Expecting Too Much

What it would be like if you could stop expecting too much? If you could let things develop in their own way.

My old girlfriend used to say I was too reactive.  I couldn’t see it at the time, but I can now. When I saw her and things didn’t go right I admit that I could be quick to react, to become argumentative, to get upset by things.  I know I don’t tend to take things lightly.  I didn’t use to see that as a problem, I used to think it was a good thing.  I used to think I had high standards, what’s wrong with that?

But then I started to think about what she’d said.  The relationship had ended by then, but for some reason, I was able to think about what had happened.  I could see that I may have been too demanding.  I may have had expectations that were too high.  I asked myself where that started? Pursuing that question changed everything for me.


Are you expecting too much?

It is one thing to say that you have high standards, that you will only accept certain things. 

  • But are those expectations getting in the way of you living a more constructive life?
  • If you look back over your relationships or your career can you see instances where your expectations created problems?

A person I will call Lewis, used to tell me of the expectations he would project onto other people. Lewis would expect the other person to treat him the same way in return. But reality tends not to work like this. Lewis would often end up disappointed when his expectations were not met. It was only when Lewis found a way to let go of his expectations that his life started to develop.

Like Lewis, it is likely you will be disappointed if your expectations are too high.

There is a balance to be found between what we expect we should be able to have and what we are actually satisfied by.  The challenge is how to find that balance if you’ve never had it.

There is usually a history to how we come to expect too much 

It may go back a very long way. Often these kinds of high expectations become a kind of habit.  Whatever we try to get into we find ourselves falling out of because it didn’t match our expectations.

I would have said I grew up in a regular family, but when I look a bit more closely I know that I never felt that I could relax.  I have got two siblings, an older sister, and a younger brother.  I don’t remember the details so clearly, but my parents were tough on me and my sister.  They were much easier with my younger brother.  It was like he was their love child and my sister and I were just responsibilities. 

I think it was very hard for my sister.  She really struggled with not getting attention from my parents.  Maybe I had it a bit easier than her.  I don’t know.  But I do know that I have always had high expectations.  And I don’t think they have helped.  I think all of my relationships, and my professional relationships have suffered from feelings I have that I expected more.


It can be hard to find a place to step back and look at yourself.  To see and understand what drives you, what leads you to make the kind of decisions you make. 

The benefit of a psychotherapy relationship is that it creates a confidential and reliable place in which you can come to understand yourself better.  That means that you may be able to find a way to identify and stop your life from being dominated by unhelpful expectations.

Expecting too much and depth psychology

In models of psychotherapy that stem from Freudian psychoanalysis and Jungian analytical psychology, psychotherapists work with clients to understand ways in which presenting problems relate to psychological imbalances.

When we are too attached to our expectations we become dominated by particular conscious desires. What then follows is that we become cut off from alternative possibilities. So expecting too much, might be understood as being over-attached to particular ideas and desires which block our development. A compensatory attitude is required if we are to come away from being overly fixated to particular expectations.

The Myers Briggs personality assessment (MBTI) developed out of Jung’s work on psychological types

Jung thought that people experience the world using four psychological functions – sensation, intuition, feeling, and thinking – and that one of these four functions is dominant for each of us most of the time. In Jung’s view the more we can understand our psychological type, the better informed we are, and the more we can work to try to balance and compensate unhelpful tendencies.

When expecting too much becomes a problem of its own

  • What are our habits, preferences and expectations based upon?
  • Could it be that our expectations have picked up their own momentum, like the proverbial rolling stone?

In my practice, I meet people who sometimes expect things without having any sense of there being alternatives. If you could give yourself a break from expecting too much, then you might be able to see what you do have, what you want, and so on.

I met a man who woke every morning to a nagging sense of disappointment. At the moment that he woke, his first thought was always that there was some kind of problem. This waking thought had acquired autonomy, it was clearly a habit he had developed in which life was never meeting his expectations. When he recognised that this was what he did, he became able to look at it for what it was. He found a way to notice the expectation without being caught up in it. For him, this was a revelation. He was able to step back from his expectations and see all manner of new possibilities.

Contact me to discuss further

If you have a sense that you expect too much, that you get caught up in unhelpful repetitions to things, that you find your ideas hitting the same obstacles, and that it is stopping you from engaging in a more meaningful life, then it might be helpful to talk about this. That may be the beginning of changing the way you live.

I have been working with people on issues such as this for twenty years.  My work is built around helping people to engage with the problems that hold them back.  Problems that block their energy, creativity and self-expression. 

Working like this in psychotherapy can be a route to being able to see the difference between what you imagine someone might think about you and what they do think about you.

Contact me to arrange a free 15-minute conversation to discuss how my work might be useful to you. I have a lot of experience of using telephone and online platforms and I would be pleased to hear from you.

Email: toby@tobyingham.com