Is Expectation The Root Of All Heartache?


Put forth by the playwright of one of the greatest love stories of all time, William Shakespeare’s sad and mildly apathetic saying, ‘expectation is the root of all heartache’ is one which I can’t help but agree with.

Simply because, the very definition of heartache is when reality fails to live up to one’s expectations.

As individuals, we all have our own levels of expectation. Some of us anticipate more attention or communication from a relationship, unequivocally something that our partner may not be aware of, or feel equally necessary.

Putting a lot at stake in our relationships can often lead us to obsess, over-think, miss out on focusing on ourselves and ultimately set ourselves up for disappointment.

Expectations are quite possibly the one thing that hinders our ability to be at peace not just in our relationships but in life as well.

To live without expectation frees us from the inevitable disappointment. It opens the door of possibility. However we can only do this if we detach ourselves from being bound to expectation. If successful, no longer will you find yourself in the past or future hoping or reminiscing that things should have been a certain way. You’ll no longer be trying to  read a situation but instead will be in the moment enjoying whatever happens for what it is.

Does that mean if you lower your expectations, you can avoid heartache? Probably. The question is, however, should you lower or remove your expectations to avoid heartache? The answer: probably not.

If we remove all expectation, does that mean we are more likely to get walked over? If we never expect a certain standard, then will we ultimately be left disappointed regardless? Expectation is crucial for setting the standards that determine our happiness, to ensure that we get what we need emotionally.

Furthermore, if expectation is the root of all heartache, then surely it’s also the root of all joy. When reality meets or even exceeds expectation, the result is irreplaceable.

Perhaps it is when we expect too much, an unrealistic assumption, which leads to heartache. If we learn to judge realistically as opposed to assuming the best or most, perhaps then our levels will be restored in order for happiness to be achieved, and heartache to be avoided.

So as much as I agree with the bard himself, I do believe that expectation is entirely crucial in setting the standard for contentment. Unrealistic expectation may be the root of all heartache, but that which is realistic is the root of all joy.

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