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How Our Expectations Affect the Future

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We are in Russia. A man approaches the fortune teller’s table and gives her his hand to be foretold the future. She looks at his hand, whitens and foretells him a future of misfortune! The man gets upset, pulls a knife and pounces on the fortune teller. Two passers-by intervene to stop him, and he is stabbed to death. The distraught man drops the knife and waits to be arrested.

The black future predicted by the sorceress has come true!

Thus begins the book by Davide Lo Presti, an Italian psychologist, explaining the phenomenon called the “Prophecy That Comes True” that we will now see to understand better.

Each of us moves in a world of concrete objects, but above all, our ideas and beliefs are based on our plans and behaviour. When we are convinced of an idea, we adapt his action to this conviction, often creating (more or less consciously) the conditions for this to happen.

Who creates the future?

Returning to our initial story, can we say that it was the fortune teller who read the destiny of man, or was he who gave credence to the prophecy and put in place a behaviour such as to realise it?

Prophecy is generated in those who decide to believe her expectations and push to take exactly those steps that lead to its realisation.

  • “What we do see depends mainly on what we look for”, Sir John Lubbock

We can see that the simple way of asking a question also influences the answers because our mind seeks confirmation rather than rebuttal. An example is how to the question, “Are you dissatisfied with your social relationships?” We tend to answer yes more often, highlighting the unsatisfactory aspects of our relations with others.

Conversely, to the question, “Are you satisfied with your social relationships?” We will still tend to answer yes, this time putting what we are satisfied within the foreground.

Expectations

Our expectations about situations and people are also conditioned by the labels that we more or less consciously attribute to what surrounds us. Dividing the world into categories is an innate tendency in human beings. It serves the function of simplifying reality, of giving it order and making it, in a certain sense, predictable. Each label is associated with different expectations that, in a sense, anticipate reality so we feel more ready to face situations without being caught unprepared.

In addition, because of cognitive dissonance, we tend to strengthen our beliefs by avoiding what could challenge them to maintain a sense of internal coherence.

We also have expectations about ourselves and our potential. If, for example, we face something we think is beyond our capabilities, the negative expectation will block us and worsen our performance.

The power of expectation also affects our relationship with others. We all have a system of beliefs about the inner world of others that allows us to make continuous assumptions about the moods and thoughts of the people we relate to, allowing us to predict their behaviour.

However, even if unfounded, our theories produce precise expectations that condition our behaviour, leading us to validate them.

Get rid of conditioning

How can we eliminate conditionings and change those situations that do not satisfy us? Here are some tips.

First, we need to understand that our situation depends on the meaning we give it. One thing can be seen as positive or negative, but it is our view. To get practical, the suggestion is to follow these three action steps.

  • Analyse our expectations
  • How expectations influence our action
  • Implement the phase of change by implementing corrective emotional action

It should always be remembered that anxieties and fears restrain the brain and do not make available the cognitive resources that could help us cope with the situation.


Annalisa Balestrieri holds a master’s degree in modern literature, with a psycho-pedagogical specialisation, from the State University of Milan.

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