Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Expectation Hangovers

" expectation hangover occurs when we hold a certain expectation but things do not turn out as we thought they should or we would have liked, and then they feel awful." (Quote via Water Cooler Wisdom. Thanks for sending, T!)

So effectively, an "expectation hangover" is all those shoulda-woulda-couldas that make us feel bad about things that didn't happen as though we hoped, and probably expected, they would. Albert Ellis in A Guide to Rational Living, a book about rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT), calls these "expectation hangovers" irrational beliefs (IB). REBT discusses these awfulizing thoughts, which are just that--thoughts. We only feel bad because we think these things that happen to us (or didn't happen) are so awful and debilitating, when in fact that's usually not the case, thus making it an irrational belief.

Thinking about my own Irrational Beliefs (there are more than I wish to count), they rear their ugly heads predominantly in relationships and work. In fact, I'd go so far to say that my engagement last year failed because of an "expectation hangover." Once engaged, issues arose that we were not expecting. I felt immediately that because it wasn't "perfect," and everyone wasn't getting along swimmingly (like they should and must), that it was completely awful and terrible and had to be ended. I think he felt equally disillusioned and disappointed, so we parted ways after four years of being together and now hardly remain friends.

Who said that getting engaged has to be easy and go perfectly or it's not worth doing at all?

Irrational beliefs pop up in work-related matters for me as well. A good chunk of my work is admin, though I have convinced myself that I am "too talented" and unchallenged to be bothered with such mundane tasks. As a result, I often feel down on myself and think I am an unsuccessful loser because I have to do these "chores." It also makes me feel embarrassed and worth less than someone who doesn't have these kinds of tasks as part of their job.

Who said that I must never have to do mundane admin tasks at work, and if I do, I am worthless and an unsuccessful loser?

To combat IBs such as these, Ellis provides the Disputing Irrational Beliefs Exercise (DIBs). He suggests spending several minutes each day asking yourself the questions and carefully thinking through the appropriate answers.

1. What Irrational Belief do I want to dispute and surrender?
2. Is the Belief accurate?
3. Why is the Belief Inaccurate?
4. Does any evidence exist of the truth of my Belief?
5. What worst things could absolutely happen to me if I don't get what I think I must (or do without what I think I mustn't)?
6. What good things could I make happen if I don't get what I think I must (or do get what I think I mustn't)?

We all hold so many irrational beliefs and expectation hangovers...let's be rational. It's not the end of the world--yet.

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