The Manual: Our Rule Book for Others

Jan 15, 2021

Think about the person who frustrates you the most. Wouldn’t it be nice if they would just change? Life would be simpler, easier and more peaceful if they would just correct their behavior, right?

Any time we are frustrated by another person, they are failing to meet our expectations of them.

We have expectations for all the people in our lives, in fact, and my teacher calls this The Manual. It is a rule book for how we expect a person to behave so that we can feel how we want to feel. Manuals sound like: 

If only they would realize that I’m not “over it.”

I can’t believe it. She told me that it’s time to “move on.”

He should have never asked me out so soon after my husband’s passing.

She should call me back when I call her.

They should have invited me to the party.

She should be supporting me.

They should know what I need.

Most often we don’t actually tell people what’s in our Manual for them; we just expect that they should know.

While it seems like having expectations of other people is normal, it is actually the source of great pain because it makes our happiness dependent on the actions of another person. It robs us of our power. It gives other people power over us. It prompts us to try to control others so that we can feel better.

The truth is that adults have the freedom to behave however they choose. People who haven’t lost a spouse don’t understand the journey. Those who show up try to say the “right” things and sometimes they say the most unhelpful things. They don’t know what our needs are. Some don’t reach out in the spirit of giving us space, or for fear of saying the wrong thing. They don’t realize that we want to be invited to the party, but we don’t actually want to go.

In fairness, we were once in their shoes, and we also didn’t know what we didn’t know.

And besides, once you know that thoughts create feelings, you know that your feelings are an inside job, dependent only on your own thoughts, not the actions of another.

If we throw away our Manuals for other people, they can no longer disappoint us with their behavior. We can let people act exactly how they act. We can stop expecting them to understand what they can’t possibly understand. We can stop holding them accountable for how we feel.

If you’re just not ready to throw away your Manual for another person, my private coaching program called Life Reconstructed can help. If it’s time to invest in yourself, simply apply here and we’ll see if it’s a fit.  

Learn more about Life Reconstructed.

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