We all have some expectations. We imagine that certain things go in a certain way, that certain people behave in a certain way…even before the situations materialize we already have in mind a precise picture of how they will go.
Often this way of anticipating events is not wanted and is not fully aware but responds to unconscious needs. Predicting the development of a situation helps us to feel more relaxed, to counteract the fear of the unknown and to face the surprise effect that could make us feel unprepared.
But expectations also have another power, which we often ignore but which is very powerful, almost magical: they have the power to direct the course of events so that what we have hypothesized (for better or for worse) really ends up being realized.
Let’s take a few examples.
Are we perfectionists? Everything that deviates from our expectations will be seen as an offense and will lead us to look for “guilty” in those we hold responsible for some lack. This will make us have a hostile attitude towards this person who will reciprocate in the same way. A chain effect will be produced that will convince us of the real ill-will of the others towards us.
Are we worried that we will not be liked by others? The fear of being able to be judged in a negative way will block us by making us taciturn and insecure and will deter others from approaching, with the result of confirming our initial fear of being rejected.
Are we extremely jealous? We will tend to control beyond all logic our partner who, in order to avoid being misunderstood and to give rise to unnecessary discussions, will tend not to talk to us about everything he thinks can trigger our irrational jealousy. Inevitably, when any of these omissions should come to our ears, we will be sure to have confirmation that something shady and unmentionable is really happening! From here new quarrels, bad moods and perhaps even the questioning of a relationship that is gradually becoming increasingly difficult.
We can also see how the simple way of asking a question influences the answers, this is because our mind tends to seek confirmation rather than refutation. An example is how to the question “Are you dissatisfied with your social relations?” We will tend more often to answer yes, highlighting the unsatisfactory aspects of our relationships with others. On the other hand, with the question “Are you satisfied with your social relations?” We will tend to answer “yes” again, this time focusing on what satisfies us instead.
We find many examples of this kind, many situations that we can find in everyday life and that surely we all found ourselves living, in a book titled “The self-fulfilling prophecy” (“La profezia che si autorealizza”, in the original Italian title)
The author, Davide Lo Presti, is not only a highly trained psychologist but also an extremely helpful person and he immediately offered to answer some questions:
– Your book explains the almost magical power of expectations that influences events to the point of favoring what we have hypothesized is realized. How can we expose our wrong expectations to get rid of them?
In the book I propose different techniques: the apparently simpler one is the “as if” technique, which consists in thinking and behaving, “as if” what we fear was not really so scary. So to ask ourselves: how would I behave if I were not afraid of not passing the job interview? How would I prepare myself? And on the day of the interview, in what mood would I get up in the morning? And in arriving at the office, how would I address the secretary and then the person who would evaluate me? Would I be smiling?? This creates an alternative scenario, working on a level of fantasy in which the person feels safer.
– Our expectations do not always make us think of the worst, sometimes they can be a stimulus to achieve achievable goals, other times they can be too high and let us pursue unattainable goals. What can help us understand if an expectation is realistic or not?
It is a topic on which I have reflected a lot and my conclusions are these: try, try, try. Man has shown, over the centuries, to realize the impossible over and over again: from Edison’s light bulb to space travel. So in this regard, I am very possibilist, indeed, I see a challenge in the impossible.
However, an indication that I can give is this: if someone else has achieved what you dream of achieving, then you too can do it. So this is a realistic, achievable expectation. This does not mean that it is simple, we must roll up our sleeves and not give up, because the defeat is just around the corner when we give up and throw in the towel. Every challenge requires great commitment. Even those that may seem small personal goals require a great deal of perseverance. But if we are willing to work every day, there is a good chance of succeeding.
If, on the other hand, nobody has realized what we have in mind … then good luck!
However, I would not like to give the idea that all expectations are achievable. There are goals that may require effort that we are not willing to give or things that are technically impossible.
Finally, I want to clarify that this push to test oneself and challenge one’s convictions to achieve results in line with our expectations comes from my clinical practice, where too often I see people who stop in front of imaginary limits and end up making impossible what instead it is possible.
– Is it possible to recognize those situations in which our judgment is distorted by more or less unconscious conditioning of our judgment?
We must consider all our knowledge as cultural learning. Since we are born and for the rest of our lives, we have shared knowledge and meanings that we overlap with physical reality. So all our judgments are cultural judgments. So to answer your question: in my opinion, every situation is affected by our unconscious conditioning (expectations and convictions). The point is how to use this consciously and constructively. It’s good to learn how to build the reality we want, questioning those dysfunctional beliefs and expectations in favor of something better
About the Author
Annalisa Balestrieri – I obtained a master’s degree in Modern Literature with a psycho-pedagogical specialization at the State University of Milan (with a thesis discussion in “Maturity and immaturity in the experience of young adults”, subsequently published). I am interested in theoretical psychology, I published a book: “L’amore (I’m)perfetto” (Edizioni Psiconline), which deals with emotional dependencies, relationship with idols and reference models. I collaborate with trade magazines with the aim of promoting knowledge of the subject even among non-experts.
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