A disappointment is an expectation that has not been met. There are two types of disappointments, disappointment with self and disappointments with others. This post is going to focus more on dealing with disappointment with others, because it is the type of disappointment that people get more upset about. When dealing with disappointment with self, more than likely you put in effort into achieving a goal, with a desired result and that result did not happen. So, in the absence of a self-defeatist attitude, disappointment with yourself is easier to get over, because you can always change yourself for the better.
However, when it comes to dealing with disappointment because of the actions of someone else, feelings of being upset, perhaps resentful and in some cases hurt are going to be the case for the person experiencing the disappointment. In more severe cases, some people will wish you better luck next time, some will remind you that it is the nature of life, you win some, you lose some. But here is an important question to ask yourself when you experiencing this type of disappointment, in whose reality are you living in?
Reading this question, might catch you off guard as it seems u related to the title/topic of this post. But really, whose reality are you residing in? The ideal answer when you ask yourself this question should be “my reality” but if you ever find yourself struggling to cope with disappointment then it means you have been living in someone else’s reality and that person has let you down.
The answer then lies in getting back into discovering what is important to you. When struggling with disappointment, if you critically consider the situation, you will discover that you are morning the loss of something you never really had any control over. This could be the loss of a job, the ending of a relationship or an opportunity that did not materialize for you. In his book, Victor Frankl is famous for his quote, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves”. This means, that, no matter what you are mourning, your thoughts and feelings remain under your control.
Pertaining to dealing with disappointment, there is no rationale in mourning something over which you had no control over. Let’s say you accidentally dropped a glass cup on the floor, no matter how expensive that glass cup was, you can always take refuge in telling yourself that you will be more careful with glass cups next time. This is because a glass cup in your hands is under your control. Experiencing disappointment over the actions of someone else is a situation not under your control, and so the best course of action is to make peace with this fact. Otherwise you are just going to upset yourself even more, and the reason you find yourself even more upset is because there are no remedies in getting others to do what you want them to do. Therefore, if you encounter someone who follows through on their word, that is a blessing. A blessing because they chose an action that benefitted you, an action you had no control over.
You should only concern yourself with your thoughts and feelings and subsequent actions because these are easy to change. As for the thoughts, feelings and actions of others, the best you can do is practice allowance.
The narratives we come to believe in our early childhood have a powerful influence over us. This is because during our early days, the part of our brains that are the most active is the right hemisphere. The right hemisphere is associated with viewing the world from an emotional perspective, as opposed to the left hemisphere which is strongly associated with logic and reasoning. This is why scientists and mathematicians are generally referred to as left brained while those who specialize in the creative arts are referred to as right brained.
So if neuroscience is mostly accurate on brain functions then all children, if not most children must be right brained, emotional, creative, primal and spontaneous. This would mean that during this period of development when the right brain is most active, children interpret most of their daily experiences, especially the acquisition of beliefs and values through an emotional and primal perspective.
This means that whatever beliefs and values you inherited during your early life experiences, is something that is mostly likely non conscious, and primarily associated with your sense of identity, even if it is false.
This is where self-deceit comes in. Self-deceit happens when we run into life challenges that require us to revise our core beliefs in order to overcome said challenges. For example, take a young person who comes from a small town and all throughout his life he was heralded as a really good football player. To the extent in which members of his town began to express great expectations for him to become a professional player. The person eventually graduates high school and gains admission into a major university, where he barely makes the school team and he is eventually cut from roster. If this person already has a self-identity forged in being a star athlete, he is going to have a difficult time accepting the reality of his situation. Furthermore, the longer he holds unto this self-identity the more self-defeating decisions he is going to make in order to maintain a sense of self consistency with his false identity and delusions. This will go on until he reaches rock bottom in his life, or he is fortunate to receive an intervention from a support group.
In the above example, you can substitute star football player with a number of different identities a person may have come to embrace during his or her early life experiences. Regardless this is the root cause of all self-deceits, when challenges a person is currently experiencing, require a major revision of strongly held beliefs which is easier said than done.
While a revision and replacement of major beliefs inherited during childhood years is easier said than done, it is possible. Through cognitive behavioral therapy someone who struggles with self-deceit can relearn to accept themselves unconditionally with positive regard. This will then make it possible for them to abandon any old and unhealthy beliefs associated with their sense of identity and adopt new and healthy beliefs which reinforce unconditional self-acceptance. All of these can be accomplished through the comprehension and consistent practice of cognitive behavioral strategies which leads a rewiring in the brain.
Ugochukwu is a psychotherapist and owner of Road 2 Resolutions PLLC
There are no happy ever afters, they simply don’t exist. This of course is an analogy for when we embark on the completion of a goal, of sorts we decide that we are going to put up with a variety of obstacles so that at the end of the day we will find ourselves in this obstacle/problem free reality, where we shall reside with our loved ones in forever bliss.
