Earlier I talked about unrealistic expectations and how they bring about unhappiness and even depression. Today I want to present some assumptions many of us make and show how they lead to those expectations. Here are a few examples:
Nothing should ever go wrong--if it does, someone must be to blame. If you grew up in a blaming culture, it’ll probably be hard to wrap your mind around this idea, but it’s true. Sometimes things happen, and no one is to blame. Even in those cases where someone is at fault, it’s far more productive to figure out what needs to be done to correct the situation than to be angry about it. Blaming gets you nowhere and is generally destructive to relationships.
He or she will change. That bad habit is just a temporary thing. Actually, people seldom change much. There’s a saying that only two things cause a real personality change: a religious conversion or brain surgery. In general, what you see is what you get. Someone may promise to change, but the worth of that promise can only be demonstrated over time, and permanent change usually takes a fairly long time. Be careful when you commit to anything on a promise to change. Many a marriage has failed because the promised change never comes.
It is possible to be perfect. If you believe this, are trying to be perfect or are asking someone else to be perfect, you are going to drive yourself and everyone around you crazy. We humans have to learn to live with a reasonable amount of imperfection.
If I do everything just right, everyone will like me. Probably not. People who appear to be perfect often arouse envy and inferiority in others. Moreover, some personalities just clash, so you’re never going to get everyone to like you.
I have a right to be happy. I’ve seen this assumption cause more unhappiness than any other I can think of. I hear people complain about how difficult their lives are, and how everything is so awful. The first problem becomes evident when you ask people what would make them happy. Some give answers that are unrealistic and, frankly immature: “Not having any responsibilities.” “Getting to do whatever I want.” “Having lots of money.” “Being a celebrity or a rock star.” “Meeting someone who’ll make me happy.”
The second problem shows up when you ask them why they think they have a right to be happy. Some will answer, “It’s in the Declaration of Independence.” But if you examine that document, you’ll see that it says you have the right to pursue happiness, and it implies that you have to do something to achieve what you want, and you must do so without violating anyone else’s rights. There is no guarantee that your pursuit will be successful. A small child deserves to be cared for and loved, but even a small child must learn that we don’t get everything we want. As we mature, we need to learn that we create our lives by the choices we make, and we are responsible for our own happiness.
Stephanie Kay Bendel is the author of EXIT THE LABYRINTH: A Memoir of Early Childhood Depression – Its Onset and Aftermath, MAKING CRIME PAY: A Practical Guide to Mystery Writing, and A SCREAM AWAY, a romantic thriller published under the house name, Andrea Harris. She has also written numerous short stories and articles on writing.