Great ex­pec­ta­tions – not!

Once a gauge for how char­i­ta­bly life was treat­ing me, my ex­pec­ta­tions had be­come as point­less as my ap­pen­dix.

Living Now - - Editorial - by John Ptacek

Once a gauge for how char­i­ta­bly life was treat­ing me, my ex­pec­ta­tions had be­come as point­less as my ap­pen­dix.

EX­PEC­TA­TIONS: A MIS­SION STATE­MENT FOR PSYCHOPATHS

We hu­mans are cursed with a bad habit. We deem nearly ev­ery thought that puffs from the chim­neys of our over­heated minds as log­i­cal and true, and this leaves us vul­ner­a­ble to all man­ner of mis­ery. As chil­dren we con­vince our­selves that mon­sters live un­der our beds, for ex­am­ple. I once thought an el­derly lady in my neigh­bour­hood chopped up lit­tle kids with a butcher knife!

As we grow into adult­hood, we learn to sep­a­rate truth from fic­tion. A rea­son­able as­sump­tion, don’t you think? But we do no such thing. We adults en­gage in delu­sional think­ing that makes mon­sters seem plau­si­ble by com­par­i­son. How else might one de­scribe the idea that other peo­ple should live up to our ex­pec­ta­tions? Equal parts ab­sur­dity and ar­ro­gance, it is a mis­sion state­ment for psychopaths. You know – peo­ple like you and me.

My life is teem­ing with ex­am­ples of such delu­sional think­ing. It’s been one dashed ex­pec­ta­tion af­ter an­other. My girl­friends didn’t un­der­stand me. My col­lege pro­fes­sors were un­rea­son­ably strict. My friends let me down. My bosses didn’t give me enough credit. My chiropractor didn’t make my back bet­ter. My neigh­bours made too much noise. And my dry clean­ers couldn’t iron a shirt to save their lives.

I sim­ply wanted oth­ers to hold up their end of the bar­gain. I ex­pect they de­liver. Was this re­ally ask­ing too much?

Did ci­vil­ity die and some­one for­get to tell me about it?

LIFE AS A MARTYR

If be­ing delu­sional wasn’t painful enough, I tried my hand at masochism. I came to ra­tio­nalise all the psy­cho­log­i­cal suf­fer­ing I ex­pe­ri­enced as a re­sult of un­met ex­pec­ta­tions as a sad fact of life. The re­jec­tions, the degra­da­tions – all of it. I chalked it up as the price of no­bil­ity, re­fus­ing to lower my ex­pec­ta­tions in the face of ram­pant medi­ocre hu­man be­hav­iour. I was in pain, but it was a

Liv­ing in a world where my high stan­dards guar­an­teed dis­ap­point­ment at nearly ev­ery turn felt morally su­pe­rior, but hol­low. A grey cloud seemed to fol­low me every­where, like I had it on a leash – and maybe I did.

good kind of pain – a saintly pain, if you will. Life as a martyr def­i­nitely had its draw­backs though. I came tan­ta­lis­ingly close to hap­pi­ness without ever re­ally touch­ing it. It was like ad­mir­ing price­less arte­facts through thick glass. Liv­ing in a world where my high stan­dards guar­an­teed dis­ap­point­ment at nearly ev­ery turn felt morally su­pe­rior, but hol­low. A grey cloud seemed to fol­low me every­where, like I had it on a leash – and maybe I did.

LIFT­ING THE VEIL

Could it be that the world wasn’t re­ally as un­sym­pa­thetic as it seemed? Were those grey clouds of my own mak­ing? Could they be the ex­haust of my failed at­tempts to reg­u­late the be­hav­iour of oth­ers?

With great trep­i­da­tion, and with lit­tle to lose, I re­solved to drop my ex­pec­ta­tions and meet oth­ers on their own terms. Would life be any less dis­heart­en­ing? As the veil of my ex­pec­ta­tions lifted, I had a clearer view of the world around me. Peo­ple en­tered and ex­ited my field of vi­sion, do­ing what they al­ways did, but I no longer per­ceived any­thing con­spir­a­to­rial in their be­hav­iour. They weren’t out to make my life mis­er­able. They were sim­ply mak­ing their way in a world fraught with chal­lenges, just like me. It was never per­sonal. Their ac­tions weren’t about me. Shed­ding that mis­con­cep­tion felt like los­ing a hun­dred pounds. Once a gauge for how char­i­ta­bly life was treat­ing me, my ex­pec­ta­tions had be­come as point­less as my ap­pen­dix. The as­ter­isk that had al­ways char­ac­terised my state of hap­pi­ness as a work in progress has been re­moved. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not al­ways happy. I no longer ex­pect that of my­self. You see, that’s the other thing. The ex­pec­ta­tions I had of my­self were as en­slav­ing as those I pro­jected onto oth­ers. Same mea­sur­ing stick, but pointed in the op­po­site di­rec­tion. For a long time I ex­pected more from life than it was giv­ing me. It was a great ap­proach, ex­cept for the fact that it was com­pletely in­sane. I get what life hands me, not what I want. One is real; one is il­lu­sion. My great­est ex­pec­ta­tions are no match for my small­est mo­ments of true hap­pi­ness. ■

Their ac­tions weren’t about me. Shed­ding that mis­con­cep­tion felt like los­ing a hun­dred pounds.

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