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.
One of the primary issues faced by people on the Autism spectrum and those with Asperger syndrome, is coping with feelings of being overwhelmed. These issues often start in childhood, as early as a year old, when children who become easily overwhelmed instinctively react by trying to shield themselves from exposure to excess stimuli. Parents of children on the spectrum can easily relate to stories of children who cover their ears with their hands in response to everyday sounds they perceive as loud and stressful. As the child ages, the coping skills for shielding oneself from excess exposure to environmental stimuli becomes even more subtle but the consequences are the same.
By environmental stimuli, I mean people, places and things which produce overwhelming feelings for the person, causing the person’s desire to retreat to safety until it’s safe again. The consequences are often themed with unfinished work, projects and poorly developed relationships with others. This often leads to unwanted isolation and a lifestyle marked by underachievement.
The solution is easy to understand, challenging to implement and well worth the effort. The solution is to do nothing in response to feelings of being overwhelmed. By doing nothing, you are choosing not to be reactive to your feelings of being overwhelmed, which is to engage in a series of behaviors to prevent yourself from experiencing the emotions you need to experience. Regardless of the specifics of what you do, your being reactive will be an attempt to control, manipulate and/or change your reality to manage your feelings.
Instead, by choosing to do nothing, you are allowing yourself the opportunity to experience the range of emotions you need to feel. Your challenge is to simply accept these emotions for what they are without being reactive. By choosing not to be reactive, you are beginning the process of deactivating your fight or flight response pattern, thereby opening access to your solution focused mind. When people choose to stop responding to their feelings of overwhelm fueled by their fears and worries, they become more insight driven and solution focused.
To the outside observer, who isn’t aware of the changes taken place inside the person, they will often observe someone who is behaving more courageous in their daily affairs. In fact, the person is behaving more courageous, as they are now in the practice of looking past their fears and worries and seeing their issues for the mere inconveniences they really are instead of catastrophes.
In my practice, it is a natural reaction for a client to listen to my take on doing nothing in response to feelings of overwhelm, and then responding with an example of a catastrophe they recently experienced in their life. Often, in processing these incidents with them, it is revealed that said catastrophe began as an inconvenience, which they poorly reacted to, thereby worsening the situation.
Catastrophes do happen in life, whether as an initial incident, or as an incident made worse from an overreaction. Regardless, the most effective response to feelings of being overwhelmed, is to accept the situation for what it is, and accept your feelings for what they are. Once this is achieved, only then can you begin to take a solution focused response.
The process of doing nothing to feelings of overwhelming stress and anxiety, is something that takes quite a bit of effort for a first timer. Specifically, there are evidenced based cognitive behavioral strategies, like the ones found in this CBT workbook, “Retrain Your Brain: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in 7 Weeks: A Workbook for Managing Depression and Anxiety,” by Seth J Gillihan PhD.
A person can study and practice these strategies on their own, or with an experienced therapist.
Do you habitually struggle with following through on some tasks and commitments you know you should take on and complete, but can’t? More importantly, do you struggle to understand why you can’t engage in something you know will benefit you but you can’t make sense of it?
You are one of millions of people who struggle with this phenomenon, and the reason for your struggle is low mental energy. Keep in mind that energy comes in all forms, so the energy required to power your coffee maker is radically different from the energy required to power your automobile, with significant overlap. The same situation can be observed with human beings. The energy required to power your physical being is radically different from the energy required for you to engage in cognitive complex tasks that require concentration, specifically tasks that you don’t like doing. This energy is very fragile and for most people exists in low quantities. Ideally, over our lifetime starting from our early life experiences, we learn and employ cognitive strategies towards increasing the resilience and duration of this energy.
This is why people can consume media over long periods of time, engage in physical activities they find satisfying and still come up short when it comes to engaging in needed tasks. The activities they enjoyed required a different type of energy and sometimes a lesser amount of that energy. A concrete example would be someone who spends several minutes a day, typing messages and comments on facebook, but procrastinates when it comes down to typing up a needed report for work. While both activities involved concentration and the physical operation of typing, the first activity stimulated the emotional and social mind, as well as the immediate reward of engagement by social peers online. While the latter stimulated the more analytical mind, with the reward for engagement in this activity being delayed.
The good news is that it is possible to increase your self control, the process involves increasing and improving the sustainability of your energy for self control. In order to accomplish this task, you first have to understand how self control energy is depleted.
