Ah, the unreasonable expectation. It comes disguised as demands, complaints, or sometimes just requests. It’s that insistence that the world fit some mental model, that the unfolding creation match a preconceived pattern in one’s mind. Even when we manage to overcome such expectations in ourselves and settle into simplicity and peace, simply doing our best and setting right intentions – we still run into these boulders of life’s fluidity as we interact with those who still struggle mightily with themselves.
And when we do, the inner dialogue starts again. That conversation where we begin to think up our responses, answer those thoughts with imagined statements from the other person, and then respond again. Sometimes we aren’t peaceful enough and the endless and fruitless back-and-forth actually manifests in our worldly experience. Other times we remain peaceful but have trouble diverting and quieting the mental river. There’s very little difference between the two: the worldly conversation is simply the escalated version of the inner tumble of thoughts.
Peacefulness and happiness arises when we can quiet the rushing river – when we can soothe the aggravated child within us. That child is the ego, that collection of identifications and attachments we usually call our minds. Being a frightened little mortal creature, it easily begins raging or running.
Dealing with the unreasonable expectations of others starts with simply dealing with ourselves, as most things do. It blooms with peaceful disobedience.
Soothing the beast…
If you can’t find that inner stillness because of the splashing waters at the surface of your mind, bring comfort to the upset creature within yourself. Not with food, alcohol, or television; those aren’t comfort, they’re oblivion. Seek instead exertion – the expenditure of energy.
Bring comfort with creative expression – music, cooking, writing. In simply creating an expression of ourselves, we let out the bound-up mental and emotional energy. Being spent, it’s much easier to return to our inner stillness.
Bring comfort with physical labor – gardening, exercise, walking. This also lets out the energy and allows the inner quiet to pervade the surface of the mind. It’s also a lovely opportunity to find yourself again in the beauty of nature.
Bring comfort with spirituality. In meditation, we simply observe and acknowledge the inner troubled child. In prayer, we ask for a higher power to intercede and turn over the turbulence to stronger shoulders than ours. These are the ultimate methods of uncovering those blocked emotions and experiences within ourselves that cause the mental rivers to churn when an associated trigger occurs.
Whether in meditation or prayer, the full experience of the mental flood and associated emotions are in consciousness. If they’re not, if you’re covering the troubled waters with a tarp so that you sit calmly or communicate with your higher power, then you aren’t fully bringing your living self into meditation or prayer – and that’s not meditation or prayer at all. That’s simply exercising willpower, which cages but further enrages the ego.
When you fully experience the tumbling thoughts and flooding emotions, they soon subside. Those rocks that choked your heart will have been washed away, and you will have made yourself a little more free. That loosening in your chest signals you’re ready to return to the unreasonable expectation.
And bringing peace to the situation.
The unreasonable expectations of others, if you comply with the implied demands, soon restrict your movements into the pithy scripted plays they’ve written in their minds. That’s bad for you, yes, but it’s also bad for them – because life is not a script written by a mortal mind, and the obliteration of that falsehood is a blooming of the light. It is not compassionate to participate as any being causes itself more suffering. Yet, personal rejection and negativity are reactions of the ego and they, too, are darknesses.
Instead, simply bring peace through non-violent protest. Sit-ins and boycotts are not only the instruments of social activists, but the recourse of all who refuse to have even personal dialogues with the spirit of empire. Having recovered your inner stillness, then seek to simply communicate and demonstrate that you have chosen to not comply. Being accused or accosted, seek to simply communicate and demonstrate that you choose not to comply because other things matter more to you – your compassion, your non-participation in some imagined hierarchy, your spiritual or moral values, your family, or your time for spiritual or creative pursuits.
Sometimes, we must refuse – always saying “yes” is destructive. But angry or violent refusal is also destructive. Avoiding negative emotions is destructive too. Make your inner waters tranquil as many times as it takes, but continue to peacefully resist that which would feed darkness.
With faith and constancy, with compassion and love, let us confound the unreasonable expectations of others with blessings, smiles, and peace.