You know you're getting old when the candles cost more than the cake.

~ Bob Hope ~

Disappointment And How To Handle It

April 18th, 2013 ~ Est. reading time: 1 min, 44 secs

Disappointment is hardest when we're ill-prepared.

Disappointment is hardest when we’re ill-prepared.

When it’s bad disappointment can ravage you. Before you’ve even processed the impact it can slam-dunk you into depths of despair. But that doesn’t mean you have to stay there.

Having spent years teaching and working in rehabilitation counseling I’ve witnessed people of all ages deal with deep disappointment.

What’s most noticeable is how differently people handle it. A child of eight realizing that she has made a major mistake suddenly stiffens, throws her hands up heavenward, and turns away muttering in tears. While, in the same situation, another child registers the error, smiles sheepishly, and laughs it off. Similar triggers. Vastly different ways of dealing with disappointment.

You see the same in adults too. Take any game where parents come to watch and, chances are, there’ll “blood on the carpet” if the “right” kids don’t win. In such situations, disappointment rapidly spins into aggression and abusiveness.

As the fight or flight response kicks in, powerful physical reactions temporarily take control. Disappointment either leads people into attack mode or, into a spiral of gloom.

Now I don’t mean to say we should avoid disappointment at all costs or regard it as somehow wrong. There are many times when disappointment is entirely justified. Deeply. But, that’s no reason to stay there.

Without choices and action, disappointment is a dead end road; a place where we merely lash out or remain embittered and miserable. That’s why it’s important to try to harness your disappointments by converting their raw emotion into considered decisions.

Consider a football team. No matter how capable, they will inevitably experience plenty of disappointments along the way. Isn’t that also true of life too? What we need is to plan beforehand for those tough moments to make the most of the situations we are given.

What do you do when a colleague chews you out and you find it upsetting? Consider how you can use that encounter. How about when a ruling doesn’t go the way you hope? Consider your next strategy. When your partner gets themselves into a terrible mess, what next? Maybe you minimize your anxiety or outbursts by giving yourself time to think and work things out.

Bottom line: put your focus into seeking solutions rather than seeing setbacks as an end in themselves. Disappointments are inevitable. But how we handle them and the emotional fallout they cause is entirely in our hands.

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