Food and Diet.
The food you eat is very important, in these posts, 1, 2, and 3 on anxiety and depression, I discussed how some neurotransmitters are produced in the stomach, primarily serotonin. I also discussed how the quality of these neurotransmitters are influenced by the quality of food we eat. So foods of low quality nutrition, leads to the production of low quality neurotransmitters which leads difficulty in our ability to regulate our moods. Mood swings take up a lot of mental energy, primarily in the areas of concentration. When we experience mood swings we are either constantly focused on maintaining a facade, in order not to damage relationships, or we are focused on recurring conflicts with others, based on how our bad moods influenced us to treat them. Another aspect of food, as it relates to self control energy is that research has shown that people who skip breakfast, were more likely to experience physical and mental exhaustion when compared to those who did not skip breakfast.
Research has suggested that we process the day’s events during our sleep. Specifically, the right and left hemispheres communicate with each other through the corpus callosum in our sleep with each hemisphere sharing with the other their unique perception of the same experiences. Specifically, the right hemisphere processes information from an emotional perspective while the left hemisphere process information from an analytical perspective. Researchers have come to believe that this process promotes learning. I would take it a step further and state that this process is akin to a body builder’s muscle repairing itself after a workout. Suffice to say, lack of sleep or poor sleep reduces learning of daily experiences, which increases the likelihood of the same mistakes being made habitually, which increases stress, which leads to low mental energy.
Beliefs and Values
Our beliefs and values can set us up to either thrive or struggle in our lives. This is because some beliefs help to recharge our mental energies, thereby increasing our ability to exercise self control, while other beliefs deplete our mental energies, thereby decreasing our ability to exercise self control. This is by far the most important variable in regards to self control, because what you believe in and subsequently find value in influences what your priorities, regarding what you choose to focus your mental energies on. So therefore, your beliefs and values can influence your quality for sleep and your diet.
For example, what if you believed that you shouldn’t go through any struggle in life? Or more specifically, you believed that you were not capable or resilient enough to go through any struggle in life and so therefore you shouldn’t go through any struggle in life? If this is a belief you hold unto in any degree, it stands to reason that you will find value in anything that represents an easy life. The end result would be a mindset conditioned to resort to avoidance when challenges present themselves. Which results in chronic under achievement, feelings of low self worth and addictive behaviors to escape such feelings. In the event of addiction, the addiction may overshadow the person’s life, due to low mental energies resulting from lack of discipline in responding to life’s challenges.
Some people may read this and declare that they do not hold unto beliefs and values that are detrimental to their well being. However, ninety percent of the beliefs we act upon are beliefs that exists in our minds beyond our level of consciousness. In most case, a psychotherapist can provide expert help in helping you understand yourself and recognize your true motives.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.
During our first five years of life, our right hemisphere develops a narrative in accordance to what we have experienced in our immediate environment so far. This means that if our experiences so far have involved safety, compassion and affection, we develop core beliefs to reflect these narratives. If our experiences so far have evolved a scarcity of affection and compassion and a lack of safety, we develop core beliefs which prepare us to survive in a rough world. This is because on a primitive level we are hard wired to survive at all costs. An example of an unsafe environment would include physical abuse in which a person’s existence is threatened, or humiliation as a result of being on the receiving end of chronic emotional abuse. When these incidences occur during a person’s early life experience, it will most likely lead to the development of core beliefs which reside in his subconsciousness, beliefs which are geared towards protecting him from similar incidences in the future, and beliefs which habitually influence his decision making.
For example, when a child is habitually physically or emotionally abused, the child grows up to develop a sub conscious belief in which his safety and/standing with the community or any community is always at risk of being compromised. These beliefs leads to feelings of hyper arousal, where the person is subconsciously constantly on the look out of trouble, as a result everything he does will be limited by his threatening beliefs.
I once had a client who was struggling with his studies, he was a freshman at the University of Arizona and he was on the verge of dropping out of school. The primary reason for his failing grades was that he was simply not doing the work. My client would later reveal his struggle with a learning disability and the habitual shaming language he received from his parents at home in regards to their fears that he would amount to nothing. During our course of treatment, we determined that at his core, he believed himself to be worthless, and lived in fear of being discovered by others, so throughout his life, he would perform the bare minimum and avoid engaging in challenging work in the presence of others, least he was “discovered”.
