Ask Lewis: Is There A System for Problem Solving?

Lewis Answers: “We have discovered the enemy and it is us!”

It has always been my belief that common source of problems for individuals is a focus on regrets and misdirected expectations. Regrets are past perceived errors or failures. An expectation is something hoped for. A thought or deep attachment to the idea that something or someone will appear in a specific way in the future.

During my years as a Shaman’s apprentice and as a student of Zen, I was often told that to  live life fully one must have “no expectations, and no regrets.” I was baffled by this teaching.  After all it is normal human behavior to  have expectations and regrets. Much of life is uncertain and in the face of uncertainty our activities are often focused   on making something happen the way we would like it to.


Now, later in life I understand this teaching now. The truth is that an expectation, a thought that is centered on the future may or may not be realistic or even logical, and is seldom fulfilled the way we think or hope that it will. Even when an expectation is fulfilled it often leads us, more to disappointment than to joy.   Most of us ignore this and yet spend a good part of our days in expectation.

As for the past?  It is just a memory. The best we can do is make amends to those we have harmed by our past regrettable choices and actions.

On closer observation, it could be said that It is not having expectation that is the problem. It is that we often have expectations and assumptions about our expectations. This is the source of much unnecessary struggle and suffering.

I would say that in common usage an expectation focuses on the future of what may be, whereas an assumption is a belief, without fact that appears in the present.

Expectations can be of value in interpersonal relationships by defining “expected” behaviors from others and in the enforcement of agreements and creating a model for accountability. This makes them of use in creating life strategies. There are many systems within the social sciences as well as in classical Game Theory where expectation is  a key factor in how we create life strategies.


From the book:

Ask Lewis: What is Zen?

  Zen:Zen is a practice originating in a Japanese School of Buddhist thought that deals with the concept of enlightenment through intuition during meditation, and the application of spiritual wisdom in daily life. Zen Kōans: A story, … [Continue reading]

Why You Suffer?

Suffering is the disruptive, necessary mental, emotional, psychological, and spiritual experience of unpleasantness and aversion associated with harm or threat of harm.  There is some suffering which is necessary.  All other suffering is a … [Continue reading]

Ask Lewis: Is Psychiatry Scientific?

Lewis Answers: I was talking with Dr. Daniel J. Wiener the other day. Dan has been my friend and mentor for 42 years. He has saved me a few hundred times from making very poor decisions, and has helped save my marriage more than a few times. He is … [Continue reading]

Ask Lewis: Aromatherapy to Reduce Depression Symptoms

Reducing Depression with Aromatherapy A good part of any person’s emotional well-being is determined by how he or she responds to the surrounding environment. Smell is a key factor in most forms of human activity, particularly that which is … [Continue reading]

Joseph Campbell and Living Your Bliss

As many of you know I function in a virtually constant “Manic Phase” – not depressed, just manic. My passion is writing, speaking and teaching and I get to do all three consistently about 18 hours a day.   I have been writing and having my … [Continue reading]

Ask Lewis: What is the Difference Between Morality and Ethics?

A Conversation on What is Moral Behavior?   Foundational Principle for this Conversation:  Religiously imposed  morality  leads  to  repression, sadness  and unnecessary struggle. Religious moralists wear special robes or clothes that in … [Continue reading]

Ask Lewis: Dynamic Programming & Decision Science

Q. What is Dynamic Programming and Decision Science?   Foundational Principle for this Conversation: To explore how the advanced analytical method known as Dynamic Programming can help one to strategize more effectively in the game of life, … [Continue reading]