Monday, 10 March 2014

The Pitfall of Expectations

Most people naturally have expectations. They expect the sun to be there when they wake up. They expect warm water for their shower, their loved ones to be still alive in a week, milk available at the grocery store, and many other things, some of which more trivial than others, and some they shouldn’t expect at all. Expectations are necessary to function sanely on a daily basis. Otherwise, people can, in the worst case, become excessively and unnecessarily paranoid.

However, in my view, having expectations is one of the strongest relationship abrasives. One of the ultimate joys of living is having the feeling of being free (I invite anyone to contest that). When person A expects something out of person B, person B’s freedom becomes constrained, or stressed, by the expectations of person A. To put it in another way, let person A and person B both define their versions of what they want to do or what they need to accomplish in order to achieve their respective personal happiness; if both visions are mutually exclusive, then both person A and person B can carry their vision satisfactorily in freedom to the highest degree. However, if the fulfillment of person A’s happiness is dependent on actions from person B, then person B’s ideal personal fulfillment is thus limited or constrained due to person A. In a general sense, expectations are part of a selfish, delusional behavior and represent a stress applied to people’s behaviors. It should be obvious then, that in a relationship without any form of expectations, all parties will keep their freedom and thus they will all likely be happier because there will be no opportunity for deception. There can only be deceptions if there are expectations.

But here’s the catch…and here lies a paradox; I said earlier that one of the joy of living is the freedom feeling. If being free contributes to our happiness, so does social contact. We are social animals. We yearn to love and more especially to be loved. So we enter into many social contracts to fulfill our wants and desires. Since we all come from different backgrounds and [sarcasm] each one of us knows best how to live [/sarcasm], a complex gambling game sprouts up. The famous lyrics from the group ‘NIRVANA’ come to mind: “Come, as you are, as I want you to be”. We jostle, trick and manipulate words and actions in order to fit in. To win. Some push their ideas aggressively. Some play a quiet game. Others don’t want to play the game. There are winners and losers, and they’re not always the same. I feel it’s alright to know what we like and dislike. But I think it’s not alright to impose these things on others. To do so is selfish.

When selfishness and its ramifications are fully understood and accepted, the veil of expectation falls and relationships become less strained. Controlling one’s expectations, and even abolishing them altogether, is, in my mind, the true moral high ground of altruism; not giving $50 to a charity and patting ourselves on the back and boasting about it at some cocktail.

In conclusion, here is an analogy that my mother presented to me as a child: “Relationships are like a bird. The bird can chose to land in your hand, but if it doesn’t you shouldn’t waste your time chasing it, you will just scare it away more. Once it’s in your hand, if you leave your hand wide open and do nothing, it might likely fly away. Alternately, if you close your hand tight to trap the bird, it will probably chirp madly and try to bite you; it won’t be happy. But if you cusp your hand lightly and show the bird some affection and devotion, it might stick around a bit longer.”