How to Avoid Setting Ourselves Up for Disappointment
Question from a reader:
It’s true that we do often have expectations of others, and it’s also true that when people don’t meet those expectations, it can create disappointment. However, to label another person or their actions as the source of your sadness means that you are not taking responsibility for your own emotions.
“Hi Ash. I’ve been a groupie/blog stalker for only a few months, so it’s possible that you’ve already covered this, but I want to ask you about expectations in relationships. A family member of mine is struggling with depression. When asked about what triggers her sadness she answered, “I guess my expectations of people are too high.” The fact that she expects anything of anybody other than herself completely caught me off guard. Plus there’s the issue that she doesn’t communicate those expectations to anyone, but then gets sad/angry/frustrated/etc. when they’re not met. I have a feeling that she’s not the only person in the world who does this/feels this way. Can you offer some perspective?”
The Love Exchange
The more I’ve learned about spirituality and spiritual maladies, the more I’ve come to realize that a lack of self love is the root of pretty much all emotional issues (and subsequently all of the world’s problems, which can all be traced back to this lack of love – or rather, the belief in it).
Additionally, we live in a society and a culture that raises us to believe that love is transactional. In order for us to give love, we must receive it in return. So when we give love to someone, we create an expectation that it will be reciprocated. If we don’t believe that it will be reciprocated, we often don’t bother to give it. And if we do give it, and things don’t pan out the way we hoped, we then feel disappointed.
When you couple that with a lack of self love, you have a society full of people seeking love outside of themselves. They then need to derive their love (and subsequently their self-worth) from other people. They become dependent on those people and their approval to feel good about themselves.
It doesn’t have to be outright declarations of love – it’s mostly a culmination of small gestures all day long that give feelings of approval. A Facebook like. A compliment here and there. An invitation to a party. When you lack self love, all of these things become more important to you than they really are, because you view them as indicators of your worth according to others. And when you don’t receive those indicators, you immediately begin to project the negative thoughts that you have in your head into the void. And in some cases, you project those negative feelings outward at the ones who you had an expectation from, resulting in disappointment.
The expectation of receiving a return on love we have given places conditions on that which has no boundaries. Love is not conditional – it is unconditional by it’s very nature. If it is not unconditional, it isn’t really love, it’s attachment.
When we have a limited idea of what love is (believing that it is conditional) and see it as transactional, that creates an expectation of the person we are giving it to. When we have an expectation, it means we become attached to that specific outcome. We need it. We want it. We rely on it. For as long as you are attached to a particular outcome, you allow it to control you. You give it power over you and your emotions.
Attachment is the root of suffering – wanting a specific outcome and relying on it for your happiness.
As I said before, when we are attached to that outcome or result, we give our power away. When that attachment is to a particular person’s response, we give them power over us. We can now be disappointed when they don’t do what we expected them to do, and this triggers negative emotions.
Often, we project the responsibility for those emotions onto the other person. “You made me feel this way!” But they didn’t. That person does not have the ability to MAKE you feel anything. You ALLOW them to be a trigger for an emotion that already exists within you.
We are responsible for our emotions. No one else. When you learn unconditional love for others and for yourself, you no longer go looking for love from other people. You find it within you. Then you are free to give love, regardless of the outcome, and people no longer have power over you. Situations no longer have power over you.
You have taken your power back and you are truly free.