Why Relationships Cause Suffering
Relationships are a source of great joy and connection in our lives. Because of the deep attachments we form, or the unmet expectations we have, they can also be a great source of suffering. It is the unrealistic expectations that warp our reality. Either the other person is not able to meet the expectation or we haven’t communicated our needs. These expectations are often based on myths and fantasies we’ve been taught or have come to believe. We hold on to the feelings and experiences we want to be having, avoiding true communication, and suffering as a result. We then either internalize the blame and suffering that arises or project it onto others in our lives. By looking at the expectations we have, what fantasies and myths might be causing them, and communicating our needs, we can transform our relationships with ourselves and others.
These myths apply to all forms of relationships, not just romantic relationships.
– Intimate relationships
– Girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, wife, etc.
– Best Friends
– Guru, Spiritual Teacher
– Mentors, Coaches
– Groups &/or Clubs
Myths and Fantasies in Relationships
We all have individual fantasies about what life and successful relationships should look like. Or we have expectations about how we are supposed to be, setting impossible standards to live by. They can be based on many different things: culture, family beliefs, religion, interests we have, our upbringing, Hollywood, and social media, just to name a few. These sources suggest what kinds of experiences should be happening inside a relationship. And when those things aren’t happening, we become disappointed, let down, annoyed, sad, angry, and many other feelings that lead to suffering.
In this video, Doug Fisher discusses different Myths and Fantasies.
How do We Create Reasonable and Unreasonable Expectations?
There are two kinds of expectations that we generally use in communication – reasonable and unreasonable. A reasonable expectation is something that:
- You can see the other person doing it successfully.
- Something that we’ve asked them if they’re willing to fulfill.
- They’ve said yes to the expectation.
An unreasonable expectation has none of those things. Your expectation may not be something that the other person can reasonably do. You may not have asked them. Or you’ve asked and they’ve said no. Within this realm of reasonable and unreasonable expectations comes a whole entire world of communication that is available. Instead of holding onto the unreasonable expectations, we have to decide what is in our best interest and take action towards healthy steps for our own growth.
When we see the expectations as expectations, we become aware of the experiences we have when those expectations aren’t fulfilled. This can bring up both positive and negative feelings. Negative feelings resulting from an unmet expectation indicate that there is a deeper need that we have not identified.
In this video, Oakley explains the two expectations and why they cause suffering.
What is a Need?
We all have had the experience where we have unrealistic expectations that we project on people and feel emotional turmoil when they aren’t met. Underneath those expectations and emotional reactions is a need that isn’t being acknowledged and expressed. Finding out what that need is, and how to communicate it in a healthy way, is our responsibility. Some people in our lives can meet our needs and other people can’t. It is up to us to learn that discernment and the capacity to know what to ask for, who to ask, and how to ask for it appropriately.
A need describes a circumstance in which something is necessary or requires some course of action (i.e. you need water to live). It is not a want, a desire, or a preference – these can change on a whim. Needs are integral and do not change and can be defined as a physiological or psychological requirement for the well-being of an organism. This can range from food and water to human contact and socialization.
We are individual human beings with core foundational needs and when these are not met, it’s challenging to fulfill more esoteric needs or work towards higher levels of consciousness. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the foundational needs we each have are as follows:
As humans, we need to have a sense of belonging, connection, relationship, purpose, and healthy self-esteem. These are not needs that we should learn to live without or bypass altogether. They are part of the human experience. When a level of needs is not met, it’s very challenging to move on to higher spiritual pursuits. Our path of self-actualization, our path of enlightenment, actually means learning with mastery to meet all of these needs.
Oakley clarifies what a need is NOT in this next video.
Tips on Identifying and Communicating Needs and Expectations for a Successful Relationship
- Realize that having needs is not selfish.
Having a need is not selfish. That doesn’t mean you throw everyone out of your life. It’s about communication, discernment, and individual capacity.
- Get to know yourself.
What are your needs? We don’t go over this as a culture. Think back to earlier memories where you felt joy or alignment. What elements were present during those times that helped you feel like that? Those memories will key you into what your needs are.
- Identify and accept the needs that you have without judgment or self-criticism.
You can acknowledge, accept, and take responsibility for a need and bring it into your heart to help transmute any resistance to that need.
- Communicate your needs.
Be clear on what a need is and isn’t.
Practice honest communication in a calm and centered state when you ask for a need to be met. Be clear on what are realistic and unhealthy expectations in the relationship you are dealing with.
If someone can’t meet your need or expectation, try to see it as a gift of clarity that can make the relationship stronger. You both now have more awareness of what will and will not work within the relationship. There is always another way to have that need met. It may just not be in the way you had expected or wanted.
- Find ways to get your needs met.
How could you have some of your basic needs met through things you would do every day?
What is an activity or an action that will help you meet your needs?
What are extracurricular activities that might fulfill a need?
What are daily practices that might bring you more in alignment with your needs?
Using Our Humanity to Access Our Divinity
Mastering Your Expectations as a Path to the Divine
Working on our human connections is a direct way to deepen our own divinity. We discover how we work as human beings, how our feelings work, how our bodies work, and thus the mechanism of deep connection with another human being. This means exploring self-regulation, self-awareness, the right language, and communication skills. By exploring these things, we are consciously evolving ourselves. And through that, we can come to a deeper understanding of our own divinity. When we learn what holds us back, like unreasonable expectations, or what our needs truly are, we can heal. We open ourselves to becoming our true nature – our divine selves. We have chosen to be here, right now, to master our humanness. We do this by becoming aware of and mastering our needs and expectations and learning to become conscious creators of what we need and want in life.
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