How do I Deal with the Sadness of Unfulfilled Expectations?

Mar 9, 2020


Dear Ven Robina,

I’m so happy and grateful for the time we’ve spent together recently and for the opportunity to retake the vows with you.

I’ve been drawn to the Buddha since I’ve been a child. At the age of 6 I started to collect old Buddha statues. Since then I’ve been introduced to many traditions and schools but not the urge to commit myself. But your directness and clarity made me feel home instantly. Now after all those years I see myself as a committed Buddhist in a tradition that suits me. Finally. Thank you!

Putting it in to practice – may I ask you for guidance?

I’m experiencing a lot of sadness over the last two days. I’ve been watching the whims of my own mind, which made me realize that the non-commitment of my partner triggered an old pain. He tells me that he loves me sincerely but then is emotionally unavailable. Just like my parents and siblings. Because of their own trauma/karma they are suffering so much that they can’t express their love or be there for one another and emotionally support each other. I’m used to it.

But having to deal with my recent illness without their support (but with the loving support of my friends) and being ignored by my family because they were just not able to cope with it, brings me to tears. It makes me feel like a little child again craving for my parents’ affection. 

I know my sadness and suffering is my own creation. I accept that. But how can I deal with it for benefit of myself and others? Is there a specific practice or prayer I could do/recite?

Much love and gratitude,




Dear Ven Robina,

I’ve just now found great advice on how to deal with sadness from Lama Zopa online at the lama Yeshe archive. It helped me a lot! What an empowering teaching it is!



I’m delighted to hear from you, dearest Y.

And so glad that Rinpoche’s advice was helpful. I don’t know what advice it was, but I’m sure, knowing Rinpoche, it was all about compassion etc., right?

Yes, the key thing for you to learn to see and understand as the source of this sadness, this sense of loss, is the attachment, the expectation, that others verify us, respond to us, love us. It sounds shocking in our culture to even think that we have a problem, but that’s the Buddha’s take on it.

We’ve all got attachment of one kind or another, as you well know, but this is the most primordial, the hardest one to get to.

Given that this attachment is an an assumption that somehow others should fulfil our needs, verify us, like us, we should ask ourselves why do we need it? Why am I somehow less if I don’t get it? As we’ve discussed, the energy of attachment is dissatisfaction: we’re just not enough in our very self.

It’s shocking to even question such basic assumptions. But it’s powerful to do so.

So, besides compassion, thinking of others, seeing that it’s our job to give to others not the other way around, we need to really question the assumption. Really question it, try to find answers. It’s very helpful.

Much love,




Thank you for answering, Venerable! 

Yes, Rinpoche’s advices to use sadness to develop bodhicitta is very powerful. The thought “I’m experiencing this on behalf of all sentient beings” helped me to put my suffering in perfective. It took me out of my victim role and made my sadness an object of practice. Also putting it in the context of karma made helps to accept the situation. It even feels empowering.

Thank you for the clear advice. You make the teaching from the Buddha so practical. I’ll keep that question in my mind and act on it too. I know there’s so much joy in giving but now and then this petty me kicks in with the though “This is not fair, why do I always have to take care of others”. . .

Much love,




Yes, so good, Y!

When we can also see that our “always have to take care of others” is mixed with attachment hoping to get something in return, then we can be wiser about how we help, when we help, and whom.

Our virtues are there, but they’re polluted by attachment. Very subtle, very hard to see.

Keep moving, dear one. You’re doing beautifully!

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