Life is difficult enough to digest at times without having unrealistic expectations piled onto our plates.
Everybody goes through life at some stage raised too highly on the back of somebody else’s dreams or else crushed beneath another’s insecurities. And fairly soon, if this continues, it becomes difficult to disassociate our true selves from those unrealistic expectations and overbearing fears.
All this goes on unnoticed because the mind is a constantly flowing stream that waits for no-one. Imagine all those people stood on top of bridges casting their dying hopes like pennies in a fountain, or else discarding their bad-penny fears into it. It soon becomes pretty murky and full up right? So, is it any wonder that life sometimes feels so complicated? That we often find ourselves wondering who we are meant to be?
We’re taught from an early age to think, that analysing a problem will present solutions, it’s the basis of western psychotherapy after all. But I’m sorry to break it to you: it doesn’t always cut it.
Sometimes the more we think the more frustrated we feel because the answers just aren’t there. And then it builds and builds. We become angry with the anger, anxious at the anxiety, despair at the despair. You get the idea.
And yet we keep thinking and thinking, pushing ourselves over the edge and into a downward spiral of rumination. Because that’s what logic tells us to do right? Well, logic is wrong.
It’s a bit like holding out your hand and hoping a flitting butterfly will land in your grasp, chances are it won’t because it has a will of its own. But the good news is, it will also fly away.
Chasing every negative emotion is a bit like walking farther and farther into the eye of a storm, soon enough it will tear us apart.
But by being kind to ourselves, by giving ourselves permission to have negative feelings without the expectation of understanding or eradicating them, the storm will pass and we will begin to disassociate ourselves from them.
After many years of storm chasing, mindfulness and meditation has helped me realise that negative emotions are not us, anymore than a black cloud is the sky.
Just as the weather varies from day to day and the seasons turn, so we’ll have positive and negative emotions as a natural occurrence of life. And it’s okay. Just as dark clouds will float away and reveal bright skies again, so too will negative give way to positive if we let them go.
So, I believe it’s important be kind to yourself and give yourself permission to have bad feelings without having to analyse them away. Allow yourself to stand aside and watch the storm pass so you may once again feel the warmth of the sun on your back.
Through kindness to ourselves we can hope to find some peace and avoid unconsciously piling these unrealistic expectations and hurtful insecurities onto the plates of others.
This be the Verse
by Philip Larkin
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.
Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.
© Estate of Philip Larkin