It’s so hard to let go of our expectations of other people. If, like me, you would do anything for your friends, it would seem likely that you would expect the same in return. And yet, I’m looking more and more into letting go of expectations of other people – and in doing so, not being let down quite so much.
You might ask – what is the problem with setting high standards, or any standards, for people? Shouldn’t we all have people in our lives that we can rely on?
The answer that I’m pondering, is “no.”
This is not the say that I’m going to be 100% self-reliant – that’s impossible. It doesn’t necessarily mean cutting people out of my life. What it does mean is that I cannot expect people to be there for me. It’s far too easy for me to fall into despair, for giving someone all I can and not “getting” anything in return. I still view a relationship as a give and take scenario – but I also see the dangers inherent in any duality. So I’m trying to adopt a different worldview. A few friends have let me down recently – but after much thinking on just who the self is, I’m also wondering just “who” is this person that they’re letting down?
If we view the self as a myriad of thoughts that we have retained, thoughts that we think pertain to this body, this behaviour, this person, then who exactly are we? Thoughts are not reality – and they change all the time. What if our view of the self is only those thoughts that are the loudest, that we have repeated to ourselves over and over again until we believe them? How limiting is that – and how free could we be if we drop the idea of a self?
But I digress.
Should we expect people to help us, friends to help us, in our time of need? Sometimes they just can’t, as they are dealing with their own battles. Sometimes they are just crap. Either way, they are simply being themselves, and that we cannot control that in any way. If we dropped our expectations that they will be there for us when we need them, then we will also avoid disappointment.
This may seem a little nihilistic, but only in obliterating these assumptions can we attain the freedom and open the door to possible happiness. Sometimes breaking down walls – a little deconstruction- is a good thing. The question remains, however – if we do not expect things from people, what happens to our standards?
We won’t have any.
Yikes. I know – it’s a scary thought. But who are we to have such standards? Who is this self that sets standards for other people? If we don’t have standards, will people then walk all over us? Of course not. Not having standards doesn’t mean we become doormats. It simply means we have dropped all judgement of others and take things as they come. We will not be disappointed anymore. Isn’t that a good thing? And, if people do mistreat us, we then simply walk away. Without judgement, if possible (though highly improbable – I’m not that enlightened).
There are, of course, limits to this. In work relationships, we do have to expect certain things of our co-workers if we need them to get the job done. But in our personal and private lives, we can let this go and see what happens.
What about our partners? Should I expect anything of my husband? No, not really. I’ve had the joy of always having a husband who is “there” for me, but if I did “need” him and he wasn’t, I’d be devastated. Unless I adopt this new strategy. This doesn’t make me an “island” – I am not cutting myself off from everyone – rather the opposite. I am engaging in non-judgemental behaviour that brings me closer to everything and everyone. Interesting.
Perhaps even harder than giving up the expectations of other people, is giving up expectations of yourself. We believe we are a certain person, that we should react and behave in a certain way. I know that this weekend, when dealing with a car accident, I was shocked at my unwillingness to walk towards a smoking vehicle and help people out – fear and horror making each step leaden as I went towards the smoking ruin. I expected myself to be able to jump out of the car and run heroically to save people, and was shocked at my initial response. Needless to say, of course I did go to the car and help, but I learned that I was not as brave as I thought I was.
Also, the accident was caused by an oncoming police car responding to an emergency call. I went to the aid of the car that they hit (which was right in front of us) but didn’t go to the police car afterwards to see if they were okay. I saw one officer come out, and then returned my attention to the “victims”. It had been the police car’s fault – I made a judgement call. I expected them to know better than to overtake with no room – and then expected them to help out with the other victims when they came out of the car, having had all the proper training. I should have had compassion for them as well – they had just been in a horrible accident as well, and were the cause. How awful they must feel. Even if they didn’t react “properly”, whatever that is, I should have tried to help them as well. So I’ve been beating myself up about that too. I have such high expectations of myself. Drop them, Jo. There is so self, remember? Just a collection of thoughts and judgements. Drop the expectations and life will contain much less suffering.
I’m going to give it a go. It’s going to be bloody hard. You can wish me luck, but I’m not expecting you to 😉
I think you brought up some great points in this post and enjoyed reading it. It’s my first time visiting your blog and look forward to reading more of your articles. I have definitely found that as with all impermanent things..friendships are to be enjoyed while they are with us in the present, but if we don’t become attached or cling to them, then its easier not to have expectations towards them and enjoy them for what they are.
Just to share..this is my latest post…Hope you enjoy it. 🙂
Great blog – and I like Alan Watts. 🙂