Expectations and the end of shame
Expectations are natural and inevitable. If you expect to eventually be free of all expectations, that is itself an expectation, but an unrealistic one.
Expectations are natural and inevitable, and it is also naturally inevitable to focus attention on the subject of expectations. That focus on expectations can lead naturally and inevitably to a developing of an awareness and acceptance of how expectations work. A new developing of awareness is what you have available to you right now in this presentation, and the result that is possible now is a new expectation for you of the future- one you may have never expected or perhaps even considered before: an end to the personal experience of shame.
First, how do you expect things to work? Next, have things ever worked differently than you already expected? In other words, have you ever learned anything at all?
If you have ever learned anything, then you recognize that you do not begin with expectations. Expectations form over time from experience. Expectations can also change.
We eventually notice sequences of sensations, like patterns of cause and effect. For instance, we see a flash of lightning, then we wait as we expect to hear the rumbling crash of thunder, right?
When we expect something but then it does not arise, that can be confusing. In other words, expectations are the source of confusion. If there is no expectation, then how could anyone ever be confused that the expected effect did not arise?
I will review three kinds of confusion with you now. First is confusion about the present. Until there is a confusion about the present, there can be no confusion about the past or the future.
We notice the sensory experiences: the flash of lightning, then the crash of thunder. Again, moments later, there is lightning then thunder. Eventually, we notice the pattern and come to expect thunder to follow lightning. But what if we hear thunder without any prior flash of lightning? Or, what if we see lightning, but then several seconds go by and there is no thunder… then perhaps a quiet, muffled rumble that we can barely hear over the background noise around us?
When our expectations are violated, that experience is confusion. If the confusion is momentary, then we simply forget about it. We may not be interested in a particular instance of confusion.
However, if we were expecting to stay home from school because of a dangerous storm so we would not have to take a test that we expect to be disappointing, then we may be more interested in what is going on with the thunder and lightning. We wonder enough to explore the issue.
Is the storm over? Will school be cancelled or not?
Imagine that we are expecting for a test at school to be disappointing (which is worry) and then further we are expecting for school to be cancelled (which is hope– a possible relief to the worry). What if the storm is over and now suddenly school is actually not cancelled? Wouldn’t that be frustrating?!?!
I fearfully expect to be disappointed, and then I expect for a particular circumstance or condition to relieve the frightened disappointment, which is called hope, and then my hope is dissolved. That is so frustrating, right?
But how did disappointment ever arise? Can there be disappointment without a prior expectation?
Imagine that there is a flash of lightning. Then, I say to my little sister, “Hey, thunder is coming in just a moment. Listen!”
We listen. We listen more. We keep listening. Maybe lightning flashes again. We keep listening. My little sister says, “there was no thunder. You lied to me!”
So, when I expect something myself and then I tell other people about it, but it does not happen as I predicted, that can be disappointing. They may get angry at me for setting up an inaccurate expectation. I may have disappointed them and they may punish me with criticism and anger and blame.
The expectation led to the disappointment. If I am interested in the attention and respect and interest of my little sister, then I would want to avoid disappointing her, right? However, if I was not really concerned at all about whether she was disappointed, then I would not worry about her approval or respect, right? I might not even notice whether she was disappointed.
First, I experience an expectation (that after lightning will be thunder). Then, I am so interested in others that I create that same expectation for others, perhaps to impress them. Then, the expectation is violated. The expectation is not fulfilled. It is unfulfilled. The expectation is disappointed. The expectation or hope, when dissolved, can be disappointing.
However, I might also have an expectation of fear. If an expectation of fear dissolves, that can be relief.
So, there are expectations and then ways of relating to an expectation. For any expectation, I can have neutral curiosity, repulsive fear, or attractive hope. If I am only curious about something, then if the expectation dissolves, that may be confusing, but so what?
However, if I fear some expectation and it dissolves, that is relief. If I hope for some expectation and it dissolves, that is disappointing (sadness, sorrow, regret, etc).
Hope is secondary to fear. Hope is an expectation for the relief of a fear.
First is expectation. Next is relating to the expectation (like fearing it). Then, if it is unfulfilled, that is confusion. If I keep trying to produce a result (to cause an effect) and I keep failing, that is the arising of frustration.
expectation -> confusion -> frustration
But for there to be frustration, there must be fear about failure. Failure is not inherently frightening. When there is fear about failure (“worry”), then there can be desperation, which can lead to hope and then a frustration of that hope.
expectation -> confusion -> worry -> desperation -> hope -> frustration
I notice lightning and I tell my little sister that thunder is coming. I had the expectation of thunder and I share it with her.
Then, thunder does not come. I notice that I am confused. She is a bit confused, too. She asks me what is going on. She does not really care, but she is curious.
Again, lightning flashes. Again, I say “expect thunder any moment now.” There is still no thunder.
I begin to doubt my expectation. I wonder “what is wrong?” I worry about my entire worldview and all of the expectations I have come to rely on.
What if my expectations are actually just expectations? What if there is no such thing as a guarantee (except as a legal liability for penalties if an expectation is unfulfilled)? The guarantee does not mean the expectation will definitely be fulfilled, but that there is a legal promise of a particular liability for compensation whenever certain conditions arise.
