There are disappointments that hurt, that sting, that break inside. When you’re feeling bad, suffering can blur your vision. It can push you to look for blame outside. Identify scapegoats.
Placing blame on the other lightens the emotional weight of disappointment. Takes the brunt of a sore ego. It helps you being compassionate with yourself. However, it’s not fair.
The origin of disappointment, from broken promises to expectations
Disappointments arise from expectations. That is why Alexander Pope wrote: “Blessed is he who does not expect anything because he will never be disappointed.”
Sometimes expectations have their origin in promises. If someone promised that he would help you, but he didn’t, it’s understandable that you’d be disappointed. If someone told you that he would be by your side forever and then abandoned you without explanation, it is normal to feel disappointed.
However, the vast majority of disappointments do not come from broken promises but from the expectations that you place on the others.
When we meet a person and connect, we begin to build a relationship. We create emotional bonds. We commit. We put in time and effort and even make sacrifices. Then we begin to harbor expectations. We expect reciprocity. We hope that he/she will assume his/her “relational debt”.
If that person does not behave as expected, we feel disappointed. So we blame him/her. We reproach him/her the lack of commitment, selflessness, sensitivity, stability… But those reproaches are nothing more than the expression of our broken expectations. They reveal the breaking of the mold in which we try to fit it.
We generally build that mold based on social roles and the idea we have formed about what different types of relationships should be like. This is how we end up feeding expectations about our children, parents, partner, friends and even about co-workers and neighbors.
However, that way of thinking has a flaw: not everyone shares our idea of how relationships should be. Not all of us agree on the measure of dedication necessary, the dose of sacrifice or even the time we must spend together.
Our expectations usually lack a key piece: the other. That’s why they fall apart so easily. We project our desires and illusions onto others, hoping they will fulfill them. And when they don’t, we blame them.
Expectations as a form of coercion
We all have a natural tendency to anticipate events and make assumptions about the others. It is perfectly understandable because this is how we prepare for the future. It is normal for us to want to know who we can count on in the dark hours or who will support us when we have to take off.
However, many times our “plans” are far from reality. They are not based on objective data or serious promises but on our desires and illusions. When we assume that the others will behave in a certain way, we confuse “I hope” or “I wish” with certainties. Expectations are dangerously intermingled with reality.
In such cases, unrealistic expectations not only become a source of disappointment for you but also a form of coercion for those around you.
Having excessively high expectations from the others contains an implicit obligation, it is an urgency for them to comply with our wishes. Expectations hang over people like a shadow and limit their freedom by pushing them in directions they might not have freely chosen.
Therefore, it is always better that those who are part of your life act with total freedom. If they do something for you, it is because they have consciously decided it and they want it from the bottom of their hearts. Thank them and be happy about it. If not, don’t obsess. Don’t sink or look for someone to blame.
In life, try not to “tie” anyone to your expectations. Don’t push the others to content you just for fear of disappointing you or to avoid feeling guilty. Let them love you freely.
Be how you want to be and let others be too. Do not recriminate or blame them when they do not satisfy your desires, hopes or illusions. Remember that you are not in this world to meet the expectations of the others, just as the others are not in this world to meet yours, paraphrasing Fritz Perls.
Build your happiness respecting the freedom of the others. Refocus your expectations on what you can do for yourself and let them love you without submission, without ties, without expectations. Let everyone be and offer you what they can.