Versions of this logical fallacy can be found in religious doctrines, children’s story books and Hollywood block buster movies. A person goes through a struggle, accomplishes a certain goal and seemingly never suffers or struggles again. Except of course if it’s the sequel to block buster movie. In real life people make decisions with this paradigm of thinking and experience disappointing results.
For example, an overweight person gets on a diet, loses the necessary weight, then ends the diet. He or she is then sorely disappointed when in a year later or sometimes less, the weight returns. In truth the diet should have been forever, a lifestyle change for the good, at least until you make an even better lifestyle change.
So in relation to the analogy, the diet is the journey and upon accomplishment of the goal (losing x amount of weight) a new journey begins which will be to maintain the new weight. To end the diet program, means a likely regression into the old diet that never worked out for the person in the first place.
Another example would be some of the clients I work with, be it for anger management, or treatment for anxiety or depression, often the first phase of treatment involves a client holding his breath as he practices the cognitive behavioral strategies towards improvement on his issues. This usually doesn’t work, as he never learns to feel comfortable tackling his issues and any improvements made is quickly negated by disappointment because improvements usually lead to more challenges that need to be tackled. The second phase of treatment involves getting the client to recognize that challenges are a normal part of life, and getting into the habit of finding happiness even during the process of change.
If you a are looking to change your life, you should do so with the belief that whatever journey you embark upon is going to transition into a new journey upon accomplishment of your stated goal. There will always be problems to solve, So this means that it is unwise to put all of your happiness into the accomplishment of any goal. The challenge is to find your place of content in the process of anything you are going to accomplish any goal, with the goal itself being the equivalent to icing on the cake.
Imagine if all of your life to present you were promised a prize. Let’s say that in order to gain access to this prize that there are certain things you have to accomplish, certain challenges you have to overcome.
So through great pains and effort, you take on the challenges and overcome them, one by one. Until after years of hard work, it came time for you to receive your prize, only to be told that there was never any prize.
This hypothetical scenario can easily be applied to any number of stories where people have been let down. For some people there is nothing more hurtful than investing into an experience with the expectation of a reward for your efforts only to be disappointed.
One of the chief feelings that gets in the way of getting past grief stemming from disappointment is the idea that you have been deceived, cheated or wasted your time and energy.
What if you came to learn that getting past disappointment is easier that you realize? When we experience disappointment, what keeps us emotionally stuck in the grief of disappointment is the context we use to frame the experience.
If you think back to the last time you struggled in getting past your grief from disappointment, you will probably agree it’s because you invested a lot of time in the experience, with the expectation of an outcome, and because you believed that the route you took to achieve the desired outcome was the “only” route you or any one could have taken to achieve the desired outcome. Furthermore you probably also believed that the desired outcome was the “ultimate” outcome you or anyone could ever archive to accomplish any a sense of happiness and fulfillment to varying degrees.
This linear style of thinking is what keeps us stuck in grieving what we believed could have been. Take for example, two months ago my son’s school threw a Halloween party, one of the highlights of the evening was walking through a haunted house. The school library had been converted into a haunted house and we got the thrill of going through a door, and traveling from one partitioned room to the next, while staff and students took turns in giving us their best fright, from hidden and unsuspecting places. The experience of traveling through the make shift haunted house was a linear experience from start to finish, because we transitioned from room A to room B to room C to room D before we finally existed the haunted house.
With this scenario in mind, imagine how frustrated it would have been if we entered room A, then went to room B only to be told that we could not gain access to room C? This would mean that without accessing room C we would not be able to access room D. This is why people either get depressed or angry over their feelings of disappointment. They feel there is no other way to get to the next level and beyond, if their travel path has become blocked.
Here is a visual representation of my explanation of a linear style of thinking;
Now imagine thinking in a multi verse context. To further explain, I will share another story. In my village, my father’s immediate younger brother built a home on the other side of the street from my parent’s home. While my parents built a two story home, my uncle built a one story home, with roughly the same number of rooms as my parents’ two story home. How did he manage this? Rather than stack rooms one on top the other as my father had done, my uncle designed his house in a circular pattern. With a courtyard in the middle of the structure, surrounded by all the rooms of the home. This meant that from the courtyard, you could simply turn and walk towards any room of your choice, versus my parents’ home where you had enter the front door into a greeting room, into a hallway, into the stairway, etc. I would say that my parents’ home was linearish in design, while my uncle’s home was multi verse-ish in design.
Using the ABC model to represent the multi verse style of thinking, it would look something like this diagram.
With multi verse thinking, a set back or disappointment becomes an opportunity to embark on another experience. If a desired goal or outcome is not realized it is interpreted as there being another bigger and more fulfilling outcome waiting for you to define and realize. This means that the time spent in pursuing an outcome not realized is seen as experience gained to be used as leverage for another challenge instead of time squandered.
When we come to realize that our path to happiness and fulfillment comes from within, only then will we acknowledge that our thoughts do indeed create our realities.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.