Blog & Articles

Disappointment by J.D. Willetts, Ph.D.

Disappointment seems to be a ubiquitous part of life. Hardly a day can go by without it. It comes in all shapes and sizes but it is consistently there. Some disappointments are temporary like when traffic lights conspire against you – changing to red just as you arrive, or staying red when there is no other traffic on the road and tumbleweeds roll by enjoying the green light. Other disappointments are longer lasting – like being passed over for a promotion, being betrayed by a loved one, or finding out that you have major medical issues.

It seems that disappointment is inevitable. Some try to avoid disappointment by always expecting the worst. I don’t think trading disappointment for hopelessness is a good deal. It’s like having all your teeth pulled so you don’t have to worry about cavities. It works, but it isn’t too bright. Developing a strategy to deal with disappointments seems a lot more sensible. A good strategy, like brushing and flossing, takes effort. However, your strategy can become, like oral hygiene, a habit you can’t live without.

Our problem with disappointment is our interpretation of the disappointing event. The habit we must develop is a mindset that manages our interpretations, not our disappointments. We become angry if we think we deserve better or sad if we think we deserve to be disappointed. Recognizing that disappointments are just the discrepancy between our wishes and reality can help to depersonalize the experience and give us perspective. We don’t deserve to have the world the way we want it. Developing an attitude of gratefulness can virtually eliminate the pain of disappointments. When things go our way we can be grateful for the blessing. When the disappointment comes we can recognize that it is not good or bad, it just is. Our attitude is what makes the difference.

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