Expectation Management

To my compatriots in the battle against Depression....

I just thought of a couple of my Favorite Slogans for Life that have been key to my battle. The first one I learned from a counselor who sort of sent me on my way after several years of counseling.  He said to me....

"You will be just fine if you remember always to manage your expectations"

The other Slogan is the well known Serenity Prayer....

God, grant me the Serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
The Courage
To change the things I can
And The Wisdom
To Know the Difference.

This is at the core of so much unhappiness for so many.  So many of us have a deep abiding sense that somehow we have been cheated because our friends, our parents, our family or the world at large doesn't treat us right.  But if you step back and ask yourself...."Why do I expect (a certain thing)"....we can begin to put a balm on our pain. 

Expectations are built over time based on experience and our reactions to those experiences.  Sometimes we react from our "right-thinking" side where the Wisdom is present to judge reality and sometimes we look at it from our "wrong-thinking" side which does not Know the Difference.  From these two sides of ourselves we produce either Healthy Expectations or Unhealthy Expectations.  The difference here is simple.  Anything Healthy is good for us and promotes wellbeing while anything Unhealthy promotes the opposite of wellbeing and, by most measures, is bad for us.

Depression comes from intense chronic sadness, not a sense of Wellbeing.  Assuming that the Chronic Sadness is not rooted in any deep biological dysfunction requiring medication, it may spring from an Unhealthy Expectation,  For instance, the Expectation that I can keep acting in the same way but expecting different results.  Or the Expectation that people we love should not die.  Or the Expectation that a spouse who has come to be unremittingly abusive is going to change into a loving spouse.  Any of these or hundreds of other Expectations about our situation are simply "wrong thinking" and must be identified as such and then "managed" into a "right thinking" alternative.  This will bring us to a Healthy Expectation which promotes wellbeing.  For instance, we may need to see and expect that the only way to get a different result is to do something different (take medicine, go out in the sun, call a friend and talk).  We need to expect that death of a loved on is a sad but a normal part of life leading us to happier thoughts about the one who left us.  And the abuse we suffer will not stop unless we love ourselves enough to protect ourselves.

This is how I have managed my depression.  The meds have helped a lot but getting the rest of the way to healthy has required me to always monitor my expectations.  I try always to see the flaw in my thinking....what I can change (usually my behavior or the Future) and what I cannot change (usually others behavior or the Past).  And I remain prepared to adopt a new point of view leading to a new Healthy Expectation and Future Wellbeing.

For me, it really is just this simple......and....just that difficult.

icDavey icDavey
61-65, M
5 Responses Feb 1, 2013

Im so glad to have read this today. I am at point in my struggle with bipolor where Im no longer content to just survive this illness. I want to manage it, and am learning many coping skills. But i havent set a plan into motion yet. Why rock the boat if I dont have to right. But If I can change unhealthy expectations then I wont dread the crash I know is coming, or maby prevent it. im not sure, but Im going to bring this up with my therapist, it makes alot of sense.

Why will "managing" your illness cause a crash? Not planning to abandon the meds, are we?

Managing my illness wont cause me to crash, but its making me look deeper inside of myself as to how I deal with differnt emotions that come with my bipolor. Its scary and liberating at the same time. At times going back to good old get depressed, overdose, get new meds and your better aproach sounds better. NOW that sounds stupid.But at first it wasnt a choice, just horrible wirrlwind i couldnt figure out. now i can. Anyway, Ive always stayed on my meds no matter what, I know they work, till its time to change them

Very good! I'm glad I could help focus your vision. Pass it on!

Wise words Davey you really touched my heart. I have bipolar depression and borderline personality disorder. I've also made unwise decisions in relationships quite often actually. I'm finally at a healthier point in my life and pretty much must change everything to have a better life. I am toning down my expectations and working on becoming independent. You can be as other directed as you want and I will understand. Unwise behavior is something I have to work on all the time.

Thank you for your inspirational words. This a new way of thinking for me. I have heard the concepts before by not in such concise language and not all together.

Thank you. I've had a lot of nice feedback on this. I feel like I have actually learned this hard-won lesson.

In discussing this idea with my son, this was his observation.....

That really is the essence of life. You can't expect to do everything and you can't expect to do nothing.....life is about deciding...what are you gonna do?

One error.....that last part about the Past and the Future is backward. You cannot change the past. You can change the Future. I wish there was a way to fix that!