Our expectations make us unhappy. Unrealistic expectations lead to unhappiness, loneliness, conflict and disappointment in our lives: the un-met expectations created by our own ego in our own mind?
It’s true. In fact, you’ll be shocked to learn that expectations are not what you think they are at all.
Lets take a look at three reasons why expectations create so much unhappiness and disappointment in our lives, and what we can do to increase happiness.
We create expectations almost non-stop in our day-to-day lives. Every expectation is made in the hope and belief it will bring us happiness. We expect our significant other will call. We expect to have our boss appreciate all the extra work we put into the report. We expect to get a raise. We expect our partner to be loving and kind.
Expectations are created so unconsciously, we fail to realize they make up a large portion of our thinking mind. When we “are” conscious of an expectation, we are unaware they are simply illusions created by our mind; illusions that our ego uses to create our sense of “self”-identity.
We also fail to realize the paradox that the hurt and disappointment we experience when our expectations are not met is exactly what the expectation was unconsciously meant to create.
I know, that’s a hard statement to believe, but let’s take a look at why it’s true.
Our expectations are actually designed by our ego so-as-to unconsciously support our sad life story. Why? Because nothing gives our ego a stronger sense of self-identity than an experience that supports our sad life-story. In other words, we unconsciously create expectations so we can feel sad and disappointed when they are not met. Our ego is addicted to sadness and painful emotions.
Stated simply, our ego really doesn’t like happy outcomes. Again, I know it’s hard to believe, but think about it.
If our expectation is actually met, our happiness tends to be very short lived. For example, we’ll hang up after the phone call from our significant other, and almost immediately begin creating another expectation. We begin to up the ante. Our new expectation might assume we are going to have a wonderful, loving, intimate time together tonight. When our new expectation isn’t met, our disappointment, hurt, feelings of loneliness, abandonment, lack of connection, feeling uncared for, and resentment will go on for days or even weeks!
Our ego is unconsciously delighted and pleased. The goal of the new expectation wasn’t happiness; it was unhappiness. It wants to experience unhappiness because unhappiness supports and strengthens our ego’s sad life-story; the sad story that begins for most of us early in childhood.
We are consciously hurt and disappointed but our ego now has a powerful unconscious sense of self-identity. We may feel like a hurt, disappointed, wounded “me” consciously, but our ego is unconsciously hoping the “poor, sad me” feelings will persist for weeks.
Expectations are not real. They are ideas or thoughts created by our mind that have not yet happened; a thinly disguised “hope” that something good will happen in the future. Some of our expectations, or hopes, reach out years into the future. For example, if I work hard I can expect to have a financially secure and happy retirement. Or I fully expect to meet the love of my life and life happily ever after.
But here’s the rub. The minute our ego / mind creates the expectation, our ego then immediately attaches to the expectation and uses the expectation as an important part of it’s self-identity. In other words, the moment the expectation is created, the ego believes and assumes that it will happen; that it should happen. Our ego now has a powerful new sense of self-identity. “We” are going to retire financially secure and happy, and we are going to meet the love of our life and live happily ever after.
Of course if it doesn’t happen, we will consciously feel disappointment, resentment, anger, loneliness, and unhappiness. But once again, our ego will have unconsciously strengthened our sad life-story. We are now back to reason #1.
Expectations are rarely about achieving happiness. They are more often about control, and assuming others will fill the emptiness we feel inside; or expecting others to remove the fear that we’ll be abandoned. Our expectations are focused on the hope that other persons, “things”, or events will somehow fill the emptiness we feel inside because we have already abandoned ourselves.
We abandon ourselves when we “know” consciously that no one but ourselves can fill the emptiness inside of us, but it’s easier to create an expectation, the illusion that someone else has the ability to do that work for us.
Once again, we’re back to reason #1. Our ego doesn’t really want those needs filled. The child inside of us might, but our ego is more concerned with unconsciously supporting the sad story. The primary objective of our ego is to be a separate, unique, independent “self”; and a “sad” self is often a very separate, isolated self.
In other words, when our expectations lead us into disappointment and unhappiness, we have a powerful “emotional” permission to pull away from the person that disappointed us. We pull away, shut down and avoid intimacy so-as-to avoid being hurt. Rather than letting them love us in their own way, we create our own isolation and loneliness—-and then we begin creating our next expectation.
Of course we keep building the expectations higher and higher because the walls we are building around ourselves are getting higher. Eventually the other person would need to be more than human to meet our increasingly unrealistic expectations.
This cycle usually continues until the pain is severe enough that the relationship comes to an end. One or both partners assume divorce is the only option left. Sometimes these relationships will thrive on the pain and conflict for a lifetime. These life-long, pain filled relationships, often come to an end with both partners clinging tightly to their sad-life story until they die.
Solution to Why Our Expectations Are Meant To Make Us Unhappy
Learn to pay attention and drop all expectations. Instead of pushing others away, learn to open your heart, begin to love yourself, and move beyond your ego. Embrace freedom from your ego.
Learn to allow reality to be “what it is”.
Have the courage to pay attention to the expectations and illusions that lie behind your disappointments and your negative feelings. When you learn to be who you are; without roles, without control, and without expectations, you will begin to understand that it’s not you who are hurt and disappointed when your expectation are not met, it is your ego and the illusions it created in your mind that are hurt.
When we are open to “what is” and learn to let life be what it is with full presence, trust, and emptiness of ego, the war with reality will come to an end; we will find that we are at home in the present moment not only with the wholeness of all of creation, but also with the peace that comes from allowing “what is” to simply “be”.
When we understand that our ego is unconsciously addicted to “unhappiness”, we will begin to understand how dropping all expectations and inner resistance to reality is a powerful spiritual practice when our goal is true happiness.