Expectations are invisible and then when they aren’t met, they become visible by the oozing of emotions, sometimes publicly with the ferocity of projectile vomiting, other times with the gentility of a private sob. The word expectation comes from the Latin meaning an awaiting – and we all know waiting has an ache in it. When you have been waiting a while, those expectations can build and take a life of their own encrusted with the aged desires and wounds. They have a blinkered quality and seem to screen out a complete 360-degree assessment of the facts of the moment. It is intriguing how expectations become visible without discussion, as by osmosis in the public space.
For instance, we are in a national conversation as a country as we discern how to spend our vote and there is no doubt whoever we choose as a nation won’t meet all of our expectations – we will feel let down by our team if they get elected. They know that and we know that already deep inside of us. We will have to renegotiate the relationship from opposition to government or failure to win government. I remember one time a government being elected and still acting like they were in opposition for a long time, not quite making the transition to their new role and the public not quite being able to let them – there was quite a bit of calibration before the new arrangements settled. So, while their new roles were clear and confirm, there was still uncertainty, a lack of practice and unfamiliar ways of being to be tested.
I notice some people pulling up the covers and hiding there for a while hoping by the time, they pull them back and jump out in the new world it will be ready for them, and they are ready for it. An invisible metamorphosis protecting them from harm, it is a false promise though and the practice is still needed and the lack of exposure to the new conditions just means the conditions have been more consolidated and not had the benefitted of being shaped while under the covers. Others have stepped into the breach and now a new world order is emerging, and you have to live with it, unpractised and clumsy, until you have applied your navigational skills to find your way.
Making visible expectations is a partial inoculation, understanding you have them and their place in your invisible world of meaning and circumstance, rank and status requires a level of insight that may not be easily accessible. Your spot in the food chain may be disturbed by others’ expectations and your lack of insight may cut a deep wound. The relationship between communications and experience blend in expectations, we’ve read the room, read the reviews, been here before, wired ahead … yet we can still get disappointed and hurt due to a failure of this relationship not being fully visible to ourselves and others. Coming to an alignment around expectations requires testing both the communications and experience over and over again because managing expectations is best as a visible action.
I had a very hard lesson in visible and invisible nature of expectations. There is no magical thinking that will bring the situation we want into being, it requires learning and unlearning our experiences, communicating for alignment, and making our expectations explicit so they can be negotiated in or out of reality. It is an act of empathy and self-compassion to arrive at the new place with the new relationships .. and inevitably another set of expectations.
“Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before–more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.”Charles Dickens, Great Expectations