For every negative reality, there exists a positive reality and our thoughts serve as gate keepers to these realities. This is because, at any given time regardless of how happy or sad we are, we always have positive and negative thoughts in our heads, lying in wait for us to assign any of them as a possible interpretation to any experience.
So when we experience depression, it’s because we have chosen to assign negative thoughts to our experiences. Bad things do happen in life, however depression occurs when we interpret our experiences with toxic and negative thoughts which suggest that there is no hope in sight or end to things not going our way.
There are a number of reasons why people choose to interpret some or most of their daily experiences with negative thoughts. A common reason is the fear of disappointment, which leads to an unhealthy habit of lowering expectations. A good example, would be a person preparing for a job interview and when he is asked how he believes he is going to do on the interview he gives the answer, “probably not good.” The reason this answer is given is because of a fear in dealing with disappointment. It is understandably heart breaking to prepare extensively for something like a job interview, only to be let down with a decline from the prospective employer.
However this is life, and the paradox with disappointment is that it is one of many paths we take towards achieving happiness in our lives. There is a saying that goes “shoot for the stars and even if you don’t reach them you might end up on the moon.” In the example given, I would communicate to the client that it is possible for him to have a great interview and still not get hired due to office politics. However that’s okay because the more great interviews he has, the higher the likelihood of him landing an opportunity to make income.
On the other hand, if he goes in with lowered expectations in order to protect himself from the hurt of disappointment, then what follows suit is a classical case of self fulfilling prophecy. In essence, once he comes to believe that his chances of getting the job is slim, his responses during the job interview would be mediocre if not poor. This is because we tend to put in less effort when we expect not to succeed. Overtime, the more failures we encounter, the more we internalize chronic failure as our reality and the more we develop a detrimental pattern of interpreting experiences solely with negative thoughts.
A healthy response see to this phenomenon is learning to deal with disappointment. The most effective way to deal with disappointment is to recognize that outcomes are not correlated directly with our efforts, but instead with a combination of knowledge, efforts and luck. It’s like when a few wealthy people insist that they made their wealth through hard work and determination. People who make these statements often fail to mention that they had access to information most people didn’t. Usually through access to excellent education and personal relationships with well informed people, not to mention the luck of being born into circumstances that allowed them access to excellent education. People with very little income work just as hard as well, and most of them are striving to increase their wealth, but are limited by what and who they know.
When dealing with disappointment, it is important to remember that doing the best you can despite the outcome has positive benefits. This is because getting into the habit of doing the best that you can, keeps you disciplined and earns you a healthy reputation as a hard worker which opens up other opportunities for you despite other things not going your way. With this in mind, it is important to note that despite dealing with disappointments, small opportunities that arise out of your positive habit of doing the best you can will also keep you in the habit being hopeful and optimistic.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.