Expectations

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by DCH Park

As I write this, I am over 50 years old. I imagine that there are more than a few individuals who are reading this (at least I hope there are) who are much younger than 50 who expect themselves to be well off by then. They see themselves living in certain conditions when they are 50. They imagine a certain lifestyle. They imagine that if they haven’t already, by 50 they will have “figured it out.”

When I was younger, that’s what I thought. I believed that I was gritty and honest enough to be truthful about what was going on even if no one else was. I believed that my gritty honesty would inevitably lead me to the truth and that truth would empower me. I considered gritty honesty to be the quickest way forward.

I had no guides, no teachers in this. Although the creative greats, whose artistic, scientific, and other achievements I studied, had many interesting insights to offer, practically all of the teachers and peers I encountered in life were focused on financial security within the social milieu into which they were born.

No doubt, most of them were motivated by genuine concern. In the name of clear-eyed honesty, they probably looked around and saw what was available in society and defined themselves and what was possible in terms of what they saw. They took it for granted and tried to make the best with what they saw. At least that’s what I understood of what I saw of their behavior.

Nevertheless, I was surprised and disheartened by the number of people whose attitudes were shaped by what they saw. They seemed to be aware of or concerned with only what was presented currently – not by what was possible or right, regardless of how they saw themselves.

These attitudes potentially shape whole lives. That’s why it is so important to be aware of the attitudes you have. One place attitudes can be clearly seen is in college. I was shocked by the number of people whose attitude toward college was vocational. They were looking at college as a way to secure a better job. They weren’t concerned with the truth or understanding better (or at all) what was going on. They just wanted a high-paying job. In fact, when I was in college, folks objected whenever a professor looked more deeply into something. They literally hissed whenever anything was brought up about why something worked. They were only concerned with how it has been shown to work so they could apply it better and make more money.

I suspect that the emphasis on making money has only grown more intense since that time. However I understand that there is a growing segment of younger people who are dissatisfied with mainstream attitudes and are searching for a better way. I submit that better ways are possible but to understand them, it is necessary to grasp why things work the way they do.

For better or for worse, right now, the emphasis on making money seems to be commonly accepted. We stop noticing things that commonly happen. There is evidence that even on a cellular level, things that happen very often lose their poignancy. Who hasn’t noticed that the best chip in the bag is always the first one?

However there is nothing in principle stopping you from getting another bag some time in the future and enjoying that first chip all over again. The observed behavior is consistent with there being a latency effect involved. As the period between sensing a chip in your mouth and the next time you have a chip in your mouth grows shorter, the response to the next chip becomes muted.

It’s as if the sensors in your mouth have to be primed or activated to fire and once they have fired, it takes a certain amount of time for them to become primed again. This is exactly the way we understand what happens.

What’s more, the mere expectation of the taste and feel of the chip can be enough to mute even the first chip. Notice how if you eat chips every day or with every meal and every snack, you will come to know the flavor and crunch of the first chip and come to want it less. You will become familiar with it.

Even though the period between one first chip and the next first chip has not changed, you come to want that first chip less. Notice that your experience of the first chip is different but the action of eating the first chip hasn’t changed. The only thing that has changed is your expectation.

This implies that at least part of your experience is determined by what you expect. I have found that managing my expectations can be a very potent way to free myself.

Before we leave this, however, it is interesting that we are socialized to assume that something has greater veracity as it becomes more common. We assume that the more commonly we hear, see, or understand something, the more true it must be.

Combining these two different treatments of common things is instructive. The more common something is, the more true we take it to be. Also, the more common something is, the less we tend to notice it.

This implies the taking of something for granted. We are not trapped in this behavior, but it does seem to be the default for now. What common experiences do you take for granted?

When I was very young, I accepted certain “explanations” and then proceeded to integrate them into my view of the world and how it worked. After that, I continued to integrate them onto every level I created because I took them as fundamental aspects of reality. They were just the way things worked.

I have become very practiced at overlooking these assumptions so realizing them again so they could be understood and healed took a while. Over the course of those 50 years of life, I have taken some right turns and some wrong turns. The right turns are ones that led to greater understanding of my inner voice. The result was always at least as good as I had imagined, usually better, and always surprising.

Take a chance. Be delighted.

© 2015, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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”Expectations” by DCH Park is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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