“The culprit that toys with our emotions”

Since I can remember, I have always had expectations; and I’m sure you do too. It is an integral part of our self, and perhaps what spurs some, if not all of our actions as a human being whose existence is only meaningful through interaction. Even if we were extreme introverts devoid of the desire for external interaction with the outside world, we will never be able to escape the clutches of “expectations” and its proliferations. From the moment we open our eyes, we start our endless flurry of expectations. Incarcerated by its sheer reach. Whether of ourselves or of others and every other facet of our lives that we come in contact with, we “expect” something. It seems like one of those words in the English vocabulary that is there to describe our psychological inner beings. Defining our existence. I believe that our expectations thus, are the sums of our life experiences that are intrinsically chiseled into how and who we are today.

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The word “Expectation” is perhaps one of the most fundamental English words known to describe our feelings and sensations. But at the same time being one of, maybe even arguably the most insidious of our descriptive mind. So how is this word a necessity? Well, its difficult not to acknowledge that it gives meaning and makes our emotional ups and downs somewhat tangible to us. There is hardly anything we do, of a cause and effect nature, which is not accompanied by expectations. It seems true that expectations are what drive our thoughts and eventually our actions.

Writing this, I would first expect someone to read it, and I would expect certain views to be formulated in your mind. And the moment you decided to click and open this link, you had already inadvertently set about your own expectations, whether or not you’re conscious of what they are. You see…. without expectations, you would not have opted to click open and read this post. And even now, expectations are raging through you and me. At this very moment, I would expect you to be making a decision on whether to continue reading or not and you would be making that decision based on whether this article is or is not what you “expected”. You and me, we are all reactors to expectations. And this is why expectations can sometimes seem insidious.

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Set your expectations too high and you may end up having to deal with disappointments. Set them too low and you might not ever have started a venture, whether it be a business or personal one. But being an integral part of the human psychology and our decision-making process, there will always be expectations. Without which, why would you even have started anything in the first place?

Did you not choose a job because you expected that it would pay more than the last or the others? Or perhaps make you happier?

Or that you were simply looking forward to the unexpected?

Did you not go for an interview because you expected that you stood a chance? Or to validate yourself that you did not stand a chance?

Or go on a blind date not knowing what “to expect”? Did you not switch the shower on expecting clear water to come running down on you?…

You get where I’m going…. So when and how does something this integral [part of our psychology] also be something, that if gone unchecked, slowly erodes at our sanity and wellness? And what puts it in check? Should it always get checked and when does it go unchecked? This is where emotions come into the picture. Emotions, it seem, are the bedrock that determines our degree of expectations. Or do we have it wrong? Can it be that it is actually the other way around…..?

What causes emotions? What makes our heart flutter, our head spin, our solar plexus feel weak or implode, our face turn red, or our body get hot? Is it just our body’s biochemical reactions to the signals firing between our neurons? Is it really just chemistry? And if so, what started this cascade of reactions? What was the cause of these reactions? What is the “big bang” that gives us feelings? What is the catalyst that evolves admiration into adoration? When we feel love, what exactly is it that we are feeling? How do we know that it is love that we are feeling and not hate or anger? How is it measured? Most probably, this is determined by how we feel. What our body feels internally. Is it butterflies in my stomach or a wrenching feeling in my gut? And what determines this state of biochemical reactions? Was it the tone used by whoever that said something to us? Was it the words used? Was it the actions of the person or the reciprocation of a device’s functions?

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When we approach someone we admire to say hello, we more or less have already determined our expectations based on various assumptions. Given, sometimes things do not “go as expected” but still, we would already have determined an expectation or a series of expectations. If we view ourselves as socially acceptable people or socially categorised as successful and good looking, we might expect a good outcome from walking over and saying hi. But on the other side of this simple spectrum, if we feel that we are socially inadequate or insecure, we would have expected a much different outcome and not make the first move altogether. Movie previews give us glimpses of the correct scenes and send our expectations through the roof, only to sometimes slam our bodies hard, back into the ground with a crappy storyline. When we purchase a new device, we would have already drawn our expectations around its functions and capability to cope with our army of apps that we already plan to download, expecting the new phone to be “up to task”. When it doesn’t quite work to our expectations, frustration sets in; and if we fail to resolve it and cannot find good support to resolve our issues with that device, frustration turns into anger. When someone walks into us rendering us off balance, we expect an apology only to sometimes receive a barrage of abusive aural effects which in turn pushes us to act in a way that would otherwise be completely anomalous. What did he “expect”?

When we come home after a long slogging day at work, we expect a welcoming sanctuary. We expect that because we want that. And times when we come home bearing bad news, whether it be as drastic as getting fired or simply losing out on a promotion or a project, we expect sympathy and acknowledgement from our partners. Apathy towards our news results in slight disappointment. Why is that? What causes anger? What causes disappointment?  What makes us feel happy? What triggers sadness? What makes us feel that we lead a meaningful life? These are just a few of the most important questions that affect our well being greatly.

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Through my personal experiences, it seems empirical that expectations are the direct contributing factors that affect and influence our emotions. An insidious spark that fires up emotions. Quietly, but undoubtedly, influencing and sometimes even overwhelming our inherent predispositions.

So…if we want to be in control of our emotions, that would mean we should consciously practice the control and management of our expectations. Often being the case, our astute deduction of outcomes stem from our expectations, which are embedded deep in our subconscious, powerfully although often imperceptibly hiding its decision and action-influencing prowess from our conscious self. And since emotions are what governs our actions, it seems a safe bet to make that if we want to lead a happier and more fulfilling life, the first and most logical step we should take, is the management and control of our expectations. And that is the true test that will enable you to transcend.

Desires –> Expectations –> Emotions

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Published by

Terence Cheah

I am an avid Martial Artist who has been teaching Muay Thai for more then 10 years and have recently received my Black belt in Shinkyokushin Karate. I run a Martial Arts gym called Transcendence Martial Arts where most of my students are everyday people who want to get better, both physically and psychologically. I also love reading, motorbikes and scuba diving quite earnestly. And not forgetting my ever supportive loving wife and newborn whose already begun changing my life for the better.

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