Expectations and beliefs form the rules or criteria by which we select the emotions we induce and experience. With relatively little in this world that we feel we can Know with surety we’re left with our best guesses, our expectations. Emotional expectations are how we govern ourselves and each other before any other authority like law or government comes into play, and in fact emotional expectations govern many of these expressions of civilization, too. We tend to trivialize the importance of things we find threatening, and this is another of our tactics of denial. Expectations are serious stuff.
With poor and unrealistic expectations of ourselves we can cripple ourselves and miss opportunities for growth and enjoyment. With unrealistic expectations of each other we cause unfathomable amounts of emotional pain and suffering – yet we tend to cling to our false expectations of people even when we realize their falsity. I believe this is because our habits of expectation are rooted in our expressions of emotionalism and the addictive power of emotionalism is negatively affecting our judgement on these scales.
The key to being free of the weight of the false expectations of other people is to learn to accept the falsity of our own expectations, both of ourselves and of other people. It’s by accepting that we cannot know other people completely enough to honestly form many of the expectations we do that we can start to get to know ourselves on this scale, and to start to accept the falsity of so many of the expectations we hold of ourselves, often at the behest of people we value.
It’s a very simple calculus. I cannot realistically understand the nuance of other people in the ways they’ve often believed they could understand me, and by realizing my own expectations were without value it becomes easy to accept other people’s expectations as equally worthless. I’m talking about emotional expectations on personal and individual scales here. Obviously we all carry some basic expectations that are usually realistic, like the expectation that other people not become violent with us, but even then there can be very surprising exceptions.
Giving up my own expectations of people entailed unlearning the habits of thinking people are better and more self honest than they are in some cases, and worse and more self dishonest than they are in others. This was not the only metric I employed but it is a useful, if simple one. Of course for most of my life I had no real idea of what self honesty really means, but I did the best I could with what I had and I think I’ve figured it out at this point. In some cases this led me to think less of people within my family, or who were close friends. My values changed over time and became incompatible with theirs. I’ve compelled myself to accept this because the consequences of trying to abide by familial expectations isn’t worth it. Not in my case.
Giving up expectations can lead to increased isolation because it can feel unappealing to socialize with or accept people of incompatible values, and “being yourself” may result in more people “bouncing off” socially, finding you less appealing. I think this would be alleviated naturally if more people chose to consciously develop their held values, and I can only imagine the synergy possible in collaboration. The degree of tolerance and acceptance we show people reacts with who they really are, and so by pretending people are better than they are we encourage the very traits detrimental to us all.
I cannot remain true to myself while playing along with pretending at valuing things I don’t, and I’ve recognized the price of trying in terms of internal conflicts that result in cycles of denial and emotionalism. I won’t do this to myself anymore, and if it means being alone so be it. Sometimes life is about selecting the least unappealing option. I can accept the necessity of wearing the figurative mask when out and about, dealing with people. It amounts to practiced behaviour we all engage in, and it’s as genuine as the way any retail worker interacts with me, as a rule. We all know how superficial and dishonest most of our interactions are on these scales, with people who we don’t know or who we only know by vague acquaintance, and we accept this because we’re so overpopulated, but that’s a different discussion. It’s detrimental to us on a number of scales, not the least of which is in how the behaviour helps us to reinforce the denials we use to dehumanize each other. We quite literally pretend real aspects of each other don’t exist when we interact, like we’re actors in some weird play, and we call it normal because, well, it would be upsetting and uncomfortable and time and energy consuming to consider each other on these scales, in no small part because we’re already so far gone.
We’re all suffering unnecessarily in various ways due to our circumstances, our past choices, and the choices of past generations. We will suffer increasingly as our climate crisis worsens, so I can think of no time like the present to try to get a grip on ourselves and our rampant emotionalism. Perhaps more of us could at least face the end with more composure, and if not less brutality at least a more meaningful resistance to the brutality to come.
The alternative to unrealistic (and therefor dishonest) expectations of people is to observe and accept who they show themselves to be without inference or speculation, and to abandon pretense in the doing of it because such deceptions on our own parts affect the behaviour and choices those with whom we interact – through expectations. We need to stop participating in the cycle in order to fully appreciate the gravity of it and to avoid biasing those who we observe and with whom we interact. This has been a recurrent theme in my work on myself and I suspect it may apply more broadly. There may be other denials from which I still need to disconnect and isolate myself in order to recognize and appreciate them honestly.