Consider another story, of a client raised by a single mother, he shared that she was emotionally abusive towards him and some of her male partners were just as abusive. As a teenager, when my client finally demanded to be informed about whom his father was, his mother sent him to go live with his father for the summer. His father whom he had not had contact with since his second birthday, was now married with three children. My client reported that both his father and step mother where physically abusive towards him, and that he and his siblings struggled to get along. It was at this time he fell into a deep depression as he had always romanticized reuniting with his father and being rescued from his mother.
Fast forward to his mid thirties, where he experiences high stress and conflict in his relationships with others. He feels bullied by the mother of his child, he feels bullied by his supervisor at work and by another co worker. His response to these incidents of bullying is to become extra accommodating to the people he is experiencing conflicts with. The typical response to his accommodating behavior is that the bullying he is receiving from others becomes worse, leading him to experience bouts of panic attacks as a result of his feelings of being emotionally stuck.
Treatment for both clients were successful in which they were both able to develop new narratives to begin the process of replacing their core beliefs. These were accomplished through the process and combination of cognitive behavioral therapy and eye movement desensitization reprocessing. My first client transitioned from an academic probation status, to thriving in his studies during his second year at the University, while my second client reported how his practice of assertiveness had led to favorably changes in his relationships with others.
Our core beliefs resides in our subconsciousness and were formed during our early life experiences to meet the demands of our immediate and respective environments. However, given that change is constant, in the event we find ourselves in a new environment or competence enough to put ourselves in a new environment, it is important to know that we are fully capable of change.
We are the authors of our future.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.
Are you addicted to chasing chaos? Experiences from our early life experiences have a profound influence on who we become as adults.
In this research paper on childhood trauma published in the journal of infant mental health, the authors discuss the phenomenon of hyper arousal and dissociation as two primary types of symptoms that result from childhood trauma.
Hyper-arousal is a state of heightened awareness as a result of prolong exposure to trauma, where the well being of the person is consistently challenged and threatened. In comparison dissociation is a state of detachment that occurs as a result of prolonged exposure to trauma where the well being of the person is consistently being challenged and threatened. At this point, it is obvious that the symptoms of hyper-arousal and disassociation are based on the personality type of the person exposed to the trauma. I will also add that hyper-arousal and disassociation occur on a spectrum so most people with unresolved trauma will show both types of symptoms
In regards to chasing chaos, people with unresolved childhood trauma will often seek out relationships in their adult years that duplicate the traumatic relationships they experienced in their childhood. Regardless of how well things are going on for them in their personal lives, they will subconsciously seek out high conflict relationships in attempt to solve the problems they have traditionally been unable to solve in previous relationships. This turns out to be a repeat and rinse process where those persons with predominately hyper-arousal symptoms will habitually overreact to conflicts, leading to difficult to manage consequences. Also for those with predominately dissociation symptoms, they will consistently seek out high conflict relationships where they will under react to conflict, leading to difficult to manage consequences.
The solution is to know yourself, and work with a psychotherapist to begin the process of identifying your unhealthy auto pilot thought processes and subsequent behaviors, with the goal of replacing them with healthier alternatives.
In the early two thousands, I worked for a residential treatment program. This program provided treatment services for youth offenders who had been convicted for various offenses through the juvenile courts. One day the program director, summoned me into his office, he was making me a job offer, specifically, he wanted me to take over the resident director’s job. I found two problems with this offer, this first was that the resident director was still in that position, the second was that it was not a therapeutic position. My primary issue with the offer, was that he had just had a heated disagreement with the resident director, in front of witnesses and his gesture in offering me the job was a power move. I knew that he would be offended if I did not accept the offer, and that he might see it as a political strategy of sorts on my part. Perhaps he would think I was aligning myself with the resident director against him. I simply did not want the job, because I enjoyed being a therapist and I also considered it immoral to accept a job position that was already filled. I did not want to walk around the facility engaging with the resident director, knowing that he was soon going to be fired and that I would take his place. I also did not want to lose my job.
So I took a deep breath, said a short prayer in my mind and politely declined the offer. To no surprise he gave me a look of surprise and annoyance. I happened to understand that if he could so easily throw the resident director under the bus, my acceptance or decline of the offer would not protect me from similar treatment.
