This morning I had an almost sudden realization about something, and I would be lying if I said it did not terrify me. I felt good, I felt happy and I felt important. It made me want to run for the hills and get away from anything/everything that would make me feel good. Although realizing, from a logical perspective this makes absolutely no sense, it is a gut-reaction I have developed towards those things that make me happy. I have learned to live, over the past several years, without those things that meet my heart’s desires. And I know exactly why I do it.
I’m avoiding disappointment.
As I think about this peculiar trait of mind, I’m reminded of something one of my grandmother’s used to say: It’s hard to be disappointed, if you’re expectations are lowered. I used to think about that sentiment in terms of people only, but because I’m the kind of person that does nothing with a half-assed approach, I’ve applied that concept to all areas of my life. The problem with that is that no matter what, I feel the brain is geared towards seeking happiness, so there is an inevitability that you will eventually look for some expectation to be fulfilled. This, in turn, sets you up for the disappointment that will happen, as well.
But one area I have the most difficulty in mastering this idea of lowering my expectations is in the realm of relationships. I’m sure I’m not making any ground-breaking psychological statements when I say the reason for this is because disappointment leads to hurt feelings and I hate feeling hurt. It reminds me that there are some things that I can’t control the outcome and controlling the outcome means I can make sure I don’t get hurt, right? (Yes, it’s a vicious fucking circle).
And as I think about this, it reminds me of a criticism about myself, I once heard, but has always stuck with me. Unfortunately, it was said by someone I might have had a relationship – but I don’t remember with whom. Okay, okay…it’s not right that I don’t remember the person who said it, but in my defense I am really, really, really good at avoiding emotional connections. The point is, I remember it being said to me and at the time I remember thinking it was the stupidest thing I had ever heard. But now, at this point in my life, I know what was meant by it. The criticism was this: I never follow my desires, if I think my desires might be wrong.
Never, has a truer statement been made about me. Sure, I tried rationalizing it and assuming that it made sense to do what’s right, because I wanted my desires to be right. I wanted to make sure I followed principle at all times. What I didn’t realize is this is as asinine as asking someone to remain perfect. Our human nature, inherently, makes it difficult to always do what’s right – and some might argue that right and wrong are social constructs and up for debate (but that’s not the point I want to argue here). So, there is a problem with seeking perfection, because it sets up the idea of an expectation. Expectations lead to disappointment, remember?
Where are you going with this, you might ask? Well, in spite of the fact that I’m an ex-cop, in spite of the fact that I hold a 5th degree blackbelt in a martial art, in spite of the fact that I have faced my brother’s suicide, in spite of the fact that I used to be a bouncer in a bar, in spite of the fact that I have dealt with my parents’ divorce, in spite of the fact that I have faced challenges within my own relationships and many other challenges, I have always sought the path of least pain for myself. I would make decisions that would be geared towards doing what is right in the situation and not face my own emotions about the situation.
Truthfully, I am a coward.
It reminds me of something that occurred recently, and it felt good to admit it to myself. But I am connected to a woman on Facebook that had gone to the same high school I attended. She asked a question on Facebook once asking why a man would say she is too intimidating to approach (or something of that order). The truth of the matter, is in high school and when I was a young adult, I had a crush on this woman. I would never, ever, could not, tell her at the time. Although, I think she might have been interested, I never asked her or approached her about it. Well, many years later, and without the confusion of teen/young adult hormones, I messaged her and told her what I thought the real issue happened to be. I expressed what I said above, that I had a crush on her at one time, but could not approach her with it. She was not intimidating, she was extremely nice and approachable, but I said that the problem was not her, but the guy who said it. I expressed that the problem is that he could not deal with his own emotions, and that was my exact problem. I could not seek out what I desired, for whatever reason, and that made me a coward and nothing more. The issue was mine and not hers.
Truthfully, I see that’s the case in my psyche, still today, and I don’t deal with my emotions very well at all. I seek out the solutions I know I can make, I seek out the questions that I know I can answer. I fail to pursue anything I desire, for fear of disappointment.
And although I know what I was feeling today, with respect to being happy and feeling good is to recognize that there is no way that the path I was walking down would lead to anything good, and I’ll choose the principled decision of my actions.
Because, I fear disappointment of any kind.