Want to know what to do when people don’t do what you want them to do? Last week we looked at our disappointment when things don’t go our way. Your homework was to notice how you react to your own unmet expectations. As promised, I will give you the next step. I would love to hear what you discovered! I imagine some of you telling me things like, “I noticed how angry I got every time my husband came home from work and gave me one word answers to my questions.” Or maybe you might tell me, “I felt worthless when my proposal got rejected.”
To help you figure out what to do with your own unmet expectation, I’m going to use the above examples. First, we have to understand what the expectation was. You can usually tell by looking at what you got most upset about. In the case of the wife whose husband gave her one word answers, her expectation was that her husband would talk to her, give her information about his day or how he was feeling or whatever it was she was asking him. If we go deeper, it may be that she has an expectation that he will communicate with her. Let’s say, that’s it. Is there anything wrong with wanting a partner to communicate with you? No! That’s a very healthy and normal part of a relationship. The expectation is valid.
In this example, the woman will need to process that for herself. “It’s valid for me to want to have a conversation with my husband; for us to communicate with each other and for me to feel angry that he isn’t talking to me.” I would tell her to notice her anger. To be aware of what it feels like. To essentially honor the part of her that wants a good relationship with her husband. Next, she will take a deep breath and as she slowly breathes out remind herself that she cannot control her husband. She cannot make him talk to her and to let go of her attachment to his actions.
When we go through this sequence, we recognize what the problem is and the emotions tied to it. We can see we are reacting to something out of our control. Once we acknowledge and validate our own experience and the emotions attached to it, it’s much easier to do the last part which is letting go of the desire to control. Am I recommending letting go of the desire to communicate with one’s husband? No! I’m recommending letting go of the attachment to him actually doing it.
I can hear some objections. “You mean, I’m supposed to be ok with this, and just let him off the hook? Live in a marriage with little or no communication?” I’m not saying that. I’m encouraging you to let go of the desire to control. Next week, I’ll give some examples of how to deal with this particular situation.
For the next scenario, let’s pretend it’s you. You first identify the unmet expectation, which is your proposal being accepted. When it wasn’t you felt worthless. Some element of your identity is wrapped up in your acceptance, or the acceptance of what you do. Worthless is an intense description, as though nothing about you has any value now. First look at the supporting evidence for “I’m worthless.” No one is worthless. If you are breathing, you have worth! I would not encourage someone to validate the emotion of worthlessness because it’s not true, and quite honestly, if we’re getting technical, worthless isn’t really an emotion. So let’s look at some emotions you might be feeling: discouraged, hurt, sad, disappointed. We’ll pick discouraged. Does it make sense to feel discouraged when something you’ve worked on gets rejected? Yes! It does, so let yourself feel that. Take a deep breath and when you exhale, release your sense of worthiness being attached to the acceptance of your work. You can’t make people like what you do, no matter how hard you work.
I can hear the objections on this one. “So I don’t have to work hard because my worth isn’t attached to how well I do?” That is far to complicated for this post so I will follow-up on this topic, too! 🙂