Why do some people hate surprises?

While there are plenty of people who think surprises are fun, there are many who find them disturbing. 

As someone who has enjoyed some surprises in life and shunned others, I began to wonder what makes someone enjoy them or recoil from them.

If you grew up in a family where there was a lot of unpredictability and insecurity of any kind—financial, emotional, geographical, physical, etc.—you probably had enough surprises for a lifetime.

Conversely, if you grew up in the same house, with the same parents, and a fairly stable emotional environment, you might might love surprises.

The tumult of growing up on an emotional roller coaster, or with unpredictability in any realm, can leave someone craving a sense of predictability, calm, and security. While there is no real security on this earth, there can be an illusion of one, and that’s certainly better than nothing for someone who grew up in a tempestuous home.

Of course, one’s capacity for enjoying surprises is on a continuum. You might enjoy the surprise of finding your favorite candy bar on the pillow at night, but not appreciate your partner planning a trip without consulting you.

As it’s easy to feel saturated with social media these days, there is an overt and covert message of shame embedded in the conscious and unconscious ways people compare themselves to others. Your choices are your choices. If you’re not hurting somebody, there’s nothing to feel ashamed about. When the dominant message through social media is to live life as largely as you possibly can, choosing a smaller life is radical. Resisting dominant cultural messages takes courage.

There’s no one right way to live. Let me say that again. There is no one right way to live. Each person cobbles together the best, most supportive, meaningful existence they can. Some people are more in touch with what that means to them, while others might not have these goals in the forefront of their mind. That doesn’t mean they aren’t running the show unconsciously.

The more aware we can be of what serves us, the better choices we can make. In addition, it’s not a one size fits all life. One person may want to bungee jump off the Golden Gate Bridge while another one can barely cross it in a car.

The trick with surprises, and discovering your own tolerance level for them, is to make it safe to be with what works for you, no matter what other people choose, value, or try to convince you is better. 

It’s all too easy to compare yourself and put yourself down for not wanting what others want, especially if what they want seems more socially sanctioned. The only sanctioning you need is from you.

Sitting in your living room reading a book might be all the excitement you want. Someone else may want to climb Kilimanjaro. It’s your life. Choose what serves you.

It’s not better to love surprises, adventure, excitement, crowds, etc. It’s just different. The world benefits from a multitude of perspectives. It would be quite dull if we were all alike. Your job, because you’re the only one on earth who can do it, is to be you. As I like to say, everyone else is taken.

Copyright Nicole S Urdang.

Nicole Urdang

Nicole S. Urdang, M.S., NCC, DHM is a Holistic Psychotherapist in Buffalo, NY. She holds a New York state license in mental health counseling and a doctorate in homeopathic medicine from the British Institute of Homeopathy.