As we age, we can be forgiven for thinking that certain emotions get easier to manage. While some emotions may be easier to process, disappointment continues to remind us what we truly desire when we can’t have it. We can pretend that we don’t mind if we don’t get the promotion at work, find a significant other or have THE gift under the Christmas tree, but if we experience disappointment when it doesn’t happen, we were only fooling ourselves.
In my practice, I am often talking to people who have been disappointed by someone, something or themselves. Many of them want to make sense of their disappointment and their part it in it, so they can learn from it and get a better outcome next time. Disappointments are possible whenever we hold an expectation for ourselves or others.
With every fresh day, there is an opportunity for new disappointments. Some opt to become pessimists, that way they never look forward to anything and consequently never get disappointed. While that is a strategy, it’s not a strategy for many of us who have hopes and dreams about what we might achieve in our lifetime.
1. Acknowledge your feelings. You cannot escape your feelings no matter how much you might try. While you may want to distract yourself initially there will come a time when you will need to acknowledge your feelings and deal with them. Don't be afraid to be honest with yourself and with trusted others about how you're feeling about the situation.
2. Get Perspective. Even the smallest disappointment can seem huge at first. Once you have acknowledged how you feel about the situation you can step back and see the big picture. While the disappointment might hurt a bit or a lot at the moment, will it matter this time next year? Will it matter a month from now? Will it be an issue one week from now? A day?
If you truly aren’t particularly bothered either way, ask yourself what your disappointment is really about. I recently had a disappointment about a holiday which I wasn’t particularly excited about however when it was taken away from me, I got upset. I realised that my upset-ness wasn’t about not having a holiday but more about how I had settled for a different holiday to the one I really wanted, that wasn’t currently possible. I was upset because I had settled rather than held on to what I really wanted which is unlike me. I felt like I had let myself down and that was what I was disappointed about.
3. Adjust. Once you have considered how much the disappointment matters to you, you have an opportunity to reflect and if necessary, make adjustments based on feedback or your perception of what needs to change. This could mean trying a different approach, adjusting the goal or doing nothing at all. The choice is yours.
4. Social support. Depending on how disappointed you are you may want to talk about your feelings and the situation through with a trusted friend, colleague or family member. Not only will they give you a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear, but they can also offer you objective advice. You may even want to brainstorm next steps with them.
5. Embrace action. Make a decision on your disappointment. Are you going to let it define you or are you going to pick yourself up and give it another go with a different approach? Maybe you are going to decide it wasn’t a worthy pursuit anyway or re-prioritise it in your list of goals.
I've decided I’m not planning another holiday until I can have the holiday I really want! Yes, I am prepared to wait :)
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