Dealing with Disappointment

We just can’t always get what we want. That is a natural occurrence of being human, and for some of us that is the majority of our life and for others the minority of our life. For most of us, we are somewhere in between, where we sometimes achieve or receive what we want, and sometimes we don’t.  

Many of my clients come to me, not with the initial disappointment, but the maladaptive/unhealthy way they have coped with that disappointment and the consequences of those choices. One of my favorite tools to work with little children on is how to deal with disappointment, because it will serve them, their loved ones, and our community for the rest of their lives. Once we wrangle disappointment in a healthy manner, we can face humanity and the adversity that goes along with it, in a much stronger, more effective way.

Disappointment makes us want to react, quickly. To squash the feeling, so we don’t have to feel it. Some of us drink alcohol, some of us exercise excessively, some of us lash out, some of us freeze and become immobile with disappointment. In my experience, if there is no plan for how to cope with disappointment, we do the fastest, most convenient, rapid eradication of feelings. There has to be a plan in preparation for our next moment of disappointment, because it is coming, life always presents us with that, we can be certain.

Our plan should include a moment of validation first. Without validating for ourselves we are disappointed, sometimes we skip to reaction because we quickly try to avoid dealing with feeling badly so we make it disappear and tell ourselves we are “fine”. It makes sense why this would feel like the most effective choice, except we can’t actually make it disappear, it just gets dismissed (for a finite period of time, only to return again and compile).

After we validate by acknowledging how we feel, we have to take some time to reflect. It doesn’t have to be a long “sitting in the feeling” sort of reflection, it can be fairly brief. We need to ask ourselves, 

“What happened?”  “Why do I feel disappointed?”  “Where am I feeling it?”  

Once we have that information we will be much better at applying the right tools in our plan to cope.

After we answer those questions for ourselves, then we are ready to use our brains to think about the plan we have created for disappointment, response, and readiness. 

“What tools do I know work?”  “Which tools do I have access to?”  “Which can I apply to alleviate my feeling of disappointment?”  “Can I activate my plan to soothe myself or invigorate myself to solve?”  “What will my plan do?”  

Once we have thought through this evaluation, we can begin to actually respond and react.  

Then we want to apply a strategy and see what happens.  

“How does it change our disappointment?”  “What do I feel and where in my body?”  “How’s my level of disappointment?”  “What do I need to do next…sit for a while in this to see what occurs or add a next level of application?”

Lastly, we need to monitor. Disappointment is a fickle feeling. It feels like it is gone and then it crops up again at the most inopportune times. It feels like we dealt with it, and then it doesn’t. Disappointment feels like we are in charge and then, with no rhyme or reason, we are not at all. To combat this, we need to monitor ourselves. Take our own temperature and see when we are most vulnerable to being disappointed or re-disappointed. If we can get in front of the feeling, it is always easier to manage, and disappointment is not different.

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