Unmet expectations; unfair perceptions

In my work as a Naturopath, I see many different dysfunctions.  As often as not, the root of the dysfunction is emotional.  It is interesting that many times the root of illness can be traced back to ‘perception,’ or ‘expectation.’
‘Perception’ is our view of things.   Our view of things is not necessarily correct, as we tend to skew what we see or hear to our unique set of filters.  For example, if I have had a good life, and have not been victimized, or slighted, then I will tend to view others’ actions with grace, and tend to give them the benefit of the doubt, as I do not expect harsh or unfair treatment. However, if my life has been harsh, if I have been the victim of crime, or even mal intent by another individual, I will tend to view everything from a victim mentality, and therefore come to the conclusion that most interactions are not for my benefits.   These perceptions have nothing to do with what really happens in any given instance.  However, they are the reality for the one doing the perceiving.

Coupled with this, is what we ‘expect’ to happen.  If I have rehearsed a certain scenario in my head, and have mentally settled on parameters for a successful engagement, should that meeting not perform to my expectations, I will deem that meeting a failure.  Conversely, if I have the meeting and the outcome is perceived to be better than my expectation, then I will consider that meeting a success.

What I am finding, increasingly in my practice, and in my own circle of friends is that expectation is the key component in defining perception.   What I am finding is that we are slow in communicating our expectation, but we are quick to communicate our perception of events.  When this happens, and our perception is less than ideal, if we trace the series of events back to our expectations, we may find the reason for our disappointment.

When we are parents of young children, we tell them, “I expect you to chew with your mouth closed,’ for example.  Yet, when those children become young people, we do not necessarily tell them what we expect.  If I do not know what is expected of me, then I will surely disappoint.

As adults, do we tell our spouses what we expect?  We do in our wedding vows, and we each give the obligatory ‘I do.’  However, what about those instances which are not covered by the vows?  For example, say one partner travels a great deal.  The stay at home spouse ‘expects’ that the traveling spouse will check in at least three times daily.  However, the traveling spouse is doing business out-of-town, and does not make time for the trinity of check-ins per day. The spouse at home will perceive that the out-of-town spouse does not care, out of sight; out of mind, which will make for a negative impact on the relationship.   If the partners would have discussed expectations prior to the trip, the perception of the union might be significantly better, as expectations would have been met.   In the workplace, do we communicate our expectations to our co-workers?

Unrealized expectations lead to poor perceptions.  Poor perceptions lead to negative feelings.  Negative feelings lead to physical stress and dysfunction.  There is a scripture which says 12 For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.  2 Cor 10:11

Normally Christians use this scripture in a way that is akin to “we don’t keep up with the Jones’.”  We don’t boast about what we have; we don’t compare our abilities/stuff with others.  That is a good way of looking at scripture.  However, what if we applied this scripture to our expectation/perceptions?    What if we decided not judge others according to our expectation?  What if we were able to take off the skewed filters, and just had a ‘real’ perception?   How would that look?  Would we be disappointed?   Would we feel slighted?  If we assume that others know our expectations, and we judge them accordingly, we are unwise.

Until next time,

Dr. Polly