danger expectations

I don’t know about anyone else but when things aren’t going well I hate hearing “Everything happens for a reason.” Does it really? Or is this another story people tell themselves to take the sting out of admitting powerlessness against the randomness of life? In the moment of disappointment or pain, does this saying even bring genuine comfort?

It’s less painful to accept what’s happening in the moment and roll with it (letting go of the expectations we hadn’t even realized we’d assigned to an outcome) than it is to continue trying to force a square peg into a round hole. It took years for me to learn this lesson – that my will doesn’t have the ultimate power to control my destiny – no matter how pure my desire driving it. Sometimes the only power my willfulness has is to keep me swimming circles in a fish tank not knowing I’m not free.

How can you have goals, wants, and dreams and still leave room for life to happen?  How can you recognize when you’re too afraid to trust in the process or have become married to your intended results?

If you find yourself going along “acting as if” but have a constant nagging sensation that you’re bracing yourself for disappointment,  waiting for the other shoe to drop, then you’ve become married to your expectations. It probably feels like if things don’t go as planned nothing will be okay. Not only will you have failed but that you are a failure. The disease mind is always waiting to unleash negative self-talk . Maybe  desire for control is born out of the fear of how brutally we beat ourselves up when we don’t get our own way.  The danger for recovering addicts is that if we feel bad enough long enough, we will eventually get high.

My friend, psychotherapist and transformation coach, Terri Cole, has a great analogy: think of what it feels like to swim against the current. It’s invigorating and challenging but it quickly becomes exhausting and you don’t cover much distance. Once you flip over and float, there’s no struggle and you travel further. By letting go our life and recovery can mirror this experience.

Here is an exercise: think back on a time when you wanted something intensely and the pain you experienced when it became clear not going to happen. Fast forward to the next time you experienced great joy and fill in the blanks – what random event turned things around to ultimately lead you to the next wonderful experience? Chances are, you will see that many of the major thrills of your life happened when you hit a wall and gave up on trying to force the square peg into the round hole because you were up against a wall of pain or frustration.

Things happen because they happen.  It’s only in hindsight that we can assign any logic to it and dress it up as an intended part of a longer story. Time has to pass, life has to unfold, and when things seem to be making sense again – when we are content and not struggling with control –then we are able to look back and say something like “Everything happen for a reason.” The trick is being able to come to this kind of acceptance while it is happening.


Patty is a nationally recognized certified recovery coach and writer. She lives in New York City.


Thanks. Needed to see this today.

Thanks so much for sharing your insights on “acceptance” Patty! I appreciate your guidance and understanding acceptance in the midst of a difficult or unpleasant experience.



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