The Expectation/Fantasy Cycle
Human personalities carry with them four basic tendencies—emotional obsession, behavioral compulsion, mental fixation, and physical addiction. These four tendencies lead people into repetitive and predictable patterns of thought, emotion, and action. Once we identify with a need, and insist that this need must be met in order for us to be happy, secure, and empowered, we launch ourselves into a specific cycle as illustrated and explained below.
Needs: The need for belonging and importance are the primary emotional and mental needs of all human beings from childhood until death (or transcendence). These needs can be interpreted and modified according to the situation; for instance, the need for belonging can be found in the needs for acceptance and intimacy, and the need for importance can be the major influence in the needs for appreciation and encouragement. Just as doubt is at the root of all personal thinking, need for importance and belonging can be found at the root of all emotion and feeling.
Fantasy: Fantasy is an unrealistic dream of what is possible. It’s based on the conviction that the source of happiness and fulfilment is outside of you, and that your chance for fulfilment and success depends on external energies to which you are not presently connected.
Expectation (often confused with “trust”; see note at bottom of this article): An emotional stress put on someone or something outside yourself to make your fantasy come true.
Needs are not met: This is not the result of dysfunction in the parent, partner, friend, boss, etc. It is the nature of need to never be satisfied, regardless of the response to it. You may get what you think you want, but the need behind it cannot be satisfied, and will immediately focus on some other target or goal.
Disappointment: The sad, sometimes crushing, feeling that the outside source of happiness failed or betrayed you.
Demand: A more intense, often angry, emotional stress that often carries with it a threat of punishment if the expectation is not met.
Resentment: Deeper disappointment mixed with an angry, bitter feeling toward the one or ones who “betrayed” your trust. It is the ultimate conclusion for someone who insists that their fantasies are realistic and their expectations justified. As my friend Susan How once told me:
EXPECTATIONS = PREMATURE RESENTMENT
Back to Needs: No matter how resentful you become, you will find yourself back at the “needs” position, from where you can: (a) go around on the fantasy ride again and ensure future disappointment, or (b) confront your need directly with acceptance and awareness.
Believe it or not, historically, few people have turned to face the needs that push them to constantly look outside for their happiness and fulfilment. If they were to do so, they would confront pure illusion. Some of those who have turned to face the need have reported a sensation of hunger that led them deeper into a state of anxiety or insecurity. Staying with the process, and enduring the fearful sensations that arose in their awareness, they ultimately came upon the darkness of a seemingly infinite emptiness. At that point they expressed a complete lack of any feeling, and a message from their minds that “there’s nothing here; come on back.” Those who do not turn away stop thinking altogether.
It’s at this point where the sense of self begins to fade and awareness of the NOW and awareness in the NOW seems to expand. The emptiness is now experienced as a fullness, an inseparable being that is neither good nor bad, neither happy nor unhappy, as we tend to define those words. Whether by design or individual choice, the experiencer “leaves” that state of being and returns to his/her “self,” feeling pleasant and peaceful. I don’t see how you can leave what in fact you are, but such is the nature of this human journey that you can know the Truth and continue to act as if you didn’t.
After riding around the needs cycle for countless times, it is often at the stage of disappointment where people first recognize that their unhappiness is an extension of their needs, and not the result of someone else’s behavior. You begin to get the feeling that no matter how much or how little others do for you, you will never be satisfied. If you have not already gotten to this point, when you do, hopefully you will recognize it as a sign that this is a good time to get off the ride!
Note about “trust”: One of the most deceptive aspects of the expectation cycle is that “trust” is so often used as a reason for getting our expectations met as well as a weapon to be used against those who fail us. We don’t see disappointment and resentment as a result of seeking fulfilment outside of us. Rather, we see them as proof that the other person or people “betrayed our trust” in them.
I value trust as one of the highest experiences of an inner connection to our essence and intuition, and feel that its meaning is denigrated to the status of a control tool. When we use the word to coerce or punish others, we deny ourselves the experience of real “Trust.”