How we deal with disappointment is important for how we move through life. When I reflect on my life, I can’t remember that many little disappointments. Unless you count the fact that my Mom drank herself into a stupor every night, she harassed me mercilessly, the arguments between my parents were loud and scary, my Dad was a chauvinist who loved me like crazy and also never really thought a female would amount to much. (And I loved him dearly, btw). The overall mood in my home was often…. tense and I walked on egg shells a lot. It was also often filled with laughter. Is that disappointing? Meh.
On the other hand, my Mom, a functioning alcoholic loved us fiercely. She always had food on the table, our house was impeccable and our clothes were spotless. She was incredibly introverted, insecure and agoraphobic. We stopped fighting after I graduated from college and I had my own babies. She turned into an amazing grandma, in fact, someone I would want to model. She was loving, and generous and wanted to get to know my kids. She was less nervous than she was as a Mom. Am I disappointed I missed out on a “great Mom” experience? Nah…… my kids had the best version of her.
Disappointment does happen to all of us. What I love about this truth, is that, as the author, Beverly D. Flaxington, and other people state in Psychology Today, it does completely normalize it. The first thing a lot of us do when faced with “less than a win” is load up on some self-hate talk, wallow around for maybe too long in that self-hate talk and sadness and sometimes even vow to never move on or “do that again.”
What if everyone took that approach to set backs? I won’t bore you with the list of amazing inventions, do-dads, books, music, art, or even fun food items that we would not have.
We always hear, “it’s how you look at it.” There is nothing new there. What if we look at disappointment like a journey instead of just the event that happened?
I recently experienced a disappointment and sat down to run myself through these questions:
Disappointment Journey: Get Out Your Journal for 11 Steps
- What was it that you put yourself out there to do or experience?
- How did you decide you wanted to do it?
- WHY did you decide you wanted to do it in the first place?
- What preparation did you take to do this experience?
- When it was go time, did you feel fully prepared? Why or Why not?
- What was the result? Attained or not?
- Was the result within your control?
- What would you have done differently?
- Will you pursue doing this again and if yes, how will you prepare differently to achieve a positive outcome?
- What have you learned from this experience?
- How long will you allow yourself to feel sad about this? (I mean it – give yourself a time limit).
Journaling is a good practice and certainly for circumstances like disappointments. I recommend not waiting just for the big stuff though. Treat your journal like a friend, reach out often and treat it with respect. As recommended by Flaxington et al in Psychology Today, if you have experienced a significant tragedy, PTSD, or a reaction to a life experience, please seek professional medical attention right away.