It is human nature to have expectations. Expectations are necessary for a smooth-running life. We expect electricity to flow when we turn on the switch. We can live our daily life with the expectation that there will be a reliable power supply. It is the same with people in our life. Expectations are formed to make life easier without putting energy into guess work all the time. It is also reasonable to have expectations for what we want to achieve. We make an effort to reach the goal we set. For example, we practice Yuan Gong with the expectation that health will improve.
When does having expectations become a problem? It is when an expectation has become so strong and fixed that it is unacceptable when it is not fulfilled. In this case, an expectation has become an attachment, a “should,” and the only way. Furthermore, we attribute value to our expectations. Something should go this way because “I” think it is “good”. Inevitably, anything that doesn’t meet our expectation will be regarded as “bad”. In other words, when our expectations are met, it is good; when they are not; it is bad.
How do we deal with “bad”? We fear it, a lot. So we do our best to avoid it. When we have envisioned a nice way forward, changes can be seen as a potential threat. We exercise maximal control so things will go exactly the way we want. What happens when “bad” still happens? We treat it as a loss. There should only be gain in our lives, no loss – such is the assumption held deeply in our consciousness. Loss is a form of suffering so we should feel right to refuse it. No one will question it when we react to loss with a plethora of negative emotions: feeling angry, frustrated, disappointed, sad, you name it. We create a reality in which it is the norm for everything to center around our expectation, and deviating from this norm is unacceptable and to be avoided at all costs.
Children as young as infants can throw tantrums when things are not going their way. Clearly Fixed Expectations is a pattern that starts early in life. This pattern continues to dominate our lives as we grow older, with its manifestation becoming more sophisticated.
Have you ever noticed how quickly we can turn something into a “should”? When someone has done a favor for you a couple of times, an expectation that this should continue can start to form. We hardly look at it from the perspective of the other person. Why should this person serve your needs and fulfil your expectations? Does he or she feel the same as you? Would you want to be taken for granted this way? To work on this pattern, it is important to get to know how a particular expectation is formed. When you are disturbed by something going against your expectation, look into what is behind the expectation. Where has it come from? And perhaps most importantly, why do you think your way is the way, when there are infinite possibilities?
Life would be so much lighter and easier if we recognize that it is also normal for things to go against our expectations. All it takes is an open heart that is ready to accept and embrace everything as an opportunity to learn and grow. Fear no more.
Experience this message on Transforming Fixed Expectations as a meditation on REN XUE TV