“Disappointment is the feeling of dissatisfaction that follows the failure of expectations or hopes to manifest.” – Wikipedia.
Society teaches us to put on a “happy face” and “spin” that disappointment into a positive! I say FEEL IT. It will not kill you. It is ok to be down in the mouth. Go ahead and wallow in some self pity. Give yourself permission to be authentic, to express your hurt, to feel all those range of emotions. Is it even possible to feel deeply while denying some feelings?
“When you find your path, you must not be afraid. You need to have sufficient courage to make mistakes. Disappointment, defeat, and despair are the tools God uses to show us the way.” – Paulo Coelho, Brida
I used this picture of my son, because of anyone I’ve ever known, he expressed his disappointment artfully! His pouty face has always brought a smile to mine. It is not funny to laugh at another’s pain so I would do my best to turn my head. He’s too smart and would yell “stop laughing at me mom, it’s not funny.” Sometimes that would break both of us into uncontrollable belly laughing. Other times he would be furios and throw his body on the floor screaming out in emotion.
STEP ONE – Embrace disappointment
He taught me that disappointment was ok. He would cry it out and a few minutes later all was well in his world. He taught me not to ask “What’s wrong? What’s the matter? What do you need? Do you want this? Can I get you that?” and the other incessant comments so many of us feel compelled to say, because we were not taught, and have not learned, how to be comfortable with someone else’s disappointment. Whenever I went into “helicopter mom mode” he would become furious.
So he taught me how to let go. To detach. To trust he knew best, what he was doing. To have faith he could and would work it out. To understand my job was to be a calm and non-reactive parent, ready to support him, when he was ready, to talk it out. What’s fascinating to me about this process is that all my children have developed wonderful self confidence. It is ironic that my “need to fix” actually thwarted their growth, frustrated me, frustrated them and created negative energy thus teaching them unconsciously “it’s not ok for me to feel upset”. What a pressure cooker my lack of understanding put us all in.
STEP TWO – Empathize don’t criticize
Why do we ask “why did you do that?”. I heard myself asking my two year old this one day. Then an answer came back in my mind “because it looked fun”. All of the sudden it occurred to me that kids just do what looks fun. They are not malicious in their intent the way some adults are. And even most adults are just doing what they know. They do not understand that pouring flower all over the floor means hours of work for you!
The other day my daughter came upstairs crying because her Father’s Day card had scribbles on it. After some thought I remembered my other daughter saying she was feeling jealous. There is a book called “The Green Eyed Monster” which explains what happens so well when brother gets a new bike and sister is jealous. I was not sure how I was going to handle the situation. This is where parents learn that ‘fixing’ is not always possible even if we want to because two children, one goal, leads to someone or both being disappointed.
So I remembered something I had done to my step sister. I remember clearly why I did it. I was 7. I was disappointed and wanted her to feel my pain. Much like the scribbling out of the hearts my daughter perpetuated on her sisters Father’s Day card. So I empathized. I told my little story. Everyone laughed. Everyone shared times in their life when they felt disappointment and jealousy. We fixed the card, went to breakfast, and had a great Father’s Day!
STEP THREE – Undersand this too shall pass
“Disenchantment, whether it is a minor disappointment or a major shock, is the signal that things are moving into transition in our lives.” William Throsby Bridges.
We can learn a great deal from our children. They feel it. Express it. Then move on. Children do not remember past disappointments. They move on. They do not relive them. They move on.
My greatest challenge is to avoid the “stock piling effect”. “They did this last week, so I’m sure they will do it this week, and here is more evidence of what they do aha I am right”. My reactions train others how to respond to me. This is often hard to see, how our own actions create our own disappointment.
I start a new job. There are clear rules for an important weekly meeting. They are outlined. I was busy talking, telling jokes and hamming it up to hear the rules. So I come late, answer a few calls and break many rules. A colleague tells me how important these meetings are and goes over the rules again. I still show up late, take a few calls, and converse during discussions. “If I do this a time or two, I get to show up as a ‘jerk’. I create for myself the public identify of “jerk”. I begin to achieve full jerk-hood in the world. …..And moving forward I keep wondering why good things aren’t happening in my life, why I don’t get the”…. blank I DESERVE. – Language and the pursuit of Happiness, Chalmers Brothers.
Now this may not hit home. So close your eyes and imagine the “rules at home”. Imagine what is important to your spouse and what their expectations are. Now imagine if you are the person that laughs it off, comes home late, ignores things that are important to them because they are not important to you. We all do this. What is interesting is that so many of us do it oblivious. We are truly baffled by others reactions. If you want to show up differently then you have to be willing to hear what others are saying even if it is uncomfortable. Don’t make “them wrong” and feel disappointed in their reaction toward you.
Step Two will really help with this. Stop. Think. What must this person be feeling? What are they trying to say? Let me choose an unexpected reaction. That will throw off the negatives patterns in our life.
In my home, two major priorities are make sure the hubby has orange juice and make sure mama has coffee with cream. My husband and I are very aware of this for each other and go to great lengths to protect this sacred ground in our marriage. When we remember to extend this to other important areas in our life; things are blissful!
However, the minute we relapse into an old pattern aha their brain recognizes it and immediately jumps into their pattern. We have hard wired each other into a predictable state and usually one that is damaging to both parties.
Somedays it’s easy to collect evidence of why humanity sucks. It’s easy to relapse into our humanism. It’s easy to throw a coffee cup AGAIN… The key is to stay focused on your PRIMARY PURPOSE. My primary purpose is to be joyful. What is yours?