In cleaning up our present misunderstandings in an effort to heal a rocky relationship with the concept of expectations, this second post in my three-part series addresses the area where I believe most of our issues on this topic arise from – our expectations of others.
Whether we realize it or not, so much of where we presently tend to focus is in expecting others to do what we want them to. Expecting someone else to be courteous, expecting them to obey the laws, expecting them to behave this way or that way towards us.
We know where these expectations lead. They lead us to where we are: all of us break or “bend” the laws to suit our needs (even if it’s just speeding), but we expect others to follow them. We expect others to always take our feelings into account when we ourselves cannot possibly do this all the time. We build and sign into law ever-increasing systems of control while simultaneously feeling the ever-escalating natural desire to resist or circumvent these.
Where does it all stop? We know we are not meant to control others or be controlled by them. We feel the truth of this when we are the ones allowing ourselves to be controlled in some way, and yet often the first moment when someone acts outside the range of how we expect them to, we feel wronged in some way and think, “there should be a law… “
The expectation we have for anyone – our children, our friends, lovers, our employers, employees, our government – anyone – is the energy – the fuel feeding this massive mechanism of control. We are the energy behind the oppression of ourselves, not them. Us. There is, in fact, no “them” at all.
As we begin to see all of humanity as us – one global community, and never, ever as “us versus them,” we begin to release the old dying system and embrace the new one of living the lives we want, in harmony with all of the unique co-creators we are surrounded with.
We can be so hard on ourselves and each other. We set expectations of appropriate behavior for what we think we should be doing, and beat ourselves up when we don’t. We do the same with others.
This doesn’t get us where we want to go. If living the lives we want feels like cruising smoothly down a traffic-free stretch of highway, holding to expectations of others is like driving with the parking brake on. Sure, you can still get places that way, but you’re slowing yourself down, burning and wasting your energy, and maybe even causing damage in the process.
Release your own parking brake.
Set down the resistance that comes from expecting others to behave any certain way, and let go of all the self-imposed diminishments of living and behaving according to anyone else’s expectations of us.
I mentioned a game of sorts at the end of last weeks post: game of directing our expectations and opening ourselves up to the possibilities of what we want coming to pass, while at the same time, releasing our resistance by acknowledging we do not yet know how.
I myself am playing with this in numerous ways, which have led to the workshop I had Tuesday night with the casting director of my favorite TV show. I’ll be delving deeper into the game and my experience at this workshop in part three of this series coming out next week, but in regards to today’s topic of inter-personal expectations, an actor performing for a high-level industry decision-maker is a situation rife with potential pitfalls and outstanding opportunities.
Anyone who’s ever been an actor – even anyone who has been on a job interview knows what a nerve-wracking experience this can be. The difference is, in a job interview, assuming it is for career you really love (which frequently isn’t the case) in addition to having to come across as personable, intelligent, and motivated, you are never asked to then get up and impress them with a well-executed song and dance number, perfectly suited for your age and “type.”
Not only that, but the right role on a television show or film can launch an actor’s career and change their life forever. Two-time Emmy winner Jim Parsons of the TV show The Big Bang Theory was a relative unknown before auditioning for the part that changed everything for him. He’s starting his sixth season of the show now, just finished the starring role in Harvey on Broadway, and is enjoying the financial benefits of his hit show going into syndication. It was not that long ago that he and I were taking acting classes together in college, and playing lead roles opposite each other on the main stage. His success story is not uncommon in this industry, although in his case at least, it could not have happened to a nicer guy.
For all these reasons and more, we actors tend to place a lot of expectations on ourselves or the industry gate-keepers (or both) that ultimately do us more harm than good. Investing in any or all of them slows us down in achieving the outcome we want to have occur.
Let me illustrate with a few examples of these:
1. “I expect myself to perform absolutely flawlessly at my peak.”
Focusing on the need to do something perfectly is a recipe for failure, and from what I’ve seen in this context, usually results in one of two outcomes: either we are watching or measuring ourselves like a strict taskmaster looking over our shoulder while we work, or, we execute the moves flawlessly but without soul – without the emotional center that moved us to want to be an actor to begin with.
2. “I expect to make a real impact on this casting director, despite their meeting hundreds of people, week after week, for many years. I expect to rise above the crowd and get noticed, when others do not.”
-On top of other concerns, like performing well – this expectation puts us squarely behind the eight ball, and makes doing what we do so much more difficult. It is effectively like aiming the car at a brick wall, slamming down the gas, and hoping someone will grab the wheel at the last second to save us.
3. “I expect the casting director to like me. I expect them to be kind, courteous, truthful, yet constructive. I expect to make a strong connection with this person. I expect them to want to bring me in to be on the show.”
Expectations like these are completely, utterly out of our control – with respect to any specific person. This is a distinction that gets lost on us sometimes, but in my opinion, it is the most important shift we can make to turn expectations like these to our advantage: let go of the specifics, and go general.
If I expect that I will be successful, knowing in my heart that I am doing what I love, then I know that along the way in my journey, some casting directors and others will respond to me positively, eventually bring me into audition, and align with the Universal Forces at work in innumerable ways that result in my ultimate success.
I know I’ll have this impact on some people, it matters not how many or specifically whom they might be. So rather than going into the situation expecting her in particular to be all of these things and do all of these things, I simply go in expecting that she might be, could be one of these people.
I’m going to meet many people, many gate-keepers navigating through this industry, and the way I see it, each of these individuals has their own choice to make – to either get on the “D train” or not. Maybe some will choose to get on at a later time. Either way, this train is coming through.
Had I gone in to this workshop needing these expectations to come true with this specific person, that need – that feeling of desperate scarcity – would have been my vibration, my attraction point, and it is likely that few or none of these things would have come to pass.
But I didn’t need anything from her. I already know who I am, and what I can do. I already know I will not stop no matter what this individual or what 100 individuals may have to say. I already know that every scene I do anywhere – even my bedroom – is a chance to act, a chance to play in a way that makes my heart sing and my soul expand. I already know that the outward success that reflects my inner success is imminent. I already know that along the way, I will make an impact on certain key individuals, and she may be one of those people.
And because I chose a general approach, I released us both from the heavy burdens of inter-personal expectations, and as it happens, everything I most wanted – every one of those results – came to pass.
Without clarity on this issue, without dumping this dysfunctional relationship we have in our expectations of others, we cannot move the massive power of this tool into a direction that serves us. If we don’t change things, our expectations will continue to work under the radar, churning out the “evidence” and the results of whatever social programming, superstitions, or negative ideas we may have picked up along the way.
Our pushing the steering wheel into someone else’s hands does not stop the car from moving. We can’t stop this car. So our choice is clear: continue to let outside sources (even well-intentioned ones) determine the direction our lives will go, and continue to feed this global illusion that things “just happen to us,” or, release the brakes, take the wheel, and drive where our own hearts have always been telling us we want to go – towards creating the lives we most want to be living.