Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Setting Ourselves Up for Disappointment Part 2

Part 1

I'm going to get away from the expectations we have for family for a bit and focus on other expectations we may have in our lives. Sometimes by starting off with the smaller things we can learn to begin to deal with such an issue in a less threatening way.

So what are some unrealistic expectations that are seemingly little things? Personally I think it's easier to spot them in my own life if I have some examples in the first place. I'm going to include what I seen recently as unrealistic expectations and then a more realistic approach.

At this time of the year it's so easy to see those people with their unrealistic expectations. They are everywhere stressed out because of the approaching holidays and their expectations of how it all should go.

In line at the post office, they are pissed off because they're still there and outspoken about how poorly the post office is run. In general they are making everyone else in the room uncomfortable because of their mini temper tantrums.

All of this happens because they expect to never wait in line at the post office. Well, when I go to the post office (which is a lot because I sell on ebay) I never expect to go without seeing one of the impatient types, and I am rarely disappointed. Lines are a fact of life at the post office during the holidays and peak times during the regular days, I always allow enough time for those lines so that they don't throw my schedule off thus adding to my stress.

The same can be said of shoppers in the mall or grocery store. Everything from no convenient parking spaces, to not being able to find that perfect gift can set some people off into a tyrade. Others will internalize their feelings and take it home to take out on the loved ones that they're shopping for in the first place. Somehow I don't think that's what the spirit of the season is supposed to be about.

My youngest daughter has brain damage from having had brain cancer. It is difficult for her to learn things that are conceptual. Of course, all relationship things like this are conceptual so teaching LJ that lowering her expectations of life will actually make her happier is difficult. She struggles with the concept and is quite often disturbed by something very little.

I laughed at her today as she went to the pantry to check the back of the rice crispies box for the recipe for rice crispy treats. Since we've been doing lots of preparations for this holiday, things in that pantry are constantly getting moved around to find ingredients.

But LJ went to the pantry expecting to find the rice crispy box right where she had left it several hours before. The result was actually an audible growl from LJ because she couldn't locate the box. The longer it took, the more impatient she got and she even stomped her foot on the floor in frustration.

I couldn't help but laugh (fortunately LJ is used to me and wasn't offended). I mean, after all, it's a darn cereal box in a cupboard. Wanting it exactly in its place is a bit OCD and certainly not likely to happen with several people living in this house. So why bother expecting it to be that way. All she was doing was setting herself up for disappointment. It was nothing more than wasted effort and caused her nothing but upset.

And that really is the point, when our expectations are unreasonable the odds are they are never going to be met. By expecting them to happen any way, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. Doing this over and over affects our self esteem. We end up feeling unimportant and uncared for and sometimes even out of control, all over expectations that we would never attain in the first place.


Austin said...

What I've seen recently is that people put pressure on themselves to live up to expectations that don't exist. For instance, I've heard it said several times this year that their family wants this and that and expects this and that. Later they tell me the family said they were happy to get whatever they got because financially the family was strapped. It seems ideals cloud out reality and people begin to put pressure on themselves to give huge, impressive gifts making memories that'll last forever when really what most want is to be with the people they love. I'd say media plays a part in that ideal as well as in pressuring people to give grand.


Enola said...

Your post is so true. People get so stressed out and then take it out on others when their poor planning and high expectations are met with expected consequences.

Kahless said...

I think the key is in the word "unrealistic".
A while ago I convinced myself that the best route in life would be to have no expectations. Then you cant feel bad or get hurt about anything.

However I have decided since that that is kind of a sad thing and unrealistic in itself!

So I like the word "unrealistic" as the best description. As in everything I guess it is about balance.

I was sorry to hear about your daughter. Is she clear of the cancer now?

keepers said...

well here is a post we hope more people see and read and get. We all tend to set ourselves up for failure or disappointment don't we, minimizing it and perhaps even eliminating it is the trick to more peace of mind. nice post.

peace and blessings


April_optimist said...

I smiled reading your post--recognizing the truth in every word.

Rising Rainbow said...

austin, you are so right. It's far more important to spend time with and be there for the people we love than to add stress and hardship buying extravagant gifts.

enola, watching shoppers during the holidays can really be a study in dysfunction sometimes.

kahless, yes my daughter is good. I wrote about her cancer on the horse blog before I ever started this one because it put the horse breeding on hold for a few years.

Maybe someday I'll tell her story here. She's overcome a lot.

yes, keepers, it is surprising how much our expectations affect our happiness.