Of Expectations

Dimple Sharma (tatsat)
Expecting is the root cause of every human problem.Wrong! Expecting is a very natural and inherent human characteristic. Don’t you expect your tummy to make you feel hungry? Don’t you expect your heart to keep beating and pumping blood all across your body? Don’t you expect your lungs to keep on inhaling and exhaling air? And so on. You do expect all these and many more physiological activities because you expect to live. So, stop blaming your capabilities to expect something.
Yes, expectations do take a nasty turn when it comes to mental and emotional requirements rather than biological and physiological needs. Your mind also needs something to live and thrive. As your body lives on food, your mind lives on the thoughts that you serve it. When stored in your brain, these thoughts take the shape of memories and long term stored memories that you often use to take decisions are called your experiences.
One cannot stop expecting and one should never try to train oneself to stop expecting from someone or something. The only moment when you don’t expect anything is probably when you are dead. The problem does not lie in expecting or expectations. The problem lies in the way you react when they are not fulfilled. Well, many of us do also behave quite absurdly even when our expectations are completely met. But for majority of us the thing that needs to be managed is the way we react when our expectations are not met. Those of us definitely need to devote some time to focus on learning how to react when the expectations are not met. But the bigger question that should concern us all is, “should we react at all?” Before answering that I would like you to shift your focus to something equally important. Let’s first talk about Accepting and try to understand what acceptance actually is.
What do we actually accept in life? Do we only accept pleasant things, persons or moments in life or do we have the courage to accept unpleasant things too? Some of us will say that we accept everything whether pleasant or unpleasant. Okay. Those of you who think and believe that they do accept everything without any problem may please sit silently for some time and let me complete this before returning back to explaining expectations because you are already there. You probably don’t need to read this part. (By the way there is no problem in hearing me out. I might pop out something interesting. So, you can just hear and smile.) For the rest of us, let’s continue with this question, “What do we accept?”
Majority of us accept only those things or people that are pleasant or are the cause of pleasant moments in our life. But what of I wish to surprise you by saying that acceptance has nothing to do with pleasant or unpleasant things or moments! (Those smiling may also pay attention here.) Acceptance does not depend upon your choice to accept or reject. It depends upon the freedom to make that choice. You should be free to exercise your choice while you are deciding to accept or reject something or someone. If you are free and, using that freedom, if you decide out of your pure free will to accept anything, without bothering about the pleasantries, without bothering about the ability of your decision to stir your emotions, about its potential to add or take away something from you, then and only then you can really say, “I accept”. If after having made the choice, you still think that, given a chance, you could have exercised a different option, please look back at your decision. That’s not accepting in true sense. That’s not acceptance at all. That’s compulsion and mind it, compulsions have the ability to give or take away pleasures from you. Acceptance neither gives you pleasure nor takes it away. Acceptance is by choice of free will and after acceptance you should not be able to find another choice or option. It closes all the possibilities.
Before going back to expectations, let’s give a quick thought on choices too. What are choices? If you have a choice, it simply means that you can still expect something else to happen. Choices are not based on your expectations, they give you the right and opportunity to fulfill your expectations. You can expect anything without a choice but you can rejoice or repent only after exercising your choice. Expecting hurts only when you still have reasons to believe that you could have exercised another choice that could have been a better and right choice. Without any choices left, you cannot react on the outcome. You can never react to the outcome of your expectation if it does not leave with another choice. And without any option left for you there’s no question of going sad on un-fulfillments of an expectation or rejoicing on the fulfillment of an expectation.
Now let’s shift our focus back on expectations. By this time, you must have realised that expectations hurt only when you have not completely accepted the person, thing or situation from whom you are expecting. But acceptance does not mean the end of expectations. If you have total acceptance, you will not stop expecting. You will simply not have any choice to react on the fulfillment or un-fulfillment of your expectation. It does not matter at all. It does not bother you at all. That does not mean that now you have no choice than to live with the outcome. No. If you have understood it that way, you have still not been able to distinguish between acceptance and compulsion. Remember the free will? By accepting you agree that you have exercised your free will. So, there’s no chance of compulsion.
Acceptance promotes you to expect more not owing to the result of the acceptance but just because of the fact that by accepting someone or something you have increased and expanded your own sphere of life. And more life means that you should be expecting more from life. If you accept him or her as your life time partner, why should you not be prompted to expect more for you, the both of you? You have doubled your capabilities so you can double your expectations too.
Compulsion on the other hand increases either your suffering or your pleasure. Increases in suffering needs no explanation as you all know how it feels when you suffer. You will and should always try to avoid any type of suffering. Increase in pleasure has a positive result in the beginning but gradually turns into a cause of suffering with passage of time. Your mind has been trained in such a way from the very first day of your birth that the more you enjoy, the more you expect. And the more you expect the more you increase your suffering or pleasure as an effect of the result of fulfillment or un-fulfillment of the expectation. And the cycle goes on. Obviously, this happens in the situations where you are trying to handle your expectations without complete acceptance of the source of expectation. Compulsion will happen only when you have not been able to accept and have not been able to exercise your free will.
You should always try to master the art of acceptance rather than mastering the art of handling your expectations. Say, you love somebody to such an extent that you declare him or her to be a part of your existence. (Love is nothing but accepting someone or something as a part of your existence. I will explain that in some other talk.) Such a person can be truly a part of your existence only when you accept him or her in complete totality. Isn’t it so? You recognize your existence because you have accepted yourself in complete totality. That is not saying that you have accepted yourself without expectations. No! I am talking about recognizing yourself as yourself, not about being satisfied or dissatisfied with yourself. If, by chance, you are born or are made to live the life of a handicapped person due to some, (god forbid) mis-happening like living without a limb, would you not accept that incomplete being as your complete self? Won’t you? You might still expect yourself to be complete again but you will definitely accept your incompleteness! Because, if you don’t accept, you won’t live. Isn’t it?
However, without complicating things further, let’s continue with a more relatable example. Say, you expect that poor lover of yours to be somehow more expressive in love and romance or simply expect him or her to control anger or you would like him or her to handle work or family more efficiently or expect him or her to just recognize your own spiritual self! You can expect whatever you want. Yes, you can continue expecting as much as you can and you can continue to work on fulfilling your expectations but you should always remain aware of this truth that you will be able to do a 100% justification with your expectations and with the person you are expecting something from only when you learn to exercise your free will in accepting him or her and to exercise your free will in accepting the outcomes of your expectations from him or her, whatever they are, positive or negative, pleasant or not so pleasant, okay, let’s agree even if they are unpleasant. If you accept all with free will, without compulsion, without any leftover, unexplored choices, you will always be free. And only a free person can experience true bliss.
Please remember that your expectations are your expectations only. Their origin has nothing to do with that something or someone that you are expecting from. You are the source of your expectations but the way you handle your expectations can be of great consequence for the person, thing or situation you are expecting something from.
Just be aware of that.