I don’t remember ever taking an educational course that talked about dealing with disappointment. And yet, I suspect that every human being on earth has experienced disappointment. The forms and severity of disappointment are as varied as the type or cause of the actual disappointment. However, the impact it makes on your life, your person, or your psyche isn’t all that different. I can know, both cognitively and emotionally, that I am best served by not allowing the disappointment I experience to impact me….but is that even really a solution? I suspect that most people experience a variety of disappointment on a daily basis. The average disappointments range from: canceled plans, missed opportunities, unfulfilled hopes/dreams/goals, to inability to accomplish a goal. I don’t think anyone has a handbook out there that says: Here’s the grown up, healthy, and mature way to address disappointment in your life.
Here’s my suggestions for dealing with disappointments in a healthy, mature, and spiritual manner:
- Acknowledge it: Let’s be honest for a moment. When someone or something hurts our feelings we want to be brave. We have a desire to be strong, kind, and loving. The disconnect comes when we try and deny, even if only to ourselves, that we have been disappointed or let down. My experience is the more I attempt to deny that my feelings are hurt the stronger (and potentially more out of control) the feelings becomes. My suggestion is to allow yourself to feel the disappointment. Not forever, but at least for a few minutes.
- Keep things in perspective: It’s imperative to keep things in perspective. If the disappointment is that you gained three pounds, it’s probably not worth ruining your new way of eating over. If your disappointment is that someone you care about needed to back out of plans with you, it’s more than likely not worth burning their house down over. While some of these responses may seem silly while reading this, have your responses to disappointment occasionally been slightly silly? More than likely at least once.
- Connect with your bottom line: If you are in a primary relationship with the person who created the disappointment with you, what is your bottom line of the relationship? Hopefully if this is someone who you are in an intimate relationship with the bottom line is: this person loves me and I trust him or her. Every relationship has a bottom line; it might take time to explore those bottom lines though. In my relationship with my friends, for example, the bottom line is I trust them and they make my life better by having a relationship with them. My bottom line with my body is: this is my body and it takes care of me amazingly.
- Communicate: I am a firm believer that we are only as sick as our secrets. So I am fairly cognitive of speaking my truth today. It doesn’t always feel good to say things like, “When you forgot about “x” it hurt my feelings and made me feel unworthy”. But the communication and the healing that has the potential to occur after that is HUGE. In my life I work actively at communicating all of my thoughts in my relationships with people.
- Change your focus: This is a huge component of moving past the disappointment. Once you have acknowledged and communicated the disappointment change your focus. Do something different. If you mind were a television set, I would encourage you to change the channel. Sometimes this is as simple as thinking about something different. And sometimes it means we must literally get up and switch where we are. If that means you need to go vacuum the house, do it. If it means you need to go walk around the block, do it.
- Let go: Here’s where this comes down to for me. If this is a person who cares about you, they are obviously not creating disappointment on purpose. So forgive them and move on. If however, they seem to have no compassion for your feelings, perhaps it’s time to evaluate their existence in your life. I’m sure that sounds harsh, but literally that’s where I’m at today. If people cannot consistently honor their commitments with me, then why would I keep them in my life. Don’t get me wrong; I have had to cancel plans with people as well. That will happen when I’m fighting a major illness.
- Allow yourself to grieve: Your feelings are hurt! Your expectations are not met! And frankly, perhaps the current reality kind of sucks! That is all okay, as long as you face the fact that you are experiencing some grief. I can hear those of you who are more analytical, thinking something along the lines of “that’s a bit of an over-reaction”. But is it really? There are so many levels, severities, and shades of grief that it’s impossible to categorize it.
- Forgive easily: Remember my favorite definition of forgiveness is: giving up the hope of a better or different yesterday. It’s really that simple. Once you take the personalities, people, and places out of the equation it becomes much easier to forgive.
- Focus on the positives: No matter how much of a blow to the ego this disappointment was, we all have so many things to be grateful for. How would your response and your interaction be different if you focused on the things you had to be grateful for versus the things that disappoint you.
Once you learn how to control your response to disappointment there will be a significant shift in your life. Let me know how this works for you.
Jenn Bovee, LCSW is a spiritual life coach and psychotherapist. Jenn provides in person and distance life coaching. Learn more about her here: www.JennBoveeLCSW.com