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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Being boxed into other's expectations: Thoughts on

In a prior blog, called Boxing others into our expectations, I wrote about the tendency of placing expectations on others that we not necessarily realistic.  In a way, it was seeing others through the lens of our expectations--or more likely the needs of what we 'need' for them to be to us.  In it I had unrealistic expectations of family.  I thought the family member should be more loyal, have more empathy and just generally behave more like my expectation of 'family'.  Once I accepted that the family member was who they were, I realized it really wasn't personal.  Who they were was more about what they were capable than about how they felt about me.  So, I stopped stressing about the relationship so much.  Anger, bitterness, appeals to them as 'family', etc. gradually and mostly ebbed as I stopped boxing this person into my expectation of what 'family' should be like.

In "It's just you and me and we just disagree...", I touched upon the other side of the coin.  That is, when you aren't someone who others think or expect you are (or should be).  I had been talking to someone whom I met at my daughter's skating lessons for about a month.  Anyway, one day she just started being critical of me for what reason I don't know.  Anyway, I was the same person I was when I first talked to her, but somewhere she'd developed an expectation of who I should be or impression of who I was.  After a time, apparently that expectation or impression didn't match up with my reality? (That's the closest I can come?).  Anyway, I was able to detach from her negativity towards me as I knew I was the same person she had met on day one.   Essentially, I refused to let her box me into whom she thought or expected that I was or thought I should be.  A more down to earth way of describing the situation is that "she didn't get me".  That's okay, we aren't necessarily entitled to being completely understood, but it is important if we commit to someone and them to us, that we attempt to understand them.

As we know, successful relationships (family, friends, spouse, etc) are based on communication.   Sometimes we don't always communicate effectively whom we are and sometimes the other party isn't able (or willing) to see whom we are.  Sometimes the difference between  able and willing is clouded.  For example, the other party believes they are willing to keep an open mind on us, but they have an unrecognized block.  It could be a relationship or hurt or disappointments in the past that clouds their objectiveness.   But, I digress, if I was taking the side of the one who would be 'boxed' into expectations, these are types of questions I could ask:
  • Did I not express/reveal myself effectively (unintentionally)?
    • Sharing oneself is a gradual process.  In other words, it is not something that can (or should) be done in a matter of weeks or even months. 
      • People who are interested in you will tend to fill in the blanks when absent information.
      • They may tend to fill in the blanks based on their own experiences.
    • Sometimes due to sub-conscience blocks of my own, I may avoid sharing parts of myself.
      • For example, if I have hidden trust issues, I may almost subconsciously pause in revealing parts of my personality.
      • For example, if I have shame issues, I may on some level, close off certain parts of of my life.
  • Have I intentionally been cautious about revealing myself (intentional)?
    • If I'm unsure of how the other party will take a certain aspect of my personality or self, I might tend to tread lightly rather than easily express that part of myself.
    • If I've been hurt before, do I want to risk revealing myself only to be hurt again (and have to maybe do it over again)?
  • Does the other party have the time or energy to get to know me?
    • Sometimes, when either or both--time or energy--are absent, the other party may not be easily able to get to know me.
    • I may have to take the initiative and reveal myself better (if the relationship is important to me).
  • Does the other party even want to get to know me?
    • Are they comfortable with close relationships or do they prefer arm's length distance relationships in which they can comfortable control or keep their own self hidden?
    • Have they placed me in an a 'sort of' friend box vs. others in their circle (and are not wanting to invest much in getting to know me)?

In a 12 step or recovery program, those questions would be considered "my side of the street".  After assessing my role in or feelings about a relationship, I have to step aside and consider the relationship.  If after dealing with my side of the street, the other party is still trying to box me into their own expectations, I have to consider how I want to handle it.
  • Am I going to let myself be bothered by what they expect or think about me? If so,
    • Do I want to work to clear up any misconceptions or misunderstanding they might have about me?
    • Do I find a way to accept that perhaps they are incapable of understanding me?
  • Will I decide that it's not worth the trouble?
    • Will I be myself in dealing with them and let the chips fall where they may?
    • Will I step back from the situation and the expectations place on me?


Applying questions like that to my own life, I've come to realize:
  • I can't please everyone and I can't base my life on living up to the expectations of others.
  • If a relationship is important I can try to help the other party understand me.  If it isn't I can just let it go and understand that not everyone will 'get me'.
  • If someone has expectations of me or who I am that are unrealistic for me, I can express that point.  But, I can't control them and I can't spend my life being worried or stressed out about it.

So, there you have it and the song below is sort of an extreme response to being boxed into the expectations of others.  I'd don't necessarily advocate that point of view, but I had to put it in there anyway.


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