Changing Habits General

Divide Your Emotions to Help Cope with Bipolar – Defining Expectations

If you haven’t read the overview, then please read it before continuing. You’ll have a better understanding of this method. Today, I’ll be exploring one of the MOST important steps of this approach – Defining Expectations.

For the last 4 years, I have been self-coaching myself, trying to find ways to improve my mood swings. I’ll admit, much of the support does come from motivational books, leadership courses, and understanding Bipolar Disorder. Here’s what NO one will tell you: much of how we control our mood swings or even stop an episode from occurring is based on understanding our emotions. For example, think about what we learn from the various support groups. A majority are based on communication to lighten the emotional pain, understanding trigger points, redefining situations, etc.…right?

Have you noticed all of these have to do with emotional control, and it’s because your emotions control your mind and vice versa.

Listen, I’m NOT trying to tell you it’s the only way you’re going to live a normal productive life, but I’m being completely transparent when I tell you that when I learned to control my emotions, I was able to control my mood swings. I promise you!

I was diagnosed with Bipolar in 2000, and spent the last 4 years trying to build confidence, increase motivation, and look and feel good. However, no matter what I did, it wasn’t as effective as the day I learned to control how I view certain situations. I wanted to understand this better so I started to research why, and came to the following conclusion about myself…

Right before an episode or downward spiral, I noticed a strict pattern…

I would feel worthless because of something that happened in my life. For example, either I didn’t like the way I was treated, I negatively defined a situation, or getting high caused paranoia. This normally led to an alcoholic binge, which led to depression because I felt like my life was going nowhere. (This would happen after 2-3 days of being on a drinking binge).


I’m not sure if you guys experienced the same thing, but take some time out right now to re-evaluate what caused an episode in your life. Was it a…

  • Fight
  • Misunderstanding
  • Stress
  • Lack of communication

I can guarantee you, whatever it was, you MUST have felt emotionally drained.


I want you to read this quote from Communication – A True Mood Stabilizer

“Studies have confirmed that stress can precipitate manic and depressive episodes. The biochemical imbalance makes individuals more vulnerable to emotional and physical stressors: such as lack of sleep, excessive stimulation, marital tensions and conflicts; or upsetting and traumatic life experiences. During times of stress, the brain chemistry lacks the mechanisms to function properly, triggering the onset or recurrence of an unwanted episode. Despite this reaction, the stress in and of itself is not the cause of the disorder.”

If you’re having a hard time pulling out the value from the quote, then here it is…

Basically, people who suffer from Bipolar Disorder have a chemical imbalance that makes us more vulnerable to stress. This means the usual stressors that people WITHOUT bipolar can handle will have a major impact on us. However, keep in mind, everything mentioned like tension, stress, conflicts, and stimulation have a direct impact on our emotions…right?

This means if you can control your emotions, then you’ll be able to control the various triggers.

I’m not going to go deeper about being able to control your emotions, and the importance of having this skill. I’d rather show you going forward as outlined in the “overview”.

Let’s get started, and learn how to define our expectations because you’ll only be able to move to the next step after you have gone through this one.

Why is this important?

A lot of what I’ve learned has to do with understanding my emotions and how it affects my mood. For example, I’ve noticed if I get up and exercise first thing in the morning, I’m more positive, relaxed, motivated than if I had done it later in the day. Why?

Exercise is important to me, and I want to make sure it’s in my daily routine. However, waiting until late in the evening decreases the likelihood of getting it done, and this means I probably won’t do it, leaving a huge empty spot emotionally.

I’ve defined an expectation of working out daily because it’s mentally, physically, and emotionally important. When I don’t, my mind automatically thinks I’ve negatively impacted those “3” regions, however, on the other hand, when I do, I’ve positively impacted my mental, physical, and emotional well-being.

Here’s another example,

I’ve pretty much blocked out all negative people from my life, which was tough because some had been around for years. I now have expectations on the type of people I want around me because they make me feel good. The negative group I had would always put me down about my inspirations and personal goals. In the end, I would leave wounded, with circulating thoughts of worthlessness. However, once they left my circle, I didn’t have to deal with those thoughts, which dramatically changed my mood. I no longer had people telling me I couldn’t do something so my business improved, and so did other aspects of my life.

There’s something strong about the last point when I say:

“I no longer had people telling me I couldn’t do something so my business improved, and so did other aspects of my life.”

I realized everything is connected so by making one huge change, you’ll simultaneously improve other aspects. I learned this from a book called The Power of Habit, which includes the idea that a “keystone habit” can trigger almost everything to change in your life.

Defining your expectations will change every other aspect of your life. Check out the illustration below…

define-your-expectations (2)

In the illustration, you see important social interactions you have on a daily basis. For example, I’ve listed friends, family, co-workers, and the general public. I’m sure there are more, but we’ll stick to the 4 most important.

In the middle, you see 3 important questions:

  1. What do you expect from friends?
  2. How do you expect to be treated?
  3. How will you treat others?

You should write down more important questions like, “What do you expect from family?”, “What do you expect in an intimate relationship?”, etc. The key is to be able to define all IMPORTANT aspects of your life so you have a clear cut plan. The clearer your expectations, the better you can define what to expect, and the right actions to take.

In the illustration, I’ve written a few questions, however, in the middle, you should write your expectations. For example, my answer to #1 would be the following:

  • Honesty
  • Respect
  • Loyalty
  • Being able to trust them
  • Support
  • Being straightforward

Here’s how my “network of expectations” will look after answering question 1.

define-your-expectations-2nd (1)

It’s important that you create a chart for every one of your questions because you’ll see a pattern develop. For example, the answers to question #3 will probably include:

  • Honest
  • Respectful
  • Support others
  • People should be able to trust me

These answers are similar to question number #1, and will probably be similar to others. Here’s the power in the exercise:

As you go through each one, you’ll notice how they are all deeply connected. Go back and look at the illustrations, and you’ll notice how the arrows are laid out. You’ll notice each one of your answers can be applied to different relationships…right? For example,

You expect “honesty” from your friends, but expect the same from your co-workers and family. You expect support from all areas too. Going through this exercise provides great insight into how everything is connected.

Here’s the cool part that I realized after several months…

As my relationship changed with “1” group of people, it automatically changed with others at the same time. Honesty improved my relationship with my family, but it had a positive effect on my relationship with my friends and co-workers.

This is the power of “defining your expectations” because you’ll see how things are connected. What’s even cooler is change is NOT tough because 1 keystone change will affect all other areas of your life. Remember – The Power of Habit.

When I learned what was important, I was able to avoid what was not, and this helped control my triggers. Avoiding the negative energy allowed me to control my emotions, hence reducing tension responsible for triggering manic episodes. If someone wasn’t honest with me, I would cut them off instead of keeping them around, avoiding the negative energy they bring. In essence, I was able to make changes so I can avoid possible triggers going forward.

I’ll be breaking all this down throughout the series, but let’s focus on “defining your expectations”.

Here’s what I need you to do:

First, download the blank “Network of Expectations” sheet. On the top, write down your “What I expect from”, then your answers. If you need more room, print out another sheet and continue writing.

Define Your Expectations (737 downloads) (use this link if above not working)

Make sure you fill out a separate sheet for each expectation. Later, you’ll be able to go through and find a pattern. This pattern will be your foundation for the next phase.

Helping others beat bipolar disorder. After living with Bipolar for over 16 years, I have self-educated myself to come up with creative ways to live a normal productive life. It`s time to give back by helping others transform!