How can I practice keeping expectations low?

A consideration from an existential analysis and logotherapeutic point of view The pitfall of expectations by Manfred Knoke

Preliminary remarks

From a psychological point of view, expectations are human attitudes that relate to more or less clear goals. It is an imaginary anticipation of events, of certain goals of thought and action that lie in the future. Expectations are a kind of limbo that determines behavior and experience. Expectations are anticipatory responses to actions that are expected, wanted, desired, hoped for or suspected. If a person is balanced and satisfied, open and happy, living in a self-determined way, their expectations are lower, the tension of expectation reduced to a minimum.

In my psychosocial counseling over the phone and in my seminars, disappointments about unfulfilled expectations of partners, relatives, friends and acquaintances occupy a large space. In expectation, I make the world the way I would like it to be. However, the world is as it is and does not conform to my expectations. So disappointment is inevitable. In anticipation, I make the world a little safer and thereby calm my insecurity and fear. This is a completely natural process that everyone is familiar with, and this is reinforced by the process of going blind. It becomes particularly tragic when, as "creeping" as slow blindness, imperceptibly, an attitude emerges that makes one lonely through expectations of the social environment. We can prevent through self-control. How this can be done, I want to explain in the following.

Expectations with a high success rate

Expectations can be very helpful under certain conditions. For example, the fulfillment of expectations is guaranteed in promises, appointments, arrangements, agreements, contracts if they take place on an equal footing. The "contractual partners" can expect that the obligations entered into will be fulfilled. Life is unthinkable without such regulations; they give us a feeling of reliability and security. Disappointments are limited with such regulations.

Expectations with a high rate of disappointment

The disappointment is almost inevitable when someone is invited to a standing party and I set off with the expectation, "They know that I can't see well, they'll bring me a glass and include me in their discussion group." With this expectation, I only fight my fear and have made the world a little safer for myself. Unfortunately, such expectations will seldom turn out the way I would like them to. How can I get out of the expectant, restrictive and dependent position? In my seminars I try to work through the process of blindness in such a way that we work through the individual phases of the process of blindness building on each other - parting - mourning - letting go - acceptance and then reopening the participants to the questions of life to which we have to answer . In every situation life asks me and I have to answer. In order to discover new possibilities of meaning, I have to become active and take action. The inner attitude for going to the party is now: "Let's see how I can get involved in the party and what my answer to the request for this situation will be." My charisma is now more attractive to the others than when I stand on the edge with a long face in an expectant position.

The expectations and our expectations are dealt with in the context of the topic about fear. As a result of the creeping process of blindness, we are constantly suffering from a loss of competence, which unsettles us and scares us and which diminishes our self-worth. If we do not take countermeasures at an early stage, for example making ourselves aware that expectations force us into a victim role because what we expected was not delivered. A voluntarily and gladly given help is something wonderful, but with an expectation or even demand for help I deprive the helper of the freedom to act as he would have liked to. Because now he feels the obligation and the want to help becomes a need to help and the withdrawal is preprogrammed. The cause-and-effect relationship is often hidden from us, so it is important to be aware of the effects of expectations.

Expectations narrow

Expectations make people lonely, small and dependent. In addition, we all have a permanent tendency to develop an idea and, ultimately, an expectation from every experience. These ideas and experiences help us to structure life and make it more assessable. For example, when I prepare a trip with a travel guide, an idea of ​​the country I will be traveling to already arises and with it a certain expectation. The important thing here is not that we have expectations or not, but that expectations only bring my ideas to the fore. Expectations reduce what is to what is expected in expectation. That is the narrowness of expectation. So I don't have to get caught up in this tendency of expectation and try to remain open to every situation. For example, the film adaptation of a novel often does not meet your own expectations. It takes an effort to let go of expectations and stay open to the scriptwriter's and director's ideas. Your own expectations are already fixed, so that disappointment can set in.

Expectations in upbringing and education

In my seminars, examples from education, school and other educational institutions are often brought in. The expectations of children and young people in particular are based on unequal, hierarchical structures. In the rarest of cases, partnership and equality can be assumed in this relationship process. High expectations of children, young people, teachers and trainers are counterproductive. Especially in the times of "Pisa", the insecure educational policy increases the pressure on everyone involved. The studies clearly show that pressure and expectations reduce the quality of teaching and learning behavior. We can only change that if security, security, team spirit, discussions and, above all, opportunities for encounters are offered on a variety of levels. Personal competence and non-deficit-oriented work should determine our everyday teaching and learning. A school system in which everyone learns together and is supported individually would be desirable. Parents' expectations of their children lead to a pressure of expectation because performance, success and advancement are the focus and not the child with his or her individual abilities. We have already seen how paralyzing high expectations can be in sport, for example on a football team, when a game was broadcast on TV.

Expectations of partnership and love

Expectations can also lead to major problems in a two-person relationship, because both partners need to know and be able to represent themselves. Do I already know who I am and can I stand by it? Do I take myself seriously or do I overlook myself often? If I cannot maintain the relationship with myself, I am not able to openly engage with the partner and get lost in the relationship.

If I cannot relate to myself, the deficit is filled by using the partner. A feeling of dependency arises. It becomes unbearable when ideas and expectations are not met because the partner lives his own. Encounters rarely take place in such a relationship. Encounter can only take place where there is no obstacle, no requirement, no expectation, no compulsion, no purpose. Encounters are always direct and mutual, based on individual skills and not on deficits. Selflessness and willingness to make sacrifices for one's partner are often confused with love. If both have this attitude, it means for love that both have given up. This is also true when both want to meet the expectation of the partner, practice anticipatory obedience and fail to formulate their own needs and hope that the other will discover them by chance. To love selflessly in this way is not to love yourself. There are no encounters and soon a bad feeling arises that something is wrong. The loving dialogue needs courage, courage for oneself and courage for the encounter with the other. Love lives from the encounter, that means much more than cultivating a relationship. Love also has a lot to do with the original relationship experiences with father and mother and often less with the life partner himself. To distinguish this means that every couple has to find the balance between self and togetherness. In love there is no right to one another because love is a voluntary gift. It is to be seen as a gift from the other and one should be grateful for it. Whoever respects this freedom and pays gratitude to this gift deepens love.


In the previous remarks about the pitfalls of expectations, I tried to make it clear how we fix ourselves and make ourselves dependent on expectations and not remain open to the situation and thus shape life authentically, actively and actively. Those who try to live meaningfully and fulfilled in the context of their reality, which is constantly changing according to the progressive blindness process, are not only more content and happier, but they are also less lost in expectations and thus save themselves a lot of disappointments. However, because expectations are a part of life, it is helpful if we are constantly aware of what expectations do to ourselves and to those who sense our expectations.

Erich Fried

One expects from poems
what to expect from a woman
with whom one is intimate, expects
namely that it is not always
only that becomes what one expects,
and that one in cognition
still sometimes realizes
that it is not enough
if you wait and expect something,
but that if you think of a poem
or a woman with whom one is intimate,
or other things
for example from one
Sunset or from life
just expecting something
has a false expectation.

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Last changed on 08/22/2013 12:29 PM