Expectations December 16, 2014

Our expectations have a lot to do with how we will experience family gatherings for special occasions such as the holidays, weddings, or birthdays. We’ve had a lot of practice building up those expectations over time with our loved, and sometimes frustrating, ones. We have to remember that we are not the same people we were as we learned what to expect from them. The history is rich with examples as justification and so is the choice to release or reframe some of the not so helpful expectations. Releasing or reframing current negative expectations is a proactive act of self-care and acceptance of what’s within one’s control. And if you haven’t figured out by now, it’s not someone else’s behaviors that are within your control.

Expecting each family member to play their role, whatever the role, and not get annoyed or frustrated about it is the idea. Family members may question you about your life and what’s going on in it. They may have unsolicited advice or constructive criticism for you. They may not agree with your choices and you may not agree with theirs. Releasing or reframing your expectations can change how you experience your family. For instance, you may recognize that they are attempting to guide you by their projected experience, striving to be of some kind of help in the best way they know how. Or that they miss you and want to feel connected to you again. Maybe it’s the boredom of sitting around and talking about the weather or other superficialities that annoys you. Here again, noting that you can play a different role and begin asking questions about their life and history such as what they are most proud of or a favorite childhood memory. Be creative. Changing our expectations before gatherings can support more bonding behaviors and enjoyment.

It might be more challenging to change or reframe expectations if you are still holding on to resentments. Some might say, “But I can’t accept what was done to me by my family member” or “I do not know how to reframe or change my expectations when I am still angry”. In this case, that is unfinished business talking irrespective of what it was that was done to you. Not to minimize the horrifically awful things that happen to people but continuing to punish yourself for the deeds of others is what makes the deed that much more horrifying in your heart and mind. The fact is, it happened, and you are living with that whether you hold on to the pain or work through it. Learning how to forgive others, not necessarily because they deserve it but because you deserve peace is how to end the horror, anger, frustration, or wrong that was committed. If you cannot accept, forgive, and change your expectations but want to— there is help out there.

Maybe it is time to make a choice to take care of yourself once and for all. Let this year’s family gatherings be a time of self-reflection for processing toward your evolution. Make one small change in your expectations and approach with your family this year and watch what happens. It won’t be that they change necessarily, it will be you that changes. A quote from Wayne Dyer that illustrates the point beautifully is, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”.

Happy Family Gatherings to you and yours!!

Aaron Foster

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