Monday, September 12, 2011

What to expect when you're expecting....?

DISAPPOINTMENT! That is what you can expect when you’re expecting! A wonderful, brilliant, amazingly insightful friend sent me this much needed email. Per my last post, I have a few challenging commitments/promises I have made to myself and I do believe it will be difficult to not break. It is going to take more work on my end than his (not fair). Thankfully I have friends like these who can give me such a refreshing new perspective to help prepare me for the treacherous journey ahead.  A special thanks to my friend Nora for taking the time to write this to me and for loving me enough to send it. It was too brilliant not to share!
Ok here's the background information we need:
We experience new things every single day; new heartbreaks, new joys, new perspectives, etc. Every time we experience a new something, we form an opinion. We either decide that we like something and want it to happen again or we don't like it and don't want it to happen again. These are called pleasures and pains. All of these life experiences and our opinions of them add up with each other to form what we call "expectations." This is a defense mechanism intended to safeguard us from experiencing pain and to increase our chances of experiencing pleasure (and this is the NUMBER ONE driving force behind human behavior...more pleasure, less pain).

And here's what we do:
As soon as we meet someone new, or have any new type of experience for that matter, we compare them to our preconceived expectations. When they fall short, we get disappointed or hurt. When they meet or exceed them, we are happy. Think about it. When we are very young children, we love everyone no matter what. As we get older, we get selective about who we like. This is because we let our prior experiences start building a wall and unfortunately, exactly what this is doing is letting our past control our future. We miss out on things because we are too afraid of getting hurt. This also explains why the older we get, the more bitter/jaded/cynical/hopeless/etc. we get. So that defense mechanism is actually hurting us more than the pain that it was intended to prevent!
This is how our brains process automatically. Some people dwell on the pain and it is constantly in the front of their brains. These are the people who are always angry or mean and constantly disappointed (Group 1). Some people try to actively ignore it by trying extra hard to focus on the positives. These are people like you and me who want the best for ourselves and constantly work toward getting it (Group 2). And some people aren't even aware that their prior experiences are governing all of their decision-making. These people just go wherever life leads them, settling...not looking for better (Group 3).
What this means:
People like you and I are in the right group because we ARE supposed to pursue pleasure! The problem is that we are still trying to run from pain at the same time and this is where we trip ourselves up. Group 2's expectations are higher than any other groups' because we have one foot in and one foot out. Group 1 has both feet out and Group 2 has both feet in--neither of which are healthy, by the way.
This is what we have to do:
The only way to have it all is to lose the expectations! We have to acknowledge past pains as learning experiences, accept them as such, and move forward. It helps to remember that we cannot truly experience pleasure without experiencing pain and that we also cannot fully appreciate good until we've also had bad. So we can look at bad experiences as stepping stones to the great big good ones!

And this is where we need LOTS of God's help:
This is the slap in the face I got from the Lord two weeks ago.--The only way to lose our expectations is to realize that we don't actually have the right to form these expectations of others. God made every single one of us. Who do we think we are to compare these people to OUR expectations? We aren't in charge. God is. He is the only person allowed to compare people to HIS expectations. The only thing we should be doing is working on being the best example of God and His love as we can. Through us, GOD will work on people that HE deems need working on. It's not our place to fix people, no matter how well-intentioned we are when we try. We work on our own faults and be positive support for others once THEY decide they want to work on themselves.
This hit me hard because I have VERY HIGH expectations of people...which I now know is due to all the disappointment, pain, heartache, etc. I experienced as a child. But with God's help, I have already made a lot of progress. I don't even have bad things to say about people anymore because how can I when I'm not judging their actions and forming an opinion as to whether they're good or bad?! I take people as they are, the way God made them and the way He loves them, and life is much prettier now. Now that does NOT mean that I still don't get disappointed. Nor does it mean that I won't ever again. Remember: Gotta have the bad to appreciate the good. And....we are human after all! The key here is that we can still learn that life lesson with only a little bad. We don't have to have it all the time, so the more we can omit from our lives, the more room we have for the good.
Your emotions are most strongly tied to Mike. (Editor’s note: emotions are tied to him because he is tied to my children, that's all) So he is going to be your biggest challenge as well. But it is only until we truly and 100% accept them for exactly who they are, we will never completely be able to control our emotions when it comes to them. And it can happen with everyone. Friends, family, strangers. The guy that just cut you off and made you almost wreck, the retail clerk who was incredibly rude just cause you got in her line....these are angers that happen in the heat of the moment...and these are never completely controllable due to biology. But the more we practice, the easier it gets and the less often we will lose our tempers.
~The more time you spend focusing on the positives, the less time you have to stress about the negatives.~
Again – Big - O – Thanks to Nora for being a genius and willing to share her geniusness with me! (that’s a real word now)