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Are positive expectations good?

What is an expectation?

Before we dig into the question of whether positive expectations, in contrast to negative expectations, are something which is not that bad, or maybe even pretty good, let's clarify what is meant by the word "expectation," since its meaning can an ambiguous. 

If I expect something to happen or not happen and then if my expectation is not met, I will automatically think something is wrong with me, or something is wrong with another or others, or something is wrong with God or the universe. An expectation is blame waiting to happen. An expectation is setting yourself up to be a possible victim. “I expected that we would never get divorced. But, after what that bastard did, I couldn’t live with him any longer!”

An expectation is distinct from intention, prediction, or commitment. You could create any one of these three without also creating an expectation. If you created an intention, prediction, or commitment without, at the same time, attaching an expectation, then the lack of fulfillment of any of those would not stimulate an upset.

The benefits of creating and indulging in expectations

Since expectations are often so risky and costly to our life and even for those we care about, why do we consistently indulge in them? There can be two benefits. 

 

Benefit #1: feeling safer and making it easier to decide

The first reason, which always applies, is that they make us feel safer, regardless of whether the expectation is positive or negative. As such, they also make it clearer about whether we should choose A or B. 

If it's a positive expectation like, "Of course Jennifer will come to my birthday party if I invite her," then it's very easy to decide to invite her to the party and do it right away. There is no sense of fear or risk that we have to deal with.

If it's a negative expectation like, "I'm sure that Jennifer will not want to come to my birthday party," then it's easy to decide not to invite her, even if we would like her to come. This way we also avoid any sense of fear or risk that would be stimulated by inviting her.

Benefit #2: counting our chickens before they hatch

This benefit applies only to positive expectations. This benefit can also be expressed in the word "hope," as distinct from possibility, which means the same as having positive expectations and is supposedly a need that we can't do without. With apologies to Samuel Johnson if he was not using the same distinction of expectation/hope that I am, he said, "Hope is necessary in every condition. The miseries of poverty, sickness and captivity would, without this comfort, be insupportable."

If we expect to get that raise, then we can already be thinking about all those things we're going to do with that extra money, right?

If we expect that the surgery will go fine, we can go ahead and be comfortable in making plans for how our life is going to be afterward, right?

If we expect that we will always love this person and we'll be able to build a life together forever, then we can easily live into that future without any backup plans or concern about the fact that we're putting all our eggs into that one basket, right?

Now back to the question, "Are positive expectations good?"

We could argue that they are better than negative expectations because, despite their costs when things don't come out as expected, they do contain the additional upfront benefit of living in the fantasy of "of course this is going to happen (or not happen)!" as the case may be.

But wait. The pessimist, the person who tends toward negative expectations, also may likely avoid some costs that the optimist, the person who tends toward positive expectations, would easily blind themselves to. 

For example, the optimist who easily trusts people, even those they've just met and know little about, and even including those whom they know and trusted them when they promised to be trustworthy in the future, might incur a lot of costs, even monetary costs, in addition to the risk of becoming increasingly resigned about "human nature."

The pessimist, although you could argue that they are already resigned about people, don't run this risk. They live in a "safe" world by not running the risk and fear that "trusting" another would need to include. 

All recurring behaviors, regardless of their costs, have some benefits that keep them going

In this sense, positive expectations and negative expectations are "good" in that they provide some short-term benefits, benefits that may seem like we have to have in order to function in life. But these benefits are only "necessary" because we have not focused on creating integrity, especially Frightened-Fearless Integrity or the habit of choosing courage.

Benefits of Expectations = much less than Costs of Expectations, when integrity is added

Once we start adding more integrity to our life, then it easily becomes obvious that the costs of indulging in expectations far outweigh the benefits of not doing that. Then, if needed, we are happy to use Undoing expectations to assist us in letting go of our habit and addiction of indulging in expectations, whether they be positive or negative.  

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