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Expectation Hangovers

Anyone who participates in life experiences disappointment now and again.

Maybe something has not panned out for you lately. Or perhaps you are feeling disappointed because something has not turned out the way you wanted.

There are many times in my life where I have been quite excited about something – a new job, a person I’d been spending time with or an event coming up, that didn’t turn out to be what I had expected. The thought of them had me on a high, but the reality of it ended up a tad disappointing. Other times, crushingly disappointing (human being first, psychologist second).

But it was the expectation or the thought of it that had me hopeful. The idea of it that I had created in my mind had it on a pedestal before it had earned its right to be there. So when it falls off, I went along with it, feeling sad, and a bit scared of doing it again. This is what author and life coach, Christine Hassler, calls an expectation hangover. The discomfort we experience when reality does not match the expectations we once attached to it.

Been there, done that. We all have.

It happens more so when we engage fully in life. You don’t get an expectation hangover from just taking sips.

Thoughts are so powerful. Just by thinking about something, we can start feeling an emotion, which in turn changes our behaviour. The inner part of our brain acts as though a thought is real. Then the brain kind-of tricks you into actually thinking you have experienced something wonderful, and then when reality hits, it is like it has gone. What you thought you had is no longer there.

That’s because we fell in love with the idea, the expectation of it, and the thought of it first. Then experienced the reality, second. We don’t know the reality of life until we are in it. Sometimes it is beautiful, other times, not so much.

Perhaps you are recovering from a relationship breakdown or returned recently from a long expensive trip that wasn’t what it was cracked up to be. Maybe you recently got married and are having second thoughts or maybe you studied years for a career that you always wanted, but then started working in it and found that it wasn’t what you thought it would be.

Unlike our traditional hangovers, which many of us don’t learn from, expectation hangovers can be mighty useful in redirecting you onto a better path.

If you are suffering from an expectation hangover, be kind to yourself.

Firstly, sit in the pain, without judgement. Thoughts can make us feel immense emotions, and when the reality doesn’t meet the expectation; we are sometimes in for an almighty crash. Unlike the traditional hangover, good things can come from expectation hangovers. So don’t wallow in them too long.

Secondly, try and learn from the experience. We don’t tend to do this well with alcohol, even when we boldly state we will never drink again, usually by the weekend we are back doing it again. Is there something you need to change in your life? Is there a cycle you need to get out of? Should you be avoiding certain people or places? Realisations can be incredible learning experiences leading to powerful personal growth.

Thirdly, be open to the possibility that even if things didn’t turn out the way you expected, doesn’t make it wrong. It was just not right for you. This helps push you on a different pathway, which is likely to be better for you. Maybe it’s with a better-suited partner who treats you well, a perfect holiday destination next time, or a more fulfilling career that makes you jump out of bed in the morning.

Remember, hangovers are self-inflicted. So you have the power to get out of them, as well as avoid them in the future.

Expectation hangovers can point you towards a more fulfilling life. So before you reach for the burger and chips to soak up your woes, take note of the lessons that need to be learned from the queasy stomach.


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