"Look at what you bring to the world, not what you lack." - Miranda Kate

Friday, 23 January 2015

How to Reduce your Expectations to Reduce Anxiety


Water pool, falling into the sea with mountains in the distance.Do you plan out every detail of how you want things to go?

Do you run scenarios in your head about what will happen?

Are you disappointed when it doesn’t work out as you envisaged?

“Not everything will go as you expect in your life. This is why you need to drop expectations, and go with the flow of life.” – Leon Brown

Expectations are when we believe that something will happen or go a certain way, and we anticipate a preconceived outcome.

Expectations can be a driving force behind negative thoughts and feelings.

There are different types of expectations: our expectations of others and their expectations of us; our expectations about events or situations and how they will turn out.

Some of these expectations are conscious: when we hope that something will go the way we want it, or assume it will. And some of them are unconscious: when we have already experienced something and thus anticipation about what to expect.

Problems occur when these expectations start to take over and we become disappointed or frustrated when they aren’t fulfilled - or we don’t fulfil those of the people around us. This can lead to feelings of disappointment, frustration, resent, anxiety and may even result in disengaging with individual people, or social groups.

“All the disconnected people I know are trying to be something they are not, and do something they cannot.”- David Gayson

When I moved to Holland to be with my partner I realised that both my partner and his group of friends had expected me to find my own way here, whereas I had expected to be supported by my partner and his friends when I arrived. When this didn't happen I felt rejected by them on a very personal level. Although the further expectations from them was that I would turn up and join in anyway, so I had to put my feelings aside and go along to be accepted by them and my partner.

In this situation I had expectations of people, and they had expectations of me - and neither were met. It caused upset all round and led to eventual disconnect in my relationship as I felt let down by my partner’s lack of support, and he felt let down by my unwillingness to join in. I didn’t feel understood, and he didn’t understand, and a circle of resent and frustration grew.

It can also happen on a smaller scale, like when we expect a certain reaction from someone. We anticipate what they will say or that they will respond in a particular way. And if we don't get the response we are looking for we can be thrown off, and feel disappointed. And sometimes we can react to that feeling and make the situation worse.

For example, my partner bought me concert tickets to see a singer I loved and expected me to be overjoyed about it. But I worried instead about arranging a babysitter for our child, and the location of the seats at the venue, which were very high up (I suffer vertigo). He had expected me to be elated, and I wasn't, so he was disappointed, and responded with annoyance and then withdrew. When I saw this I then felt guilty and chided myself for not being happy about it. So the entire situation of expectation produced a negative circle of reactions. 

“When you release expectations, you are free to enjoy things for what they are instead of what you think they should be.”  - Mandy Hale

Having expectations can affect all areas of our lives: from school to work, in relationships with friends and lover, and also as a parent and a child.

When I became a mother I wanted to be the best mother I could be. I put myself under enormous pressure to perform a certain way to fulfil my own expectations and those of society. I had expectations of what motherhood would be like, but none of them matched up to what I was experiencing. I struggled with the responsibility, which made me feel bad about myself, and my ability to be a mother. I felt like I was failing. It affected my ability to show up and be the kind of mother I wanted to be. It killed any joy I felt about being a mother, and the time I spent with my child. It left me short tempered and frustrated, which made it difficult for my child to engage with me and me with them. It led to feelings of inadequacy for both me and my child.

It was only when I realised how I was living to some predefined set of ideals that I was able to go about changing them. I let go of all the preconceived ideas I had about what type of mother I thought I should be, and started to be the kind of mother I wanted to be. I started to relax with my child, and to reach out and connect.  

In all of these instances the common factor is that an outcome was expected. 

“If you expect miracles in your life, then release any attachment to the outcome.” - Joe Vitale

The first step in changing this is recognising we are expecting an outcome.

The second step is to stop thinking ahead and planning out in our minds how something will go, or how someone will react (positive or negative). We need to remain open, and be okay with whatever might happen, without trying to foresee an outcome.

Once we have done that we can focus on the moment, the here and now, and not on something further down the line. If we show up with an open mind and no predefined idea about how something should go, then we are open to all and any eventuality - and particularly the opportunity enjoy it.

This is how we go about living in the present and embracing it. 

“Expectations are what you expect, not how things are.” -  Eckhart Tolle

By reducing our expectations of everything and everyone around us, we can reduce the negative impact of those expectations and avoid feelings of disappointment, frustration, and also anxiety.

In relationships we can connect, rather than disconnect, giving each other room to be who we are, not who we think each other should be.

The only response we can anticipate is our own. We control nothing and no one outside of ourselves. We have a choice about how we react, and how we wish to show up in any given situation. The best option is to relax and be ourselves.


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