This is my understanding of what courage is, understanding that there are no guarantees or shortcuts in life. Courage isn’t necessarily about sacrifice, this is because without realizing it, most human being put their lives on the line in certain everyday activities. Most notably would be driving. Courage is the recognition that challenges or struggles in our everyday lives are inevitable and that avoiding them or putting them off only makes these challenges more difficult to overcome in the long run.
Most of us have been led on to believe that if only we would submit to some type of lifestyle or entity that everything will end up being okay. From cultural beliefs, attending institutions of higher learning to being employed by certain employers. We surrender beliefs in our personal powers to buy into the illusion of an easier life, all the while failing to recognize the role we play in maintaining the illusion.
As a therapist, when working with clients who have difficulty in making what may seem as a risky or out of the ordinary courageous decision; I guide them through an exercise designed to help them recognize how much of their personal power goes into maintaining the current situation that they are currently unhappy with. It is after they have come to understand and accept this revelation that the conversation shifts into how they can use their personal power into creating the new type of life they desire and deserve.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.
This morning I came across a news feed on my YouTube feed it was by The Young Turks and it was focused on CEO pay, specifically the disparity between CEO pay and the pay of the average worker. The commentary in the news video was focused on how unfair the disparity of the average CEO pay was from the average worker pay. Here is the problem I have with the video, am I to imply that in the event the average pay for CEO is reduced significantly that this would improve the average pay of workers?
Most people who are asked this question would answer no, this is because subscribing to the belief that the success or failure of others affects my success taps into a primitive mindset which desires to relieve me of any and all responsibility for any unfavorable conditions I find myself in. The problem with not seeing myself as responsible for my circumstances, is that it leads me into seeing myself as powerless to change my condition.
One Size Does not Fit All.
I enjoy playing puzzle games and the thing with what makes a really good puzzle game, is that there are more than one way to solve the puzzle. This rule also applies to our everyday lives. If I were to engage the hosts of the above-mentioned video about why I disagree with their stance, they would immediately point to the number of reasons why the average worker is unable to get a chance to achieve economic freedom. They will say things like, “not everyone can go to college” (this is true), or that minimum wage is not a livable wage (also true). However if I were to retort with the statement that there is no problem we cannot work through, I will be accused of living in la, la, land. However the reality is that not all paths towards success is the same, as a matter of fact success means completely different things for different people. Most people have been brought up to believe in a one size fits all paradigm, starting in the home and reinforced through institutions of learning. Most people do not know themselves, most people have a poorly defined sense of identity and as a result will continue to hold unto a beliefs and values that do not truly define who they are. In truth, no arguments can solidly be made to support the notion that only way to economic achievement is through college. Generally speaking, there are multiple paths to multiple goals, and every goal has more to one path towards reaching it.
You Have More Power Than You Think.
As children, our powers are limited. It has been hard wired into our brains that fitting in with the beliefs and values of our immediate family followed by our community will increase our chances of survival. As adults we become solely responsible for what we choose to believe and keep believing. While it is true that there are a number of unpleasant things that could happen to us, likewise there are also a number pleasant things that could happen to us. The reality is that the number of pleasant things that could possibly happen to us are increased three fold when we actually take steps to make our desires a reality. When we focus on other people having things we desire, which we do not have, we become susceptible towards buying into beliefs that limit our potential to excel.
So the next time you come across any bit of news information that tells you how unfair life is, and how others have more leverage than you, ask yourself one question; “how does this help you?” If it is more income you are trying to bring into your life, your efforts would be best spent looking up information that tells you specifically how to bring in more income into your life. Or, how to retire in x amount of years, or how to fund your child’s education and so on and so forth. A video on how unfair life is, is not really telling you anything new, instead it is keeping you grounded in old thinking that has most likely not worked out for you to date.
So here’s wishing you live your life to the best of your potential.
In this previous post, I discussed how we use cognitive rules which lead to us being upset, while in this post I am going to discuss how to transition getting past being upset to a more rational mindset. There are three ways we upset ourselves, the first is only accepting ourselves conditionally, having irrational rules of engagement with others and being resistant to disappointment.
Unconditional Self Acceptance.
One of the most common ways people upset themselves is only accepting themselves conditionally. Without realizing it, if we set up certain conditions for our happiness, such has having a certain type of wealth, a certain type of profession or being involved with a certain type of person, we have set up ourselves to become upset if any of these conditions to our happiness are not met. Being upset in this instance should not be confused with disappointment, this is because disappointment is an acknowledgement and acceptance of things not going your way, while being upset is an acknowledgement of things not going your way, but a refusal to accept things not going your way. One way of learning to get past being upset is to practice unconditional self acceptance. Seeing yourself as a worthwhile human being simply because you exist, and not based on your accomplishments or your relationships.
