Great Expectations … Deep Disappointments

“I don’t have expectations. Expectations in your life just lead to giant disappointments.” – Michael Landon

“I give and give, even when I get nothing back – and that sets me up for disappointment.” – Angie Stone

The other day, I said something to the SO and then set about waiting. Eventually, I got a reply but it wasn’t what I was looking for. I started to get upset and then caught it. I had the following conversation with myself:

Why am I getting upset?

Because SO didn’t respond the way that I wanted.

But didn’t I say that in order for it be a gift?

Well, yes.

But if I’m disappointed, then I was expecting something specific which I didn’t get. If I said this thing in part to be nice, and in part to be praised in return for saying such a nice thing, then … it’s not really a gift at all. Especially if I then set about to punish my SO for ‘failing’ to provide the correct response.

Giving in order to get. As soon as I realized the true source of my upset, that got me to thinking about expectations in general. I’ve learned that every single time I feel in any way disappointed, it’s because some expectation was not met. Now there are plenty of times where those expectations are explicitly stated and known.

All too often, they aren’t. Learning that this sense of disappointment can be my guidepost to finding these expectations has been useful.

Giving in order to get. This was a bit of a doozy to realize I was doing. I may be on the Path of the Individual, but that in no way de facto means that I’m a selfish prick. Well, I am, but that’s not because of this path. That’s a separate thing entirely. Back to giving to get.

Everyone talks about ‘unconditional giving’ and how great that is. And by everyone, who do I mean? Well, in my personal experience it seems more like it’s an ideal to be strived toward than something which people actually regularly do. The people in my experience that I’m referring to are my parents, my friends and family, even some of the spiritual groups.

Until this conversation with myself, I had always considered myself to be somewhat of an unconditional giver. But after realizing the above, nope. Not at all. There are times when I do though usually it’s in a situation which has no personal impact. But with people who share my life, I am usually motivated by base desires. I want them to recognize and acknowledge that I have given something. I want the praise or appreciation. Hell, I want the attention in return, if even for a few moments.

I was sharing this with the SO and we got to talking about expectations and eventually self-recognition. I admitted out loud that I was afraid I’d recognize what a horrible person that I am. This lead into a discussion on two path — Individual, and Ideal.

The Path of the Ideal is the path most folks are on. This is the path in which some ideal form of being is embraced and continual being reached for. Since it’s an ideal, it can never really be achieved, but that’s not the point. The point is that people keep trying. Christianity, in face most religions, fall into this category. Right Behavior and Right Belief are defined, accepted by the adherents, and then these become the foundations which guide actions and choices. These are usually the socially acceptable modes of being, with expectations of what is and is not permissible. Because of this, there is a whole group willing to invite fellow adherents into the fold, where they are offered support as well censure where necessary. There is no real need here to delve too deeply into selfhood, unless something happens which the Ideal cannot address. Essentially, when life gets too gritty and dirty and the Ideal offers no satisfying coping mechanisms.

The Path of the Individual is different. There is no proscribed ideal to be looked up to and emulated. There is no ‘right’ path laid out before seeking feet. It’s a journey into the darkest aspects of self. On this path, yes, I will definitely discover that I’m a horrible person, and I’ll have to own all of that about myself. There is no Ideal ready to step in and take the burden of this awfulness away from me. Nope, it’s all mine, and that means it’s all mine to carry, own and manage. Now, I could get lost in the “horrible person” woe is me side of the spectrum. Many do. But my goal is to work through this stage, and come out the other side. Where I know my strengths and weaknesses in intimate detail. I know myself so well and OWN IT so thoroughly that I have no problem being honest about myself.

Right now, that’s not the case. I’ve been trying to blend the Individual and Ideal paths, and do them both at the same time. So I’ve been trying to unmake myself while also striving to adherent to external ideals, chocked full of expectations and even more disappointments. Yeah. That’s not working so well.

Pick a path, and walk it.

Hall of Mirrors

Emotional Acceptance Precedes Self-Awarness

“It’s surprising how many persons go through life without ever recognizing that their feelings toward other people are largely determined by their feelings toward themselves, and if you’re not comfortable within yourself, you can’t be comfortable with others.” – Sydney J. Harris

One of the fellows whose work I really like believes that emotions are the foundation upon which all of the human experience is built. That reason and intellect are layers on top of these emotions. He advocates a series of exercises and practices designed to get me to know my emotions, to make them my allies, to listen to them.

There’s a quote I love about dreams versus nightmares. Dreams are the whispers, and nightmares are the screaming. “If you listen to the whispers, you won’t have to hear the screaming.” Since dreams are pretty much entirely powered by the emotional mind, I’m starting to take this quote and apply it to my emotional self too. If I listen to the softest of emotional stirrings, I won’t have to ride the maelstrom. At least, that’s the hope.

The problem for me, which I had no idea was a problem until today, is that I’m so in my ‘head’ that I pretty much have no damn clue what’s going on in my ‘heart’. The two are so not on speaking terms! Ask me how I feel about something, and I’ll tell you what I think about it. That’s the same answer, right? Nope. Apparently not. When I feel very strong emotions, they get blocked in my throat so much so that I can feel the physical pressure and start to choke. That’s some major blockage there and while I somewhat recognized it was a problem, I didn’t quite have the actual problem understood.

Today, I’m talking with my significant other and they are explaining something to me. I’m thinking “yes, I understand. 95% versus 5%” and when I attempted to work with this, they got upset. Rather than ask my usual “what should I have said which would make you happy” I instead said something akin to “how do I need to understand this so I can express it better.” At that point, SO went into the emotions of giving and providing and keeping only a small portion for themselves and their relationship with those concepts. I’m staring at SO like a second head is sprouting as I watch. In that moment, it hit me. I’m an utter idiot about the emotions that drive people … *holds up the Mirror and I realize ‘people’ is ‘me’* I’m an utter idiot about the emotions that drive me.

