Protecting Yourself From Shattered Expectations

I was surprised to hear of its existence and yet it made total sense. We've all felt the sadness that comes when our wants and wishes keep eluding us, but it's just as possible to have physical and medical symptoms when life does not live up to our expectations.

Paris Syndrome or Syndrome de Paris is a temporary mental disorder (mostly) experienced by Japanese tourists when they arrive in the capital of France and realise that the reality does not match the picture they had in mind. Why? There's Paris and there's Paris.

You're dreaming of the Louvre Museum and you imagine yourself admiring great art in silence, having enough time and space to stand alone in front of master works.

In real life you're dealing with the inevitable whispering in multiple tongues, while trying to ensure that you're not elbowed to the ground (okay, okay, it's not that bad). It is, however, a legitimate struggle to catch a glimpse of the portraits through a sea of selfie-sticks and screens.

There are two other syndromes that fall in the same category as the Paris Syndrome. Jerusalem Syndrome refers to the phenomenon of religious visitors to the Holy City experiencing psychotic delusions that they are Samson, the Mother Mary or John the Baptist incarnate and then try to act accordingly. Stendhal Syndrome is a psychosomatic disorder that causes heart palpitations, fainting spells and hallucinations when an individual experiences a deep connection to a piece of art e.g. Michelangelo's David sculpture or when they stand at the grave of someone they admire or respect).

Of the three syndromes, I think the disconnect that arises when Japanese tourists visit Paris is the one that we can best extrapolate to our everyday lives. It's so easy to become disillusioned when a) you have expectations and b) when you have high (or unrealistic) expectations. Socrates said it so powerfully, “What screws us up the most in life is the picture in our head of how it's supposed to be.”

It's not that we're doomed to suffer physically and emotionally like the Japanese who feel let down by their destination. We simply have to become aware of our assumptions and the churning of our mental gears.

By all means expect the best/positivity/joy/peace/fun/happiness, but do not become attached to what this should look like. Just because you expected yourself to be married by 28, don't force relationships or engagements in the last three months before your birthday. You'll most likely be married, just a year or two later than intially thought. If you 'see' yourself working as a digital nomad in Bali, don't dismiss opportunities for remote working in Portugal or Cape Town.

Once you mentally attach to a preferred outcome, you are setting yourself up for potential hurt when "life" happens and your desired situation does not materialise. Also, when you focus too much on what you want to happen or what you want to see, you miss what is actually taking place. Your mind is full and preoccupied instead of you being mindful and present in the moment. Know what you want and wish for in life, but be careful of making your mind's imagery a reality at any cost or at the expense of yourself and/or others.