Unmet Expectations

Some say I shouldn’t write about my personal experiences.  That you don’t want to read them.  But others have said you identify with my experiences and when I tell you about my crap you feel better about yours.  So today is for those of you who want to feel better.  Last week I wrote about making sure we’re taking care of ourselves.  I was reminded that sometimes, despite taking care of ourselves, we still have really bad moments or days.  I was reminded of this by my own experience.  I have been intentional about taking care of myself.  Despite that, on Saturday I had what I like to call a downward spiral.  Later, after sifting through the debris of the day, I started calling it my “2 year old day”.  I had an internal temper tantrum, the kind you see a two year old throwing when she doesn’t get to have the cookie she wants.  Outwardly, my husband was the only one who received any direct hits from my 2 year old.  It wasn’t catastrophic on the surface.  What he experienced from me was hurtful but did not accurately reflect the intensity registering on the internal richter scale. I could have destroyed him if it had.  

It was all about a wicker love seat.  Yes, that was my cookie.  It was at a garage sale, in excellent shape and only $20.  In the end, it was sold literally out from under me.  I am generally not super attached to things.  For some reason, and without any warning signs, something inside me snapped.  I could feel myself recognizing the healthy ways to process this and yet watching myself choose a different path.  I kept to myself most of the day.  I warned my husband to steer clear of me, that I was very negative.  Sunday morning, I woke up to internal peace.  As I sat outside, drinking my ritual tea and feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin, I soaked in some reality.  I read Melody Beattie’s “Language of Letting Go” and realized I had been too attached to an outcome – getting my way – and that ultimately, I didn’t trust God.

This wasn’t about a wicker loveseat, it was about the part of me that likes to control things and make them happen my way.  The part that rebels and pushes hard sometimes against reality.  Reality is we have little control of the goings on in the world.  Not that we shouldn’t stand up for things we believe in, but that we can’t ultimately control the world, even our small corner.  Control is an illusion.  What happens when you don’t get your way?  Your negative reactions to things not going your way are a sign that you are too attached to how things are going to play out.  Let’s say you want a significant person in your life to appreciate all the hard work you put in each day but you don’t hear the appreciation.  Being hurt is natural but how far do you go with it?  Do you yell at the person?  Do you tell him how horrible he is because he isn’t responding the way you want?  Do you punish him with silence? There you go, you’re attached to an outcome: how he responds.

My temper tantrum came out of a build-up of disappointing outcomes.  Maybe I wasn’t taking as good of care as I thought.  Maybe I haven’t been acknowledging and processing my unmet expectations.  How can this help you? For now, simply notice your own attachments to how things work out or how people respond.  Ask yourself what you are feeling, wanting, thinking and feeling physically.  Keep track of what you discover.  Next week, I’ll post a follow-up so you know what to do with your disappointing outcomes.


Detaching from Outcomes

In The Language of Letting Go, Melody Beattie, talks about a concept called detachment.  It encompasses detaching from relationships and outcomes.  It is a freeing skill I highly recommend.  So often we invest our energy in how things turn out in our lives and sometimes even in other people’s lives.  Ultimately, we really don’t have that much control.  Oh, sure we have control over our behavior, choice of words, or even whether or not we set our alarm clock.  We do not have control over how people feel, how they react to us, or if the power goes out at night unbeknownst to us.  Those are the outcomes, and it does not do us any good to connect to how things turn out.  Sure, my intention is waking up on time by setting my alarm clock or  communicating in a healthy way with my spouse using “I” statements, but there’s no guarantee that my day or my relationship will go the way I want.  Detaching from how things will turn out frees us from the of bondage of control.
Many of us spend inordinate amounts of time fretting about outcomes.  Think about your day today.  What did you worry about?  What got your pulse rate jumping?  Was it something you have any control over?  Really? We tend to think we have more control than we actually do.  That belief moves our attention away from the aspects where we have control into an ultimately disappointing realm.  A wiser use of our energy is guiding it toward the parts of our life we can do something about.  If your boyfriend doesn’t like your emotional ups and downs, do your part to work on developing healthier emotion regulation skills and let go of your fear that he might end the relationship.   If he does, you will deal with it from an emotionally healthier stance.  If your focus at work is on your fear of getting fired, show up at work, do your job to the best of your ability, and release your grip on the fear.  If you end up getting fired, you will know you gave it your all which will help as you move on in your search for another job.
Detaching from outcomes is not synonymous with becoming a slacker.  Quite the opposite.  Detaching from outcomes gives you power to pursue emotional, physical, occupational, relational, and spiritual growth.
Got a question about this or want some clarification?  Just ask in the comments section and I’ll answer.