Expectations in Recovery
Posted April 11, 2016 by Talbot Rehab
While enjoying the beauties of nature in Southern Utah we were talking about expectations and my feelings about expectations changed. The initial idea was that expectations must be dropped, because they cause all of our frustrations, which can lead to anger and anxiety and relapse. If I can drop my expectations of others I won’t be frustrated when they don’t live up to my expectations. I can then just accept them as they are. But if I expect some thing of someone (including myself) and that expectation isn’t met then I feel frustrated. I should learn to live without any expectations.
However, not having expectations is nearly impossible, and expectations in and of themselves are not bad. When an employer has an expectation for an employee to show up for work on time that is perfectly legitimate. If you tell someone you will do something it is expected that you will follow through and do what you said you would do. Expectations that you will do what you have agreed to do allow others not to worry about your responsibilities because you have it covered. They are free to move on to accomplish other things.
So in some respects having expectations actually frees me up and I stop worrying about things that others are taking care of.
What is the problem with expectations? And what does it mean to drop expectations?
You cannot drop something that you don’t have. Dropping expectations can’t mean that you never have any.. Dropping expectations means to let go when it becomes obvious that they won’t be fulfilled. The problem is in holding on to expectations after time has past. If expectations are unfulfilled we must let go of them. Holding on to them is just trying to live in the past. We cannot go back and fix the past. We must accept things as they are. Thus the saying, “It is what it is.” Recognize the reality that you are now in and ask the question, “What is the best thing to do from here?”
But if I just let things go people will continue to let me down, won’t they? How does one deal with letting go of unmet expectations?
It turns out that the key is to continue to love and accept the individual (or individuals or even entity) that didn’t meet our expectation. Getting angry is a waste of time and energy. It just causes hurt feelings and cannot change the past.Instead of getting angry and berating others when they let us down, we can look at it as an opportunity to grow and to help others to grow. If I honor the humanity of the other person and recognize that he is just like me and needs help in certain areas of his life, I can offer encouragement and compassion to help him grow. And I grow in the process.
In so doing, if I teach and encourage improvement, I will make the chances of future disappointment go way down. If I persist in this way of looking at things and dropping unmet expectations, and encouraging growth, then I may enjoy more fulfilled expectations in my future.