Preferential Treatment from Others.
We love to be accepted by others, our drive to be accepted by others is so powerful that we even want others who we do not accept, to accept us. Yes, at our primal level we are irrational beings, which lends some explanation to our irrational expectations to be liked and accepted by others. One of the best methods of getting past our tendency to become upset in response to rejection from others, real or perceived is to change our rules of engagement with others. This means that expectations of acceptance from others become preferences. To preference your expectations for favorable treatment from others, you simply have to recognize that people like yourself have personal power. This means that you to come to place of acceptance that people have a choice as to whether or not they are going to accept you and that you are powerless to their opinions. We can’t force those who reject us to accept us, but we can certainly come to a place of peace regarding our powerlessness over the choices of others.
Things aren’t supposed to go our way all of the time, if they did life would cease to have meaning. Challenges in life are what give us a sense of meaning and purpose, which makes the idea that things should mostly go our way an unhealthy one. It is easy to see why people become easily upset when things don’t go their way, given that difficulty in coping with disappointment comes from placing one’s sense of happiness on one hopeful outcome.
Happiness in life comes from from our ability to see ourselves as worthwhile people and our positive interpretations of our life experiences. This best way to overcome being upset over disappointment is to see the disappointment as a part of your process and journey towards a desired outcome.
In summary,while being upset is a normal human phenomenon, it certainly isn’t a state of mind that’s healthy for anyone to be in for a prolonged period of time.
Periodically I get calls from prospective clients who are inquiring about anger management therapy, and some of them would actually tell me that they have no idea why they are angry. One guy told me about how he had threatened the life of a fellow motorist, and how appalled he was with himself after the incident. Yet he couldn’t understand why he was so angry for this was one of a series of incidents that he had been involved in during the past month.
For those who do book an appointment with me, the reasons for their anger becomes painfully obvious, but the question remains why couldn’t they understand the triggers for their anger in the first place? The answer is quite straight forward- distraction.
Beer, food, video games, sex, sports, parties, etc.. These are all types of activities that if done in excess lead to a distraction of the mind. These are also activities that reduce the experience of negative feelings and increase the production of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter the brain produces when we feel joy. Another neurotransmitter the brain produces in response to pleasurable feelings is serotonin.
The problem with entertaining activities which we use to distract ourselves is that they are short lived. This means after a period of time, we find ourselves consuming more entertainment in order to produce the feel good neurotransmitters. This then leads to the point of diminishing return, where regardless of the amount of entertainment we consume, we find our difficult feelings inescapable.
The answer to understanding why we get angry lies in our ability to recognize our difficult feelings without overreacting. The thing with anger is that it is an emotion of illusion. When we get angry, it is simply because our expectations have not been met. No matter how you slice it, at the end of the day the best attitude to adopt for better health is an attitude of humility, regardless of how much wrong you have experienced due to someone else’s actions.
When people who have been experiencing episodes of anger share with me that they do not understand why they are angry, the truth is quickly revealed once I get them to exercise calm and I begin to ask them some personal questions. What is often revealed is a deep sense of disappointment with some facets, if not all facets of their lives. They have usually spent so many years distracting themselves that even when their methods of distraction have stopped working, they still are unable to recognize their difficult feelings.
The most effective method for understanding the source of your anger is to stop distracting yourself. Entertainment is not a bad thing but if done in excess it becomes mind numbing. Practice going one week without any source of entertainment, this includes, video games, movies, alcohol and and any pleasurable non productive activity you frequently engage in.
The second step is to familiarize yourself with a list of feelings like this one, as you go through the week without your typical distractions. Your difficult feelings are going to be quite intense that your knee jerk reaction is to mistake these feelings for anger. Once you have familiarized yourself, with a list of feeling words, get into the habit of documenting your daily experiences with difficult feelings which will crop up in your daily interactions with others.
The third step is to commit to not react to your difficult feelings, regardless of how badly you feel. If you find yourself unable to honor this third step, it is strongly advised you see a therapist who can guide you through the process of understanding why you are angry.
Often you will find that your skill in being able to distract from your difficult feelings was honed during your childhood years.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.