This IS about a seeker’s journey to self, after all. It’s all about me. ME. I (not so) jokingly say that if the universe is infinite (don’t get pedantic on that), then it is perspective which provides a center point. That means that I AM the center of my universe! Of course, you’re the center of yours and she’s the center of hers, etc.

Back to my point about emotional awareness. Today illustrated that not only am I a bit of an idiot on the emotional awareness front, but that without this awareness, I have no idea who I am. For some reason, “know thyself” only ever really applied to the Mind. It literally never crossed my mind that it might encompass more; that I might have to get my hands dirty by dipping into the throbbing mass that is the heart.

Yet dip … heck, dive into it is exactly what I need to do. The more I think on this, the more it becomes apparent why I’ve had so much difficulty working in the Hall of Mirrors. There’s a whole side of me that I haven’t owned yet. Until that happens, I’m still being startled by distorted reflections everywhere I turn and it’s still awfully hard to tell what’s real and what’s not.


Hall of Mirrors

Hall of Mirrors: Denial vs Responsibility

“Don’t Take Anything Personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.” — Miguel Angel Ruiz

In the last post, I talked about living an inauthentic life. While there are a great many ways in which this can be done, what I learned last year is that for me I basically denied who I am in favor of an idea of who I should be. This person I should be has all the following characteristics and these are acceptable, so says the people I love and want to be accepted by. Anything not fitting those parameters is denied.

Within the realm of psychology, this has been dubbed projection. I began working with this idea a few years ago, but it really picked up personal impact about a year ago. Foolishly, I thought I had “conquered” this problem and had moved on. *laughs at self* Not quite.

I call the world of projection a Hall of Mirrors. Everyone, and I do mean EVERYONE, lives in a Hall of Mirrors, but most of us have no idea. I certainly did not, and I continue to forget and have to be reminded. Then I started to articulate the concept, and began coming up with exercises and practices that I could do to work with these. One of the people I read who helped with this was Debbie Ford, specifically I read the book “Dark Side of the Light Chasers” but pretty much she deals largely with owning our own darkness … which is to say owning our projections.

In the quote, what I find fascinating is that the speaker makes it sound like projections are other people’s problems that he has to deal with seemingly without recognizing that the reverse is true too.

Since my goal is to fully claim my own individuality, and the foundation of that is knowing my own mind, that means I have to be able to see “me” clearly. That was my original thinking, anyway. Yesterday I’m thinking about projection and thinking about taking responsibility for ourselves. It suddenly hit me that projections are nothing more than disowning the responsibility for aspects of myself that I don’t like or want or think I deserve. I disowned all my power/anger/jealousy/bitterness/love, because to own it means what I choose to do with it is on me.

What is the point of walking into the Hall of Mirrors? Learning how to see myself means I can start to see other people honestly as well. I can listen to myself speak of others, or others speak of me, and hear/feel what is honest and what is a projection which has nothing to do with me. As the quote says, “nothing others do is because of me”. This also means that I have to be aware that “nothing I do is because of someone else.” If someone says something and I get mad or get hurt, I now have to stop and ask myself “why am I responding this way?”

Here’s an example. A fellow at my work does something that drives me up the wall. I HATE it. It was so bad that when he simply walked into the room, I had to leave. When I finally had the presence of mind to stop and ask myself “why am I doing this, because this is about me, not him” that’s when I began to replay my list of complaints about him. Chief among them: he thinks he’s more important than me. That realization brought me up short, because I definitely was not aware that I thought this about myself. It was a hidden aspect, revealed by being willing to look into the Hall of Mirrors and see the reflections of me that are everywhere.

The further I go on this journey, the more I’m realizing that the Path of the Individual is a path of personal responsibility in all things. I am responsible for the power that I deny or embrace. I am responsible for every action taken in every moment of my life. Knowing this, feeling this, suddenly makes a lot of sense as to why so few seem to walk it fully. That level of awareness, which I’m not at yet, will take a lot of guts to carry, will ask a lot of courage from me. It means that I no longer get to sleep through life, or deny that I have some aspect of human nature which I have been informed by Someone is unacceptable.

Interestingly, I can increasingly often sit and impartially observe someone else blunder into their own projections. While some portion of me points and laughs, the larger portion feels sympathy for the person so lost. I’ve been there, and still am on most days. The only way I can get out is to accept responsibility for the whole of me, and that means first honestly seeing what’s there.

And that’s another step on my journey on the Path of the Individual.

Personal Growth, Random Musings, Spirituality

A Seeker’s Journey to Self

The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first. – Jim Morrison

It doesn’t matter what my goals are, or what has happened to me in life, or what motivates me, or how religious I am. Those are all manifestations of something – what matters is whether that manifestation is a true outpouring of what lies beneath, rather than a mask accepted from others.

I’ve been living an inauthentic life, and it’s tearing me apart. While I’ve always consistently pursued a “know thyself” philosophy, it stayed at the head level – not sinking down into the heart. At least until recently!

That’s what this blog is about – a journey of discovery, seeking the true core of the individual self, and learning to hold this truth even in the face of hardship.

My hope is that, at some point, the doorway between head understanding and heart understanding will open up for another reader. Even just one. Knowing that not only is ok for me be the person I was born to be, but that it’s imperative. As Robert Ohotto once quipped in his radio show, out of all the people waiting to be born I was chosen because the world needs what I bring to the table … and only I can bring it.

So join me, and bring it!