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Disappointment




Disappointment

 

As I write today, I have a horrible cold. It is not so bad that I need to languish in bed, but enough to take the edge off enjoying anything. It’s hard work breathing, nothing tastes great, and just doing day to day ordinary things seems to require a lot of effort. Even meeting up with friends feels a bit too much…I am not so ill that I feel comfortable moaning about it, but equally, I can’t pretend I am totally OK. It is draining.

 

All of us will know how that feels – an ordinary common cold – it comes to all of us at some point.

 

It struck me that disappointment is a little bit like having a common cold. It is not so serious that you can’t carry on. It happens to all of us. It doesn’t stop us from doing ordinary activities but it can lurk there in the background, stealing joy from situations we might usually enjoy. It can make us feel “less than” somehow.

 

The Cambridge Dictionary defines disappointment as:

 

“something or someone that is not what you were hoping it would be”.

 


It can be really difficult to express because we rationalize and minimize our emotions - the rational part of our brain tells us that it was so small or insignificant we should just “pull ourselves together”, but actually loss or disappointment can sting, or in some cases, trigger anxiety or depression.

 

The following audio clip from Kintsugi Hope gives some suggestions about what disappointment can look like:

 


Another way of defining disappointment might be:


“the gap between expectations and reality which, at best, might feel uncomfortable

and at worst, a significant loss.”


Often, we suppress our emotions regarding disappointment, feeling that we ought to just get on with it but at the root of it can be great sadness or anger. If we pause, briefly, to take a look at Plutchick’s wheel of emotion, we can see that there are many deeper emotions linked to sadness, such as feeling abandoned or infuriated.

 



Whilst uncomfortable, if not buried, disappointment can teach us a lot about underlying beliefs we might have about ourselves.

 

Example scenario:


I had a work meeting scheduled one morning, at which I was expecting to share some complex ideas I had been working on. I had spent some considerable time studying, planning and preparing and was looking forward to the opportunity to discuss my thoughts with my colleague.

 

That morning was very cold - it was minus 2 degrees, and extremely icy. I left home with plenty of time to travel just in case of poor road conditions, also wanting to allow myself time to get set up, have a last minute read-through of my notes, and mentally prepare. I arrived with 40 minutes to spare. Five minutes after arriving at our meeting place, I received a message from my colleague saying:


“Sorry, it has been such a crazy week, I am not going to make it to the meeting this morning.

Let’s reschedule for this time next week – so sorry for the inconvenience.”

 

I experienced a rush of emotions (none of them positive!), especially as this was not the first time I had been let down by that colleague at the last minute – I felt frustration, irritation, disappointment, anger. These were shortly followed by the most unwelcome of companions…vulnerability and inadequacy. In that moment I felt lacking, invisible and that my feelings did not matter.

 

My underlying belief at that point in time was that my efforts were not appreciated – maybe even “I am useless, I am worthless”  - There were some serious negative automatic thoughts going on.


It was useful to pause and reflect on what I was hoping for? What needs did I have? Were they realistic? What hopes or expectations had been lost?

“Expectation is the root of all heartache

(anon)




In my example, perhaps I was (subconsciously) expecting validation, affirmation, and encouragement. We all need to feel valued but was this a realistic expectation? Possibly not.


I needed to think about whether there was another way to meet those needs? What was my inner chatter? Was I able to offer myself the needed affirmation through positive self-talk?


We are not alone in this struggle. Even Winston Churchill battled with managing disappointment until he learned to reframe them as learning opportunities. And maybe we shouldn’t be totally surprised that it can actually hurt: neurotransmitters are affected which cause dopamine and serotonin to drop. Denying how we feel can be counterproductive, leading to greater feelings of unhappiness.


 

Managing disappointment:

 

  • Sometimes it can help simply to distinguish between situations that are outside our control and those within. 

  • Work through what emotions are coming up for you

  • Notice any negative automatic thoughts and challenge them - are they true?

  • Reframe the event; for example, although annoying, I will cope, I will be OK. It feels as if my time has been wasted but I have learned and grown through it.

  • Find a way to let that go (follow @daretosoaronwings for suggestions about letting thoughts go: Chloë Gracey (@daretosoaronwings) • Instagram photos and videos)

  • Give yourself realistic options about what you could do differently in a similar situation in the future

  • Read more (see below)

  • Book in for a coaching or counselling session (complete the form below)


Talk to a professional, particularly if you have experienced multiple disappointments.



Further reading:

 

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