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Pursuit of Happiness

Living lighter
Let go of unrealistic expectations. The journey is easier when you travel light

Dr Shyam Bhat

We all have expectations and demands from life. When they are not met, we feel sad, angry and hurt. Unfortunately, for many people, this sense of deprivation is real, and tragic – a marginalised and poor person, for example, who is deprived of food, water and shelter. But for a growing number of people in the new India, this sense of deprivation is not real, but a construct of the mind. After all, no matter how much you achieve, you feel deprived if your needs are infinite.

Recently, a 30-something man in his third session of therapy with me said, “I get angry when my wife doesn’t take care of my needs and my employees don’t do what I want them to do.” Soon, it became apparent that he was irritated by having to explain what he wanted. He had an unconscious expectation that those close to him should know exactly what he wanted, even without him asking for it. He remembered feeling the same way, as a child, when his exhausted working mother would put him in the playpen, from where he would scream angrily to be let out and held.

Some expectations come from experiences and some are learned over the years. Some we know consciously, many are unconscious. Some expectations are reasonable and a few very unreasonable. We often toil under the burden of unrealised expectations without knowing so. We are like Sisyphus, except we don’t know we are pushing a boulder.

So, try to let go of unrealistic expectations.

You can begin the process by asking yourself: what are my demands from life? What situations make me angry? What do I expect from life as my birthright? Keep writing until there is nothing more to say. Then read what you have written as if you are an observer, a dispassionate and wise person. Eventually, the weight of unreasonable expectations will fall away, leaving you light of spirit and relaxed in the mind.

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