIP didn't have to do with this post at all. It had to do with cult stuff and some of their typical age triggers. Someday I may post about those.

w, I finally got to that blog and commented there. I totally understand where you are coming from.

lily strange, you are so right about that and many times they have no clue that they are doing so, even when it's pointed out to them.

april_optimist, you are so right. There is great power in being able to let go of those expectations but you have to be able to see them first. That is very difficult as well.

Fallen Angels said...

Rising...we had some very dark times begin to happen immediately after a birthday...I need to go back in our blog to double check the age, but I believe it might be the same age JIP reached at the last birthday. I'll get back to you on that.


eeabee said...

This issue of expectations is a really hard one--for me it's such a struggle to give some of those expectations. Partly I think it's confusing for me because my awareness of the problems in my family isn't always very complete or backed up with fully articulated memories, so I have trouble not questioning my feelings. It seems like it's always hard though because we have to let go of hoping to get what we needed/wanted and accept that we won't. Or not there anyway. It does make sense to free ourselves up so we can look elsewhere, to people that can and will support and love us.

Thanks for this post (and all the others too!).

Rising Rainbow said...

fallen angels, I know that you found your ages to be the same, but for the sake of others who don't know, there are major birthdays that have prominence is satanism.

eeabee, learning to trust our feelings is difficult whether or not we have actual vivid memories. It's still hard for victims to believe in themselves.

For me, my memories were so outrageous that it was easy to think I was crazy than they were real. So I battled with trusting my feelings. Over time I realized that when I trusted my feelings, things were better for me. That was a big clue that I should believe in myself.