I’ll repeat the question, because it’s not rhetorical: What did you Expect?
This question has always put me on the spot.
What did you Expect?
I can picture the question inscribed on my tombstone (not that I’ll have a tombstone).
It reminds me of the Naropa Institute motto: “Love of the truth puts you on the spot.”
When I answer that question, I feel exposed. When I tell you honestly what I expected, I can’t help but reveal something about myself to you. My expectations can’t lie. They are what they are. That’s one of the reasons we’re likely to fib about our expectations. We’ll tell you that we really didn’t know what to expect or that we didn’t expect anything. We generally don’t like being put on the spot. We don’t feel comfortable or safe with people, anybody really, getting to know us. (That’s a bit odd, considering that we humans are frequently described as social beings, but let’s leave this topic for another time.)
For lots of reasons, I’ve come to love the spot. That doesn’t mean at all that I’m stronger or better or smarter than anyone else. I’m simply a freer and happier me when I willingly step into the spot.
One of the ways I discovered this was by reverse engineering. It occurred to me that if someone else might be able to catch a glimpse of the ‘real’ me by asking me that question, I might just as well be able to do the same thing. That is to say, to get to know the real me.
It wasn’t all that hard or complicated. As often as I could remember to do it, before I went anywhere or made a phone call or even simply walked into the house, I asked myself ‘what did I expect?’. And I didn’t just ask the question. I searched myself and answered honestly. It rarely took more than a minute to do this. Then I went to wherever or made the call or entered the house mindful of what I was expecting.
It was a fascinating process on several levels. Here’s some of what I discovered:
- acknowledging to myself what I expected made it easier to recognize when and in what way the situation was deviating from what I had anticipated.
- being clear with myself as to what I was expecting somehow made it easier to express myself and my preferences if the situation was going in a different direction.
- being clear with myself also made it easier to let go of what I had expected when my expectation wasn’t that important to me. I had to know what the expectation was before I could ever know if it mattered.
- looking at my expectations made it quite evident that my expectations broke into two distinct categories…what I expected from myself and what I expected from others. I found that I was more than lenient with the first type and strict as all get out with the second type. In short, I had a double standard. I didn’t expect myself to live up to my own expectations but I sure as heck expected you to. Oh. Ouch. Crap.
Of course, there’s more.
Of course I discovered that much of what I expected was pure speculation and never actually happened.