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How to Handle Disappointment

Experiencing disappointment can be overwhelming, and at times life changing. Meaningful Minds Psychologist, Bernadett, discusses ways in which you can learn how to handle disappointments.

At some point or another in your life, you have felt disappointment. Disappointment is an emotion, most people find hard to manage; it can be felt in many ways and in different contexts. Disappointment in a parent who didn’t follow through with his/her word, in a child who didn’t pursue the great dream, you as a parent, had for them. In a spouse who didn’t stand by their word in honouring and loving you the way you feel he/she should. Socially, friends may not be as truthful as they made themselves out to be, your employer may never get back to you on that promotion he/she mentioned or the job specifications on your job proposal, don’t meet your experienced and lived reality at work.

Disappointment occurs when you consider what could have been, to your current reality. It is when the outcome did not match your expectations. It accepts your current reality, therefore coming to terms with, and admitting that you did not achieve what you wished for. Disappointment comes with finality.

As per the Oxford dictionary, disappointment is defined as:

“Sadness or displeasure caused by the non-fulfilment of one's hopes or expectations.”

Sadness helps you to remember, rather than forget, what it is or was that you desired. It promotes personal reflection following a loss that is important to you, and turns your attention inward in a way that can promote resignation and acceptance (Lazarus, 1991).

When you face your disappointment with anger, it allows for you to continue idealising your wishes. When you experience your disappointment with sadness, you acknowledge that you did not get what you wished for.

Most often, you will set yourself up for disappointment in the following way:

  1. You find yourself in a situation, which you can’t predict the outcome;

  2. You imagine and wish for a desired outcome;

  3. You are surprised with the real outcome, which doesn’t meet your expectations;

  4. Most often, there wasn’t much you could do to control the undesired outcome.

Disappointment helps you to understand what is important to you, and how you view yourself. It also provides you with knowledge on how you view others and the world around you.

“...“Oh, Marilla, looking forward to things is half the pleasure of them,” exclaimed Anne. “You mayn’t get the things themselves; but nothing can prevent you from having the fun of looking forward to them. Mrs. Lynde says, ‘Blessed are they who expect nothing for they shall not be disappointed.’ But I think it would be worse to expect nothing than to be disappointed.”...”

― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Suggested steps to manage disappointment:

  • Allow yourself time to connect to, and manage the feelings associated with your disappointment. How did you react to your disappointment? By acknowledging your reaction, you can gain a better understanding of what this emotion means to you and then deal with it accordingly. Thinking about this enables awareness of the situation and will help you to work through it. Focus on the positive and move forward, as opposed to denying those feelings and feeling stuck.

  • Ask yourself if your expectations are realistic and revise them. Are your goals realistic? Were you naive in relation to a friend or a spouse? The dreams you have for your children, are they only your dreams? Maybe your children have dreams of their own, and maybe they are good at playing soccer as opposed to playing the piano. Sometimes, it takes a lot more time than expected, to reach the highlight of your career or to attain the monthly salary you have worked so hard for.

  • Don’t be too hard on yourself, rather be kind. Most often, you didn’t do anything wrong, yet you couldn’t change the outcome of a situation. Accept it for what it is and don’t judge yourself for it. You can’t control external factors or other people’s behaviours.

  • Focus on change. Change what you have to, so you don’t have to fall into continuous pattern of feeling disappointed. Be more aware of yourself in future relationships, friendships and job roles. Change your priorities, the way you address your relationships, and then allow yourself to grow as a person.

  • Consider the good and the positive. Focus on the good aspects of your life and divert your attention from what is bringing you down. Do something positive, something which makes you happy, so that you don’t feel stuck in the present feelings of disappointment. Remember, “When one door closes, another opens” Alexander Graham Bell.

  • Find support systems, to hold, guide and encourage you to grow as a person. Friends and family may encourage and reassure you of your beliefs, worth, talents and tenacity. A professional psychologist can provide you with the adequate support and skills, to let go and move on with self-assurance.

“Expectation has brought me disappointment. Disappointment has brought me wisdom. Acceptance, gratitude and appreciation have brought me joy and fulfilment.”

― Rasheed Ogunlaru

Should you require more information, please contact:

Meaningful Minds Psychologists | 011 615 1030, 081 759 4849|

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