Disappointments are natural occurrences in life and there’s no escaping them. Whilst you can’t predict them, you can build up coping mechanisms to fight off the feelings of despair or anger and turn them into a learning experience.
I bet you know one or two people who seem to live charmed lives, at least on the surface. You might be a bit envious of them as they scoop every job they apply for, find the most attractive and successful partner without even combing their hair or find opportunities drop in their lap like gold from the gods.
Feel sorry for them instead as they miss out on the opportunity to grow and evolve. Making mistakes and handling crashing disappointments in life are the best ways of improving those soft skills that are important to relationships and gaining a deeper meaning of life ; communication, listening, empathy, appreciation of small things and resilience. Being challenged draws us out of our comfort zone and knocks the smug smile from our self- satisfied faces.
For many, disappointments come from setting unrealistic goals and expectations. How many times have you said to yourself or worse still another person, ‘By the time I am ( age) I will ( fill in gap). At one time, interviewers used to ask that very question. ‘Where do you hope to be in five years’ time?’ It’s a nonsense question. Our hopes and attitudes are constantly shifting and by laying out a clear plan for your future is a sure way of setting yourself up for disappointment.
Thing is, disappointment is never quite as bad as it feels initially. In fact, you might be relieved that you didn’t get that house or marry that person. It’s reassuring to think that something might be looking out for your interests ( God, universe, a leprechaun) but maybe something smashes your hopes because you weren’t in the right head space to accept it. I’m a believer in Carl Jung’s theory of synchronicity. Everything happens at the “right” time. Whatever that means.
What’s the best way of handling disappointments?
- Let your feelings out. Punch a pillow, scream, cry, curse on your own. Keep other people out of it. It’s not their fault.
- Don’t lash out by sending a bitter email or leaving a cryptic message on social media. It says a lot about your immaturity.
- Don’t talk about disappointments being disasters. Losing your family, your home and your country to war are disasters. It’s a pebble on your journey in life. You will get over it.
- Be grateful for what you do have and stop focusing on the one thing you really, really wanted but you didn’t get.
- Take some time to put things into perspective. Grieve if you must then move on.
- Read up on resilience or do a short course.
Take a lesson from the Stoics. They believed that the only thing we can control are our reactions to whatever life throws at us i.e our thoughts and feelings. Most psychologists would say the same which is why Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a tool of choice in therapeutic practice.