I hate flies. Damn! They are my least favourite things in the world. Like, if I ever met a genie and he gave me 3 wishes, I would totally wish that all flies in the world to gather up and burn to death. That’s even before I wish for three billion dollars and Michael Jackson’s talent and perhaps more hair to cover my balding head. That’s how much I hate flies.
But here’s the thing. Do you know that there is a way to make me able to tolerate flies? Without feeling stress or uneasy?
Basically it’s about the rules we each have that drives us a tiny bit crazy and behave irrationally each time. What am I talking about is our personal rules of “what should happen” “what ought to be…” and “what must be”. Let me give you an example, I am of the opinion that all flies ‘should’ not disturb me when I’m having a picnic or relaxing in my garden eating suya and Guiness Stout. But thinking about it, I don’t have a right to make such demands. I don’t control the ecosystem, neither am I the Lord of the Flies, to tell them when to feed or whom to perch on.
Another example is about my kids. I have a son wh is roughly about 2 years and 5months old. Also have a pretty daughter who is 9 months old. Now my daughter wees on her diapers every now and again and either myself, mummy or the nanny changes her. No qualms. When my son does the same thing, we scold him. Why? Because we feel that he ought to know better.
So why do we have different strokes for different kids? Well, it’s because of our expectations. What we expect from our kids, friends, family, flies, football teams, freaking traffic and all the drama we come across daily creates different level of pressure or stress on various individuals. Our rules and beliefs tend to play a major role in determining whether or not we end up frustrated when things don’t meet our expectations. Our rules on what ought to be, should be or must be sets our expectations to varying degrees. If you expect your child to walk on his first birthday and he doesn’t, you might end up feeling slightly upset with him. If however he is still crawling by his second birthday, you would be more than just upset, you might be furious or exasperated. Did the child intend to make you upset? No! However when reality fails to match our expectations we end up feeling stressed. As a matter of fact, the farther away our current reality is from our expectations, the more stressed out we end up feeling.
Some have defined it in a mathematical formula: E + R = O (Where E is Event, R is Response and O stands for Outcome). Most often we can’t change the Events in our lives, however we can change the way we choose to Respond/React to every event. The way and manner we respond to event has to do with our belief or level of expectations. This belief system has consequences on the eventual outcome. Let me explain.
If I expect my son to be potty-trained at age 2 and he still ends up soiling his diapers every day, I’ll surely feel more stressed than my elder sister, who expects her kids to be potty-trained at age 3. Same events, just different levels of expectations and now different blood pressure levels.
So what then is the magical key to happiness and sanity, you might ask. To lower your expectations? Or manage them? Well yes and no. Yes, because if your expectations are low enough they can always be met. No, because most often, life is about being able to be flexible enough to realize that you may not always have your way regardless of your expectations, PHCN will seize power when your favourite team is about to start playing, babies won’t always be potty-trained at age 2, traffic will always move sluggishly especially when you’re late for work, flights will always be delayed, election dates may get moved and affect your wedding dates. Shit happens.
But you accept life for what it is, not what you think it should be. How do you do this? By casting doubt and disputing on your beliefs and rules. So I can do this my saying to myself, “Jesse isn’t potty-trained yet, but at least he is no longer peeing on his pants. He’ll eventually learn to use the toilet before he turns 3 years old, he’s still getting the hang of it. I would prefer if he didn’t soil his Huggies but I’ll survive this next diaper change and still be happy.” By adjusting my expectations to reality, I’m better able to cope with reality and open my mind to finding new solutions rather than focusing on the problem. Effectively I have transformed the problem into a challenge.
As Eric Barker of Barking Up the Wrong Tree summarizes it as simple as A-B-C-D
A is Adversity. Like traffic, bothersome flies and the soiled diapers of a toddler. Sorry, no genie can let you wish it away.
B is Beliefs. Look for beliefs with these troublesome words: should, ought and must. “Traffic shouldn’t be this bad.” Not rational. Traffic is what it is. Sorry.
C is Consequences. You banging the steering wheel with your fist and sending your blood pressure into the stratosphere.
D is Dispute. Are you demanding the universe and everyone bend to your wishes? Is that rational? No way. You can want, you can wish and you can definitely try your best in the future, but you cannot demand if you want to stay happy and sane.
Life is not perfect. People aren’t perfect. You, my dear reader, are not perfect. And that’s okay too. But having beliefs that any of these things “should” be the way you want causes you a lot of unnecessary suffering.