Expectations: Friend or Foe?

Expectation is defined by Dictionary .com as “the act or state of looking forward or anticipating, a prospect of future good”.  Holidays bring with them an air of heightened expectancy and anyone who lives within the sight or sound of media will be influenced by all manner of expectation for the holidays.  Past experiences that have been either happy or hard in some way also influence expectations as does our ideas and beliefs about the future. Expectation sets our internal dial, so to speak, for the way we will anticipate and prepare for an upcoming event.

That internal dial often brings with it a set of “scripts” that also influence what we expect and anticipate will occur during a gathering of any occasion, although for this particular writing we are thinking of the holiday season. Internal scripts are short sentences lasting only a moment that describe a belief about ourselves such as “they think I’m _____” or “I won’t be able to _____” or “I’m just too ____”.  These thoughts about ourselves are usually negative that when strung together result in influencing us much more than we realize.  In other words, the scripts become an act (as in a play) that generally does not end well for us.

It is helpful when anticipating any upcoming event, to consider specifically what we do expect to occur at this event. Once we identify these, we can then consider which are based on the past but not really the present, which ones are false and what parts have truth in them. This is data that we collect for ourselves that help us to avoid reacting to what can feel like an impending emotional disaster in order to respond in ways that will help the event be the most enjoyable. For example, if at a gathering great aunt Flo should choose to “stir the pot” by commenting on your new hairstyle, or reminding the family of that unfortunate event from your teens, thinking about the data we have gathered can be very helpful so that we don’t have to “take the bait”.  When we refuse to allow the old scripts to play louder than the current Christmas carol, we stay present and focused on the important things such as what this season means to you and all of the many things there are to be grateful for.

Best wishes to you and yours as we all begin to navigate these holidays; expectations are good things to have and anticipation is one of the most fun emotional experiences!  So, consider what is realistic, look for those old scripts so they can’t bother you any longer then move toward truly enjoying this holiday.

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