Disappointment is one of those feeling that we all experience but fail to discuss as much as other more (seemingly) significant emotions such as anger, stress and anxiety.
It may be because emotions like humiliation and disappointment tend not to be crippling. Life still goes on in spite of them, but they cast a bit of a cloud over what might be a perfectly happy human.
Disappointment tends to bring with it feelings of sadness and failing. It can have undertones of anger and bitterness and has the potential therefore to be a very complex emotion.
Often, though not always, disappointment brings with it a continual whirring or ‘what if’s’. If only things had been different. Returning to what might have been is what creates the stuck-ness that disappointment has and it cannot really be overcome until someone is ready to put a greater degree of energy and focus into what will happen next than they are currently putting into what might have been.
Living in the past rarely serves us unless it is to learn from the mistake we made and to make contingency plans for how we will be better prepared in a similar situation in the future.
Essentially, once the driving process of what might have/should have been has passed, the only way to really move on is by asking (and answering) the question:
“What are you going to do about it? How can you be ready for what happens next?”
Some of you reading may be old enough to remember the old BT adverts with Maureen Lipman in the late 80’s. In one such advert she calls her grandson to find out about his exam results. They are not as good as his grandmother would have wanted. You see the disappointment flash across her face and you can hear it in his voice too as he recites each subject he took and each one a failed exam.
Finally she says “You didn’t pass anything?”
“Pottery” he replies with a sigh.
It would have been a fleeting “What can he do about it?” thought that causes her to respond with: “Pottery? Very useful! People will always need plates. Anything else?”
“And sociology.” He responds glumly.
“An Ology? He gets an Ology and he thinks he’s failed! You get an Ology and you’re a scientist!”
As she continues to reassure him you see his eyebrows lift as he begins to consider that his grandmother might have a fair point in what she is saying.
Releasing disappointment doesn’t just come from finding ways to make the best of what you have or what you are left with. It also comes from being honest about what you’ve got and creative about what you chose to do with it next. It might also be a case of forgiving and deciding to set the bar in a different place to where your prior expectations had previously thought it could go.
Recover first, then make a plan for moving forward and make that plan have multiple prongs that can safeguard you from having the same sort of disappointment again in the future.
By Gemma Bailey