Lean on me. And on her, and him over there.

ID-100296941Lean on me when you’re not strong – And I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on. For it won’t be long ‘Til I’m gonna need somebody to lean on.

Sounds familiar? Probably everyone knows this song, either as an original or a cover version. But have you ever thought about the text? It basically tells you to rely on someone else, if you feel like you cannot make it alone. As a barter you will just have to be there at some point as well. Sounds easy, logical – and basically like the ground concept for every friendship.

Confusing it becomes only when taking also other sayings into consideration. In German, for instance, there is this (admittedly sounding more witty in its original version due to the intended pun) idiom meaning “He who relies on others will be left hanging”. And this tells us basically the exact opposite: If we trust in others, we will be disappointed.

It is at times difficult to find a healthy balance between keeping it realistic and not having too high expectations. What is, however, poison for our soul is anticipating the worst. True, we won’t be disappointed if the worst case scenario actually becomes reality. But have you ever heard of self-fulfilling prophecies? Even though it sounds a bit like mumbo-jumbo, it is a fact that we (subconsciously) train our brains what to hear. So if we are used to expecting negative things, we will hear negative things out of every single sentence – even if it is initially meant positive. There was a case with foster kids I read about who were so used to being neglected by families that when there was actually one wanting to adopt them, the kids’ reaction was at first as if someone had just told them off once again. Because this is what they heard. When the social worker said “This family will adopt you”, all the kids could hear was “They don’t want you, either”. They were simply unable to perceive the information as given, because they had the negativity-filter switched on for too long in their brains.

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Do you only see the negative things?

You don’t believe in mumbo-jumbo? Well, of course, having negative expectations doesn’t lead to only negative things happening to you. No – you will simply not recognize the positive ones anymore! So don’t ignore the warning signs. I just encountered one recently myself: I was stood up by my friend (normipäivä when you are friends with guys) with whom I had planned to go skiing, and he simply didn’t show up in the morning because he had gotten too hammered the night before. Aside from the fact that I still wait for an apology, which I think would be appropriate, the situation could have been kind of comical, even. But I did not even get mad. It was almost normal to me. A huge part of me had expected something like this to happen already because apparently, secretly, I had given up on expecting anything good from other people. Or, as in this case, that they just fulfill their promises. So instead of being mad, I even felt kind of a success-feeling for having been right about not being able to rely on others at all. Or maybe I was just happy to have something to complain about in my blog again.

Yes, I still with one hundred per cent support the theory that high expectations are the beginning of each disappointment. But too low expectations just lead to a very sad and lonely life. I rather be mad and disappointed at my friend who simply doesn’t show up than reassuring myself with a triumphant “Told you so!”.

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Let’s all be happy and optimistic instead!

I really don’t want to believe the claim that we cannot rely on anyone else than ourselves. I want to see those people who leave us hanging as the exceptions confirming the rule, namely the rule that in friendships (or, let’s make an even broader definition: in human interactions) we can and have to rely on one another, because together, we are stronger; and fighting alone on each front becomes exhaustive, lonely, and very sad.

If too low expectations take over our mind after a period of bad experiences (this is life, sometimes it just strikes all at once), we have to actively remind ourselves of all the good things that happen, and all the good people around us, to stay on the positive track. Even, if it is as “minor” as some friendly stranger seeing us approaching the supermarket door, and patiently waiting to keep it open because we are packed with our 87 plastic bags with chocolate and ice cream for the lonely weekend.

 Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net. Also a pic from the linked blog entry about optimism.
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