The Fuel of Expectation

Elisa A Escalante/ LMSW/ 5-30-2020

“You didn’t choose an easy goal, therefore you cannot expect an easy path”

It is absolutely imperative to identify, adjust, manage, and monitor our expectations. What do expectations stem from, and what do they mean for us? An expectation is about being taught what we deserve, or rather what we have “earned”, even though we have done nothing for it. With these expectations, comes anticipation. Then, with a build up of anticipation we will arrive at either one of two things: either gratification or extreme disappointment.

Of course, some expectations are more reasonable than others. Expectations come in all shapes and sizes and can be deeply influenced by our cultural & societal backgrounds, community and households. Examples of healthy expectations may include something like this:

⁃ I expect that people do NOT harm me or violate my body.

⁃ I expect to be properly compensated for the hard work I did on this job.

⁃ I expect the product I buy to work.

The expectations above are examples of expectations that foster boundaries and self care. If the expectations are violated, the next step is to self advocate to have these reasonable expectations met.

Below are examples of expectations that are often unreasonable and can lead to major disappointment:

⁃ This person (intimate partner) must take care of me and tend to my financial and emotional needs.

⁃ I expect to have a high paying job, car, home, spouse and kids by the age of 25.

⁃ I expect this person to do this job the same way and at the same pace that I would do it.

The above expectations are high risk and may foster extreme disappointment, resentment and/ or shame. Why are they high risk? Primarily due to the fact that they require another human being doing something we want. We have no control over what someone may or may not want to do for us. The other issue is rigid timelines in an ever changing society/ economy. If we have an expectation that may stem from the generation before us (such as home/ stability/ kids) but we live in a vastly different/ higher cost of living economy, expectations may need to be altered or changed.

Another thing to pay attention to is key anticipatory words/ phrases that tend to be the set up of most unreasonable or unmanaged expectations. These key words/ phrases include:

⁃ They must

⁃ They should

⁃ I should be

⁃ You have to

⁃ They need to

⁃ I deserve

⁃ But they promised

Anticipatory phrases often need to be reflected on and challenged before going any further. Such as:

⁃ “but why should they?”

⁃ “Why do I deserve this particular thing?”

⁃ “Why do they have to and I don’t have to?”

⁃ “Why do they need to?”

Expectation is the balloon, anticipation is the helium or air filling up the balloon. Then a third party person and/ or outcome might end up being the pointy object that bursts the ballon and causes emotional dysregulation. Emotions include shock, frustration, anger, resentment, depression, anxiety and so on.

If we find ourselves constantly getting disappointed and hurt by our external environment to include our friends, family members, peers and what feels like random awful life outcomes, it may not actually be a coincidence. Truly it’s one of two things, if not both. We may be surrounded by a toxic environment with toxic people, or we may have an expectation management issue.

A rather toxic series of expectations involve expecting from another person, something that we are not willing to do ourselves. There is an entitlement aspect to these. Examples include:

⁃ All house chores

⁃ All child rearing

⁃ All gainful employment

⁃ All financial responsibility

– All listening

I have seen many households suffer from the above list, as dynamics shift and people are left constantly arguing about who should do what. What is fair? What is a reasonable expectation in our household and what expectations are unreasonable and therefore met with backlash? High and mismanaged expectations can cause wars between intimate partners and family members. Relationships are like verbal contracts. If the contract no longer works and builds resentment, it’s time to redo the contract or shred it completely depending on the level of toxicity.

Why is this important to work on? Primarily because it CAN be worked on and changed, and it can reduce unnecessary stress and altercations. The next challenge for anyone hoping to identify and manage their expectations would be to pluck out those anticipatory phrases and expectations and dissect when/ why it became ingrained in their mind. The key to understanding our unmanageable expectations is to understand ourselves as well as our influences that have taught us what we deserve and should expect from the people and the world around us.

Published by functionallymentall

Social Worker, Writer, USAF Veteran

One thought on “The Fuel of Expectation

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