Everyone has beliefs about how things should be in relation to themselves, to others, and to the world. Expectations usually involve judging yourself, others, and situations against specific standards for behavior and reality that you’ve created in your mind. Sometimes these expectations become imperatives, such as “Things must be the way I want them to be.” Whenever you think in terms of how people or situations should be, you set yourself up for disappointment. When you don’t perform as you think you should; when others don’t act as you think they should; when situations don’t turn out as you think they should, the resulting emotions are likely to include guilt, shame, frustration, hurt, and anger. For people struggling with chronic pain, this can create serious imbalances in thinking along the lines of: “It’s not fair that I got hurt and now I can’t work. I should be able to do all the things I used to do. This shouldn’t have happened and I should not have to be in pain. But since I’m in pain, everyone should just let me take my pain medication however I want to in order to feel better!” A solution to restore balanced thinking when you’re caught up in expectations is to consciously separate what you may want from the reality of the situation. It’s normal, natural, and understandable to want things the way you want them. But mental balance and pain recovery require you to develop the ability to accept the things you cannot change. Applying the Serenity Prayer (see exercise 6.7) and identifying the things you cannot change, as well as what you can do to better accept those things, will make noticeable, positive differences in your experience of pain and in your life. It is essential to remember that one thing you can always change is how you respond to the people, events, and situations in your life. This blog post is an excerpt from Pain Recovery – How to Find Balance and Reduce Suffering from Chronic Pain by Mel Pohl, MD, FASAM, Frank Szabo, LADC, Daniel Shiode, PhD, Robert Hunter, PhD; Published by Central Recovery Press (CRP).