This Will Help You Appreciate Disappointment For the First Time

Disappointment, Emotional Intelligence, Counseling, Therapy, Human Emotional System

There doesn’t seem to be anything redeeming about disappointment.

It’s not exactly a feeling one appreciates.  But there actually IS a gift inherent in disappointment.

This post is #4 in a series of 10: Ten Basic Emotions and their Messages.

The central point is:  The human emotional system is built as a messaging system.

Each emotion has a general message it wants to convey.  Once that message is delivered, the emotion or the wave of that emotion can be processed.

Sometimes there are multiple waves of the emotion. Sometimes it takes a little time for the emotion to process through the body, sometimes it is relieved right away.

It’s important to remember that there are nuances to the system. Each emotion also has a spectrum of how helpful it is.

Let’s start with the basic message disappointment wants to bring to your awareness.

The message of disappointment is about alignment.

Disappointment reveals a gap between our expectations, beliefs or assumptions and reality.

Expectations, beliefs and assumptions are largely invisible until there is something that is not a match to them.

You know how people say “I have no expectations”?  Well, it’s probably not true.  Sure, you can try not to have expectations, but they exist.  Why?  Because one of the chief endeavors of the mind is to predict.  In the minds’ predictions are embedded expectations.

So, when disappointment appears, it is an opportunity to come into alignment with reality.

Ultimately, living in alignment with reality creates more harmony, ease and productivity.  It means you are working with the flow rather than against it.

The initial revelation of an undesirable truth is sometimes difficult.  But being with the truth is much easier in the long run.  That way your efforts, energy and attention can be directed to the right places.

How to Deal with Disappointment:

ONE: Look for the truth that wants to come forward.

If you try to resist the truth that is here now, that is where time and energy are wasted. If you look at the situation and look to accept it as it is, you will get through the unpleasantness of disappointment faster.

Spend your effort looking at reality.

TWO: Let the disappointment metabolize.

That means: let the disappointment be there.  It sucks, but it is OK.  Let it run through your body.  In your head or out loud, declare your intention to be with it if that helps.  Just breathe and pay attention to the sensations in your body as it processes.  Most feelings take about 90 seconds to run through.  If you can pause and let that happen without resistance, you will get through it faster.

According to Jill Bolte Taylor’s book, A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey: “When a person has a reaction to something in their environment, there’s a 90 second chemical process that happens in the body; after that, any remaining emotional response is just the person choosing to stay in that emotional loop”.

THREE: Adjust your expectations.

Now that your silent expectations were revealed, bring your expectations into alignment with reality.

If you need to say the new expectation out loud or write it down to help solidify the gift of the disappointment, do that.

FOUR: Take your attention elsewhere.

Maybe that means you need to take action as a result of the disappointment.  Or maybe that means you just turn your brain onto something else: work, a new conversation topic, social media.  Whatever you need to move your attention on.  Otherwise, it is tempting to dwell on the disappointment.

Let’s look at an example so you can see how to move through the steps:

A child client of mine was recently expressing disappointment because she didn’t get to play a game during our session.  Sometimes we do that to help get into the session as a transition or to “close up” the work we have done.

ONE: Look for the truth that wants to come forward.

The reality for my client was that she spent the majority of her time on her artwork. She wanted to get her project “perfect” and that took up a lot of time.  Difficulty with being flexible is one of her treatment goals.  Seeing the consequence of being somewhat inflexible was an important reality to help motivate my client to work on this treatment goal.  I stopped all the action and we talked about this reality.

TWO: Let the disappointment metabolize.

In response, my client stated her disappointment again.  I know she didn’t care much about the reality, but it was important for me to continue to show her the realities of difficulties being flexible.

I mirrored it back to her: “it is disappointing”.  We sat there looking at each other for about 20 seconds.  I could see her metabolizing the feeling.

THREE: Adjust your expectations.

We talked for a moment about what we would do next time to help align expectations with reality.

FOUR: Take your attention elsewhere.

My client was ready to end session and got up to leave.

Sometimes the problem processing feelings is just that we don’t know HOW.

Is there a disappointment you’ve experienced that you can process using these steps so you can finally move forward?

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