Expectations: Your Emotional Dial Controllers

3 July 2023 | General

What are you expecting from this blog? Perhaps, to be entertained, educated, or inspired? Or are you keeping your expectations low (after all you’ve been disappointed by blogs before)? Either way, these expectations will influence your experience it. That’s because your expectations control your emotional dial; exceed them and we feel euphoric; meet them we feel content (or perhaps apathetic); fall short and we’re frustrated or disappointed. Sounds like it would be good to get a handle on this dial, doesn’t it? That’s why, this month we look at the role your expectations play in your emotional reactions and how managing them can keep you out of the Dreaded Drama Triangle.

So, what exactly are they? Simply put, an expectation is what you think or believe should or will happen. You have expectations about everything. They are your emotional regulators, helping to meet your need for predictability and hope. Many work away silently in the background; especially your day to day, business-as-usual expectations. While others you will be more aware of such as events or situations in the future you are hopeful for. You probably have some expectations about your next holiday or five-year plan. For as long as your expectations are met your emotional dial will remain in the neutral position, perhaps shifting slightly one way or the other. It’s not until these expectations are unmet or exceeded that the emotional dial swings dramatically one way or the other.

Now let’s look at relationships. The Drama Triangle feeds on unmet expectations in relationships. When your emotional dial gets turned down, either your Victim or Persecutor will be ready to spring into action. If it’s your Victim, you will berate yourself for not being good enough. You failed to meet your own expectation. If it’s your Persecutor the blame will be directed at someone else who let you down (a victim). And of cause to complete the triangle, every victim needs a Rescuer who will inevitably fail to meet your expectations of being saved. So, the answer is simple, if you want a drama free life, meet your own and everyone else’s expectations. I think it’s obvious, I’m being facetious. This is an unrealistic expectation. Life is unpredictable and at times disappointing. You’ll make mistakes, so will everyone else.

The good news is you can take steps to manage your expectations better. The first step is to identify them. As discussed, so many of our expectations sit outside of our awareness. The more you understand what they are, the better chance we have of meeting them. It’s probably easiest at this stage to think about the last time you were angry or disappointed. Was it your expectation or someone else’s that wasn’t met (or both)? Can you identify what the specific expectation was? Were you aware of this expectation before the emotional trigger? On the flip side, think about a future event or situation you know you are harbouring hope for (e.g., holidays or celebration). Identify exactly what you are expecting from this event.

Once identified the next crucial steps are to communicate and reality check them. The reality check is not a one off. You should ideally ask yourself if what you are expecting is reasonable and achievable before you communicate it? Then you need to communicate it to the people involved. Remember, when communicating an expectation, the golden rule is to communicate what you do want, not what you don’t want. For example, “I expect you to show up on time” not “I don’t want you to be late”. The person you are communicating to needs to do a reality check of their own. If they don’t think they can meet that expectation you may need to negotiate (or find someone who can).

The final step is review. Your expectations will change over time. You’ll usually know it’s time to review an expectation after an emotional trigger. Perhaps, what you thought was a reasonable expectation isn’t sustainable or your situation has changed, and your needs are different. Our expectations shift all the time, and we forget to communicate the update. We usually assume others will magically just know. So next time you experience conflict, discuss the issue in relation to expectations. Identify them, check if they are realistic and have any changed or become redundant. You might be very surprised by how many unspoken expectations sit between you.

I hope I’ve met your expectations. Either way, communicate it. Let me know what you enjoyed, learnt or would like me to do differently. If you would like some further help getting a handle on your emotional dial, get in touch michelle@bluewrentherapy.com.au or book an appointment. I’d love to explore your expectations with you further.

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