Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Expectations

Continuing with last week’s theme, I think the concept of expectations is another good therapy idea that has gotten overused and taken to a bad extreme. To be human is to have expectations. Period.

A couple of weeks ago, I was in a session with a client. She was talking about something and then used the word “expected” in a sentence. She stopped her flow of thought and looked at me with an apology and said, “I know I’m not supposed to have expectations,” as if her disappointment with her situation was ultimately her fault because she dared to expect something.

I told her that I wasn’t “that kind” of therapist, and many therapists are not either. She will never hear me tell her not to expect anything. It would be easier to tell her to stop breathing. However, having REASONABLE expectations is a very, very worthy goal. I asked her if when she makes an appointment with me, if she expects me to be here when she arrives. Of course she does. And that is a reasonable expectation for her to have.

Expectations for me personally, are yet another example of the interesting way people perceive me. Most of the time, people fall in two camps. Either I am told I have too high of expectations of others, or I am told my expectations are way too low. Usually, the people who think I expect too much are people who have disappointed me, not kept their word, or something else. So it’s similar to last week’s blog. Encouraging others to lower their expectations was not intended psychologically to be used as an excuse for poor behavior.

The second camp of people usually come after a discussion of my dating life. Sometimes people who haven’t been out there in the dating world assume that an almost fifty-year-old is probably single because she expects too much from a partner. People who are close to me? Well, they usually say I don’t expect enough. I tend to be much more tolerant and patient for my own good. Kind of interesting.

If you are a human being, you will expect things. The goal of a healthy individual is not to eradicate having expectations, it is to keep them in check. It is to make sure you are expecting things that are fair, reasonable, things others are capable of.

Oh yeah- if I tend to be unreasonable with my expectations, it is usually focused on one person- myself. I tend to be stupidly hard on myself, expecting that I am beyond human. I’ve been working on that one for a few decades. I’ve made some progress, but I will always err on the side of beating myself up. That’s why I work so hard to eliminate outside forces that seem to enjoy beating me up as well.

I mean that in an emotional/verbal sense of course. But it should be said that one expectation I have, especially as a woman, is that I not by physically touched in a way that I am not comfortable with. There is an entire spectrum of things that can go on that- from extremes like rape, to jokes that are demeaning or uncomfortable. Whatever on that continuum, I expect to be respected physically and it is my job to make sure that it happens.

Of course, the lower the expectations are, the less disappointed you are. There is truth to that. Maybe the rule of thumb should be when it comes to others, expect as little as possible and be pleasantly surprised. But then again, it you expect nothing, then sometimes you get exactly that. Nothing.

Telling someone else they should lower their expectations? I suppose there is a place for that also, but I would be very, very careful with that. Most times, tossing that out there is a way to deflect away from your own behavior that you would be better off taking responsibility for. That requires some maturity, but it is often times the much healthier route.

All things in moderation… I say that a lot I suppose. But to be human is to have expectations. People who truly seem to have none, are the scary people I wrote about last week. You don’t want to lose your humanity, your heart, your capacity to truly love another. Just keep your expectations reasonable, and don’t be afraid to meet other people’s expectations if they are reasonable. A little compassion is a GOOD trait. That other extreme stuff is not what the intended message was. Seek to be healthy!


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Patience

Patience is a virtue. Not sure who came up with that. Google has a variety of explanations offered as to where the phrase originated. I’ve certainly heard it all my life. And most of my adult life I have possessed the self-awareness to know that patience is definitely not one of my better virtues. My passion is often at odds with my patience. True to my nature though, I try to remember that and keep my patience in check when life calls on me to do so.

If you follow my blog, you have probably read a thousand times that I believe everything in life has a plus and a minus, a loss and a gain. Everything. It may not be equal 50/50, but there is an element of both sides. Yes, patience is an admirable quality, but I have also sometimes seen the essence of what it is supposed to be misused. Not everything requires patience. Sometimes asking people to have patience is a fancy excuse for bad behavior.

I took the plunge a couple of months ago (after a two-year break) and attempted to be in a relationship again. The ironic thing, was that we both stated several million times how we both hoped at our ages to not have another failed relationship under our belts. Sometimes hoping just isn’t enough.

We had several conversations about time. I guess when you think about it, time is related to patience. When is the right time for this or that? When is something too early? Or premature? As a relationship counselor, I get asked some of those questions frequently. I’ve watched many friends navigate questions like this while dating. And as a divorced woman, then as a widow, I’ve certainly had my own share of personal experiences to draw from. Like most things in my life, the older I get, I find there are less and less formulas and “right” answers to draw from. People live their lives in various ways. I’ve blogged about that before. The raw truth is, most relationships end. Most people don’t marry the first person they date. Lots of daters stop before they make a permanent commitment. Eventually, some find the person they want to “spend the rest of their life with.” So it’s impossible to decide what is the “right formula” to make a relationship work. Countless numbers of people approach time and pace differently. The statistics are the same for however people approach time in their relationship. Most of them end, some eventually find their lifetime significant other.

Wow, I can really go off on a tangent sometimes. I think that is relevant, but not the point I was making.

It’s my opinion (professionally and personally) that while there are some things we need to make allowances for (absolutely NO ONE is perfect!) and while there are some things that have to be developed over time between two people, there are also things that should be in place before a person really should be in the relationship at all. Asking a person to “be patient” for things most would consider to be just common respect or basic manners, does not seem appropriate to me. That’s not about patience at all.

Expectations becomes a dirty word in psychology sometimes, but I really have rejected that in my own life and in my practice. To me, expectations are part of the human condition. No one is truly capable of being void of expectations. The more healthy question is, are my expectations reasonable? Fair? And again, sometimes the answer to that question can change based on how long the relationship has been existent. And again, sometimes the length of time is irrelevant. Some expectations are reasonable with a total stranger, so how much more reasonable for someone you actually care for?

Anyhow, I don’t really have an end point to this, or a funny story to make you chuckle like I like to do. It’s just some thoughts I’ve been giving a lot of time to lately. In my eyes. From the world according to Darcy. Fortunately though, I’m actually kinda smart about this stuff. Really 🙂