As a therapist, I have found myself on many occasions discussing some of the reasons why clients experience problematic symptoms of depression, anxiety, and anger. Through those many discussions, it has become clear to me that such symptoms occur when there is a conflict in some area of our lives, and those conflicts occur when our expectations don’t meet up with reality. This kind of interference may be related to any area of wellness (such as emotional, mental, physical, spiritual, etc.).
Typically, it isn’t possible to change the reality of the conflict (we can’t make other people do what we think they should do, and we can’t make the world work how we think it ought to work). Acknowledging the fact that in reality, things don’t happen like we think they should can help us adjust our expectations and alleviate some of the conflict.
If we tell ourselves people should always be loving and kind, we will likely find ourselves indignant when we encounter situations in which people are not loving and kind. The reality is that we can’t make everyone be loving and kind. Though it would be wonderful, all people are not loving and kind. It would be preferable, but it is not realistic to expect such a thing to happen. The truth is, we live in a fallible world, surrounded by fallible people…like us.
With that all said, I’d like to encourage you to examine the expectations in your relationships. What do you expect of your loved ones? Do you expect your spouse to respond to difficult situations in the same manner you do? Do you expect your children to respond like miniature adults? Are your expectations realistic or idealistic?
It’s easy to get stuck on an idea of how we think things should be. Take, for example, fashion magazines. We’ve been so inundated by the images of flawless beauties that we strive to do what we can to attain the same characteristics. We’re pressured to diet, tan, dye, bleach, wax, paint, and cover. The reality is that the models are typically made up and photo-edited. It’s an illusion we’ve been bamboozled into perceiving as reality. In marriage, a husband may expect his wife to run the household like his mother did, or a wife may expect her husband to respond like the character in her favorite chick flick.
New International Version (NIV)
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
When you catch yourself expecting the unrealistic, challenge it with what you know to be true. “He should have known better!” Sometimes we just don’t know. “She should have had that done already.” She had a lot of things going on that required her attention. “I have to have it all finished tonight.” 20 years from now, your To-Do list for today isn’t going to matter- prioritize. “The kids should never misbehave.” Kids will test their boundaries, it’s how they learn.
Take time to just observe your families. Make an effort to examine your expectations of them. When you feel anxious, depressed, or angry, ask yourself if your expectations are realistic or if you need to make an adjustment. Satan is the father of lies, and will make any effort possible to distract you from what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy. Challenge the lies and focus on what you know to be true. Your loved ones will thank you!