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.


The Irrational Thought – Part I

This morning my husband and I were reading Melody Beattie’s daily journal, “The Language of Letting Go.” Today’s tidbit was on acceptance of our thoughts and emotions. My husband brought up a great question, “What about irrational thoughts and emotions? Are we supposed to accept them, too? What do we do with them?”
I believe we must accept all thoughts and emotions no matter how irrational. Acceptance isn’t approval. It doesn’t involve judgement. Acceptance is simply allowing something to be what it is. Let’s say the irrational thought is, “No one likes me.” Unless every person we have ever come into contact with has told us they do not like us, this is an irrational thought. What emotion is attached to this? Usually something along the lines of sadness. OK, how do we practice acceptance with this irrational thought? Just notice it. “I’m thinking no one likes me. I’m feeling sad about that.” Give the thought and emotion space. It is what it is. Let it be what it is without judging it for a time. Keep it isolated to this thought and feeling at this time. Watch the tendency to snowball — adding more and more examples or irrational thoughts. Snowballing will tear you down and isn’t useful. After a few minutes of acceptance, ask yourself what you want to do with it. Do you want to simply let it go? If so, take a deep breath in and as you exhale, imagine the thought and emotion just disappearing. Move on with your day. If the thought and emotion show up again, just do the same thing you did the first time: acknowledge, accept, release.
Next week I’ll follow-up with how to process the irrational thought and emotion if you don’t want to simply let it go.