So when the thunder does not come, I worry. That means I question or doubt my expectation. Maybe the expectation is wrong. If I do not care much about the specifics of the expectation, I would not worry. But if I really care about whether the thunder will follow the lightning, then I may worry about my reputation and my personal safety. Will my parents still love me if my sister tells them that I lied to her about the thunder?
Again, lightning strikes. By now, whenever lightning strikes, I am beginning to doubt my expectations about what will happen next. Sometimes I hear thunder and sometimes I do not. My sister says, “was that thunder? Did you hear that? I think it sounded a little bit like thunder, don’t you? But was really not as loud as thunder obviously should be, right?”
We have expectations, but more loosely. We are confused about them and worried that they may be inaccurate.
So, of course we get an advanced technological device that can measure thunder very precisely. We are a bit desperate about establishing whether our expectations are accurate or inaccurate, plus exactly how accurate. Let’s do some research and calculate what we find.
62% of the time, my sister and I detect thunder after lightning. About 50% of the time, the thunder is within 4 seconds of the lightning. Sometimes there are two flashes of lightning less than four seconds apart- and that of course is very confusing and frustrating, but we resolve this issue quite simply by agreeing to ignore any data that do not fit our simplest models of expectation.
What do I call that stage of disregarding experience that does not fit the expectation? I call that desperation (as in despair).
expectation -> confusion -> worry -> desperation -> hope -> frustration -> disappointment
Out of the worried confusion of desperate despair, then next most severe form of confusion is hope. My sister and I hope that by disregarding the confusing data, we can determine if the expectation is accurate or not, and we are of course committed to proving that we were right (or that our enemy competition was wrong), but that commitment to particular results over another is not bias in our case, because we are very rational about our desperation and panic and so on, in contrast to our enemies who are very biased by their commitment to proving that their expectations are not silly and childish and inaccurate and naive.
Only other people have naive commitments, right? Certainly we do not. That is why we are not really desperate or confused or worried. We are just optimists, damn it! Why can’t you see that, you freaking jerk?
Unfortunately, our optimism does not always protect us sufficiently from reality. Sometimes, no matter how many ways we desperately disregard our own experience, we cannot maintain our hopes and our hopeful expectations lead to frustration, at which time I naturally and inevitably blame my little sister for step 41 of the 73 steps we have taken together, justifying an excommunication for heresy. I am very disappointed in her- not in my expectations- but in her.
Or, maybe I skip resentment and antagonism and shaming her and just be with my shame and disappointment and dejection. Maybe I just reject my own prior expectation and withdraw it.
“I will never make the mistake of expecting anything ever again. Further, when I do expect something again, I will definitely not tell anyone about it- especially my sister!”
I am not a cynic. I am just a realist.
Here is my reality and you must believe it or else I will excommunicate you, liberate you from your false expectations by killing you, and then declare that your death proves the accuracy of my expectations- I mean of my reality. Ready? (I really do not care whether you are ready, but, just for your information, whatever happens from here on I am going to call “your consent.”)
Expectations are bad. Expectations are bad because confusion is bad. There should not ever be confusion. People should be able to expect living many decades without a single instance of confusion (or expectations). There is nothing more shameful than the experience of confusion (or expectation).
By the way, I have never been confused myself. All of the above stories about my little sister confusing me about thunder were largely fictional, especially because I do not have a little sister (to the best of my knowledge). If you were confused by them, that is simply an indication of the established fact that you are a bad person, perhaps the worst person ever.
You should be a perfectionist, but not to such an extent that it makes other people look bad. You should look slightly bad, like not so good that it makes me look bad but not so bad that it makes me look bad. In brief, do not make me look bad- ever!
It would be very bad for you to make me look bad. There is nothing worse than me looking bad. I should never look bad.
“That is called paranoia, as in a severe or desperate form of worrying. The expectation that someone should never look bad is paranoia, which is evidence of a pre-existing shame or guilt. I know that this is true because my little sister, who is a Mormon Catholic Jew, does not really exist,” said Santa Claus. The worst possible development is that history includes myths designed to promote particular expectations about the future. There should be no such thing as myths.
My version of history is the only version for which it is possible that there is any accuracy. My version has a monopoly on accuracy. In fact, if you want to know how accurate a particular version of history is, then you can just compare it to my version. Anything that does not fit the expectations established through my version of “accurate history” must be a myth.
If you do not believe me, then just wait and see if Santa Claus excommunicates my imaginary little sister for challenging my expectations about reality. I guarantee that she is about to be excommunicated and shunned and disbarred and indefinitely imprisoned in a mental institution for her crimes of questioning the Authorized King James Version of the Inquisition. It is just as naturally inevitable as the fact that whenever there is lightning then what always happens next? Not just thunder, little sister, but sincere expectations of thunder!
- lightning before thunder (awakeningsense.typepad.com)
- Amazing and Beautiful Lightning Photography (dranilj1.wordpress.com)
- Day 91: Always Expect the Worst, Like that you won’t get Disappointed (ylaww.blogspot.com)
- After the Hurricane (terrysthoughtsandthreads.wordpress.com)
- The Scariest Thing of All – Part 2 (noregretsparenting.org)
- Judge Ye Not (airheadblog.wordpress.com)
- Why We’re Ashamed of Ourselves (tinagilbertson.wordpress.com)
- One emotion at a time – A practical philosophy for conquering fear (theuncommonlife.com)
- On Slut-Shaming, Angrily (katiemarybarry.com)
- Affective Dimensions of Intergroup Humiliation (plosone.org)