Expectation and Disappointment
When were you last disappointed? What was it that disappointed you? The cold start to spring? A friend letting you down? The team you support losing a match? We do love to plan ahead, to know what’s going to happen, to get what we want. We hope, we anticipate, we expect. There are times when hope can keep us going through the tough patches, so it can be a force for good. Very easily, though, we can get stuck in anticipating the future and expecting a particular outcome. And, regardless of how we may see ourselves sometimes, we can’t control everything. In fact, when it comes right down to it, the only thing we can control is...ourselves. Not the weather, not our friends, not the team we support and so on. So, if we can’t control people and things beyond us, how can we avoid disappointment when events don’t go our way? It might look impossible but, given that we do have some control over ourselves, we could explore the possibility of changing, lowering or even dispensing with our expectations. Radical, perhaps, but: no expectations; no disappointments.
The other thing about expectations is that they have us living in the future and not in the right-here-right-now. And that, if you agree with the Buddhists and many others, is all we have. No-one knows for sure what’s going to happen next; if we did, we’d never be disappointed (and round we go again!) but we’d never be amazed and filled with joyful surprise, either. Not knowing and uncertainty are, like it or not, part of the human condition. If you prefer certainty, you’ve got it: right here, right now. But you ain’t got it anywhere else. So, how about trying to really be present in this moment instead? Appreciate and accept it for what it is and how it feels to you. Easy for a therapist to say, right? Absolutely. Being present (or “being mindful”) is a practice, not a decision. You have to work at it. We all have to work at it. Hard. And we forget often and find ourselves sliding forwards, anticipating the future, expecting things from it and being disappointed when we don’t get them. And that’s when we gently remind ourselves to be here, now. It works. Have a go! Enjoy the match for itself regardless of the final score; love your friends for who they are not what they do for you; appreciate the sun when it shines and the warmth and dryness of your home when it doesn’t. Just for a minute.
If you’re facing disappointments, perhaps counselling can help. Have a look for someone here, on the Counselling Directory.