There is a difference between an expectation and an intention. An expectation implies that you are owed something. An intention implies that you are going to try for something, or at least leave the door ajar in case something wants to come in. Writer James Baraz encouraged people to set an intention to enjoy the holiday season as much as possible:
By making the conscious decision to open yourself to true well-being and happiness, you’ll be more likely not to miss those uplifting moments and even begin to have your radar out for them. Psychiatrist Dan Siegel argues that by setting your intention, you “prime” your brain to be ready for positive experiences.
We have said a lot already about expectations, and what false prophets they can be. Dr. Amy Meyers offers four specific suggestions that can turn expectations into friends who help us, rather than tyrants that rule us:
— Anticipate something will go wrong.
— Know that you will feel tired after staying out late at a holiday party or with friends and don’t make any taxing plans the next morning.
— Set your expectations for just you. You cannot control other people.
— Focus on what you can control — your time and yourself.
If one must entertain expectations at all, it is best to keep them within the realm of the realistic. If someone believes that a shoe she lost at the Snowflake Ball will be found by a prince who will spare no expense to track her down and ask her to marry him, and expects this to happen, well then, there could be a problem. High expectations often pave the road to frustration and disappointment. Dr. Jennifer Barton wrote,
We set our expectations and we can choose to set them idealistically high, unintelligibly low, or somewhere in the middle. In certain circumstances, having no expectations can be exciting, because it means you have no idea of what’s coming next. You leave yourself open to being pleasantly surprised and you can’t be disappointed, but equally, you have no motivation.
Expectations are difficult to give up, but we could work on modifying them a bit, to fit more comfortably with the unfolding reality’s probable course. The website BFRB.org has many helpful suggestions, starting with the abandonment of perfection as an ideal. Not many aspects of life are perfect, and it’s pretty certain that the holiday season will not be.
How can we make it easier for ourselves? For one thing, we could accept no longer having access to the people or the material objects needed to observe old traditions. It might be better to let them just slide away into memory land. On the plus side, we could take part in creating new traditions that will be loved a hundred years from now. The BFRB.com writer leaves us with one last thought:
Sometimes, our expectations for the holiday season do not match our reality. Hollywood, and our own memories or daydreams from childhood, leave us with images of friendly family get-togethers, perfect gift exchanges, and romantic moments by the fireplace. But honestly, when was the last time you roasted chestnuts with a loved one?
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “6 Simple Practices to Handle Holiday Stress,” Berkeley.edu, 12/09/10
Source: “A Guide to Managing Holiday Stress & Anxiety,” AmyMyersMD.com, undated
Source: “10 Tips to De-stress During the Holidays,” JacksonHealth.org, undated
Source: “10 Tips to Manage Holiday Stress and Avoid Pulling or Picking Overwhelm,” BFRB.org, undated
Image by GPA Photo Archive/Public Domain