Expectations, we all have them. But how healthy are they really to our wellbeing? We aspire to a life filled with health, joy, and success. We can place lofty goals to spur our self-growth, but what happens to us when we fall short of these big dreams? What was meant to challenge us, can actually cause greater difficulty and disappointment. This can be especially true of survivors of trauma like sexual abuse, who yearn to break free of our limiting beliefs and our lingering pains.
As we enter June, we are entering into a month typically filled with graduations, weddings, and social gatherings. However, in 2020, we are remaining in the era of Covid-19. This pandemic has held a mirror up to expectations and the pain we all face when situations beyond our control prevent us from obtaining this envisioned scenario.
The hard work of the class of 2020 and important transitional milestones aren’t able to be celebrated together. Weddings must be held either virtually or postponed indefinitely. Loved ones remain physically separated and gatherings must stop for the sake of our health.
But this devastating virus is merely a communal amplification of collective grieving unmet expectations. In reality, we all must tackle the ramifications of unexpected situations every day. From illness, job loss, relationship hurdles, accidents, delays or cancellations, to even death – every day we must find ways to make the best out of our situations. When we are unable to navigate this process successfully, anxiety builds and our feeling of self-worth can plummet.
I face this struggle as someone who lives with hidden chronic disorders that have disabled me. As I write this, I am in the midst of an extended flare-up. I’m someone who is relatively young and my disorders are not ones you can easily see. You can see and hear some of my symptoms, but it’s difficult for people to understand how one day I can drive and another day I have difficulty walking around my house or sitting in an upright chair. Even when I was younger and facing some health limitations in addition to my active trauma, I held the expectations that I would like a traditional life. That my father would be alive to watch me embark on adulthood and I would be able to blend having a family of my own, a career that fulfilled me, and a significant network of loved ones. During each of my flare-ups I have to reconcile how apart from my loved ones rooting for me, this image of my life is not my reality. Through the pain spikes, tics, and dizziness, I must confront how my symptoms can distort my thinking and the resulting feelings of decreased self-worth or societal value.
What helps me traverse this ordeal is actively surrendering to the situation. To essentially, accept the unexpected. Trust me, it’s been at times, an ugly journey. The path to acceptance begins with acknowledgment. Yes, this really is happening. Take inventory of your feelings, emotions, and thoughts. Pay special attention to any judgment that arises. Validate these sensations or otherwise you risk them pulling you under like a riptide. When you allow these sensations to be heard you can then learn from them.
By adjusting expectations that are not realistic we can shift our perspective, lessen anxiety, and be more receptive to the hidden blessings. In every situation, there are unique challenges and opportunities. It is up to us to channel our energy into exploring the opportunities while still honoring challenges exist. Allow these opportunities to help create action steps for overcoming the challenge to create a better sense of empowerment.
Going beyond accepting to truly welcoming the unforeseen, cultivates reinvention! In this era of Covid-19 society’s previous way of living and doing business was dismantled. Delving under the surface stresses, reveals the most intense source of anxiety is a desire to return to what was and instead of leaning into the creation of what can be.
It is a fact this is a deadly virus and has caused economic upheaval. But instead of focusing on that, consider what you have done with this time? Have you been able to listen to your Inner Wisdom? Have you found more time for self-care, which may have led to greater strides in healing your trauma mindset? Has the increased time with your family led you to better understand their perceptions of the world? Have you learned a new skill? Now extend this out what society may or may not have learned.
For me, I experience an interesting sense of grace during my flare-ups. I must pause everything in my life to better listen and attend to the needs of my body. Sure, my mind can tell me that I should be doing something, but my body might not be capable of it – I have to accept that fact. The saying “don’t sweat the small stuff” can be a misnomer. Sometimes the blessings are really in those small details. Talk to anyone with a chronic condition and they will tell you the power of those small, yet impactful benchmarks. The best way to accept the unexpected is to be aware, nonjudgmental, open, and grateful. You might just be inspired and ultimately treasure this unexpected detour on your path towards wholeness.
Having expectations is natural. But when you get too fixated on them, they can morph into something unrealistic and detrimental to your wellbeing. As people with a history of sexual abuse and the resulting trauma, we may be predisposed to seek control. But this fallacy of lofty expectations typically leads to bigger crashes when they can’t be attained. We at Survivors to Thrivers encourage you to not resist the detours that will occur throughout your life. Instead, honor, accept, and even welcome them. If met with an open and nonjudgmental mindset these detours can turn into vistas and help you gain a new perspective on your life or ways to improve your community. We welcome you to share your story of how you have embraced the unexpected moments in your life either by emailing us, leaving a blog or social media comment. Thank you for being a part of this loving and uplifting community.