Expectations are oft thought to be a necessary tool for looking at life in a manner that is healthy and organized. Yet, looked at from another point of view, expectations can also be the measure to which disappointment edges into the thought world, creeping into specific worldviews which people develop as they move through age over time.
The Big Book of a certain Anonymous group outlines a very peculiar relationship between ones’ level of personal serenity compared to the height to which a person will extend their expectations of themselves as well as their expectations towards others in general. It is the greater inherency of disappointment in the expectation as it rises which Dr. Paul, the author of this particular piece, is targeting.
“My serenity is inversely proportional to my expectations. The higher my expectations of other people are, the lower is my serenity. I can watch my serenity level rise when I discard my expectations.”
Alcoholics Anonymous – Dr. Paul O.
The higher the expectation of others (as well as ourselves) there exists a greater risk of disappointment which of course, effects the level of personal serenity at any given time. When the expectation exceeds a persons’ ability to perform a task or think a certain way, the likelier it is that dissonance creates a situation where one no longer feels satisfied, or in control any particular situation in general.
Here is an excerpt from an essay which beautifully outlines this idea.
“I expected life to be different than it is. I thought if I was good and did it “right” then I would reach ‘happily ever after.’ I believed that if I was nice to people they would be nice to me. Because I grew up in a society where people were taught that other people could control their feelings, and vise versa, I had spent most of my life trying to control the feelings of others and blaming them for my feelings. By having expectations I was giving power away. In order to become empowered I had to own that I had choices about how I viewed life, about my expectations. I realized that no one can make me feel hurt or angry – that it is my expectations that cause me to generate feelings of hurt or anger. In other words, the reason I feel hurt or anger is because other people, life, or God are not doing what I want them, expect them, to do. I had to learn to be honest with myself about my expectations – so I could let go of the ones that were insane (like, everyone is going to drive the way I want them to), and own my choices – so I could take responsibility for how I was setting myself up to be a victim in order to change my patterns. Accept the things I cannot change – change the things I can. When I first started realizing how much my expectations were dictating my emotional reactions to life, I tried not to have any expectations. I soon came to realize that it was impossible to live in society and not have expectations. If I have electricity in my home I am going to expect the lights to come on – and if they don’t, I am going to have feelings about it. If I own that having electricity is a choice I make, then I realize that I am not being the victim of the electric company I am just experiencing a life event. And life events occur for me to learn from – not to punish me.” -Robert Burney
When one gives power of emotional control to others, it becomes exceedingly difficult to feel as if control is still possessed within. Emotional control, when placed in the hands of others (in our own mind) is no longer owned by the individual but given to the warp and weft of all the waves of emotions existent in the outside world of humanity, placed at the feet of the plethora of choices made by others and how they may or may not treat those around them.
Although, as Burney suggests, it is impossible to live without expectations, it is reasonable to live with a certain set of standards towards life that allow us to accept life on life’s terms. It is justifiable and reasonable to expect life to throw curve balls. It is not reasonable to expect life to always treat each person with kindness and ease.
Standards are one answer to this riddle. A person can decide and reasonably accept a certain level of behavior from others (and from themselves) while jettisoning the expectation that others behave a certain way, or thinking in a manner that is most in alignment with themselves which, according to Dr. Paul, reduces the level of personal serenity possessed by any one individual at any given time as it gives emotional control away to other people. A person can choose to accept or not accept. Therein rests the idea of serenity. It is a personal choice born from within said individual to accept, as opposed to a created dissonance brought on by the choices of others that do not meet a certain expectation and hence, disappoint.