Redefining My Relationship with Disappointment

I had no idea that the emotion I was trying to avoid was disappointment.

I recently learned that disappointment is a way that we experience sadness. When we face an uncertain outcome, we hope for the best possible resolution, but when that doesn’t happen then we can experience profound disappointment. Disappointment is a negative emotion, but it also facilitates our eventual acceptance of reality.

But, it’s easier to get angry than it is to feel disappointment. Anger is sadness’ bodyguard. Anger allows us to tell ourselves the story that the outcome could have been different and we can point the blame at everyone else, It basically allows us to remain stuck and helpless.

Avoiding disappointment is basically avoiding reality or accepting things the way they are. It’s also a way to convince yourself that you are in control when you really didn’t have control of the outcomes.

After we experience many disappointments, sometimes, we stop having high expectations or wishing for good outcomes to minimize the amount of disappointment we experience.

I didn’t realize that I have been trying to avoid disappointment in how I have navigated my life following several traumas and disappointments from people I trusted. Each one led me to minimize my desires because I felt that I was setting myself up for the crushing blow of disappointment by wanting someone or something to work out the way I wanted it to.

But, what I managed to experience was still disappointment. It was disappointment in not even pursuing or wanting the thing I wanted. It morphed into regret and guilt instead which created apathy. In trying to avoid the sadness of the reality, I created even more negative emotions in trying to avoid them.

“There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.”

― Martin Luther King, Jr.

I had to redefine my relationship with disappointment.

Instead of making disappointment something I had to avoid, I let it inform me of what my feelings about the situation were. I had to start honoring my sadness at not receiving what I had hoped for. I had to accept the reality that I was probably putting my hope into people and things that weren’t capable of reaching my expectations. I had to accept that there is nothing that will change the past.

But, disappointment could help me to change the future and help me to stop suffering in the present. Now, when disappointment arises, I could let it show me what I really wanted versus what I received. And, I could let it be the sign that I should change how I feel about the moment by accepting the reality and that I couldn’t control the outcomes. It’s an invitation to process and let go.

When I finally accepted the reality of the situations where I had been dancing around disappointment, I was able to see it with a new clarity. I was able to stop blaming others and forgive them for whatever it was they did that I thought was the cause of not reaching my expectations. And, I could accept my accountability in setting myself up for failure through my choices.

It took the power away from the situations to ruin my past memories and to keep me stuck in the present. It showed me how I could limit the sadness from any situation. Denial of the sadness only prolongs it. Experiencing the sadness and allowing it to be is the only way to move forward.

And, ultimately, I understood that I will face disappointment often because there will be times when reality doesn’t match my expectations. But, I have the choice of how much sadness I experience over it.

“If you’re betrayed, release disappointment at once.
By that way, the bitterness has no time to take root.”

― Toba Beta

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