What narrative have you created around this time in our history? Are you feeding into strong political leanings? Are you feeling threatened? Are you disconnecting, not only physically, but emotionally from those you pass by? What is true for you? I was recently watching an exchange between Eckhart Tolle and Oprah Winfrey, whom I consider both leaders. Eckhart profoundly said “The emotion reflects the narrative of what your mind is creating.” He went on to say that “Worry is built around this narrative”. Oprah pointed out that “The sooner you get to acceptance, the better your suffering will be.” Ultimately, what I dearly appreciate about these statements is the recognition that, while we may not want to be quarantined, when we resist it, we increase our suffering. If you are suffering in quarantine, likely you have built a narrative that leads to your suffering. When we allow ourselves to accept reality, we can find other solutions to the challenges that arise, thus minimize our suffering.

This makes me think of a science experiment – if every time you reached for an apple you received a shock, causing yourself suffering, would you keep reaching for it? Would you allow yourself to accept the reality that the apple is electrified? And, that if you keep choosing it, you will suffer? Or, would you place blame on the apple? Or, would you blame others, insisting the apple shouldn’t be electrified? It seems easy to say that you would just reach for something else, but consider how many areas in our lives was keep insisting on suffering. What I have come to recognize is that when we set expectations that cannot be met, we are causing ourselves suffering.

Here’s an example: I have a chihuahua, who, while adorable, has separation anxiety. When she is left alone in a room, or perceives herself to be alone, she begins to cry and whine, which eventually turns into a full-scale alarm system of screaming. Each time she does this, I want to say I feel empathy for her and go to comfort her, but the truth is, there are many times where I’ve left the room to complete a task that I then have to stop to go get her. I find myself annoyed (i.e. suffering). Now, I know this dog is not going to change, not really, and thus, when I expect her to behave differently than reality, I am choosing the electrified apple, if you will, I am choosing to suffer. Can you think of a relationship you have where you expect another person to change to meet your expectations? And, just to clarify, you can recognize those expectations by the words “should, could, ought to,” those are your beliefs, not facts, and often they deny reality. Think about that last political meme that got your blood boiling – you’re upset because the person who shared it “should” know it’s not true; ”should” be able to see your side; “should” think differently… and thus, you respond to them out of this “non-reality” place. Reality is – they did post the meme because they believe in it. Period. How you respond determines if you’re going to reach for the electrified apple or not.

I often use my coffee cup with a lid to help my clients recognize how, when they set these types of expectations, on others or themselves, they are removing the lid of their cup and allowing others to be in control of what goes inside of it (i.e. how they feel). When they assume the expectations of others and allow that to impact their emotions, they are also handing over their lid-less cup. Their thoughts are feeding that narrative they are telling themselves. So, how do we put the lid on our cup? Well, first we have to realize our core beliefs about ourselves, others, and the world. If you believe the apple shouldn’t be electrified, your belief, that does not align to reality, will cause you suffering. If you accept that the apple is electrified that doesn’t mean you can’t advocate for it to no longer be electrified; that doesn’t mean you like that it’s electrified; it simply means you acknowledge reality… which is, that the apple is electrified… and thus, you put the lid on your cup. You control your thoughts.

If you are constantly frustrated, agitated, irritable, looking to incite others, these are all signs that you are holding expectations and reacting to what you assume others are expecting of you. These aren’t truths, they are simply beliefs. Once we can allow ourselves to accept reality, we can enjoy oranges or bananas or grapes or kiwi or pineapple because we know that the apple is electrified.