Do you feel disappointed by life?
It is a question that as a therapist, I often find myself asking my clients, at some point in our sessions. The answer to this question gives me a peek into the inner workings of their emotional life, their expectations, and their overall life perspective.
Unfortunately, more often than I like to hear, people will share with me that YES, they are indeed disappointed by life.
As a clinician, I take the reveal of being disappointed with life as a possibility this person may be experiencing some form of depression (or has the potentiality to develop depression).
Disappointment is often the final step before depression. Thus how you answer the question of “Are you disappointed by life?” can be very telling of your mental state.
As a mental health professional, I have found that disappointment reveals a lot about the person who expresses said emotion because disappointment is largely a subjective emotion. What I may be disappointed by may not even register on your radar. Disappointment reveals one’s values, expectations, and goals based on what they are disappointed by. Therefore, when a client tells me they are disappointed by life I follow-up with what specifically disappoints you about life. The answer is telling.
High expectations lead to frequent disappointment.
You cannot be disappointed by a situation you have no vested interest in. You cannot be disappointed by someone you expect nothing of (which should be most people because I feel we should not hold expectations of the vast majority of people we encounter unless we want to be constantly disappointed). We can only be disappointed by something we hold an expectation of. Disappointment manifests itself through the failure of expectations being met.
The thing about disappointment is it says a lot more about the person who experiences it than the target of the disappointment. If you are frequently experiencing disappointment, then likely you need to reevaluate the expectations you hold of yourself, others, and life in general.
Now do not take this as me saying you should not have standards. You should. We should all have standards of being treated with civility and human decency. However, often I find clients will share with me their expectations of others are out of touch with what we can realistically expect of other people.
Disappointment is in many ways a narcissistic emotion. We experience it when life isn’t going according to “our” plan. If someone tells you they are disappointed in you, they are basically say you are not living up to THEIR expectations.
When you are experiencing disappointment, you likely are viewing life as unfair. Your glass is “half empty.” This is not a healthy place to be living life from.
When you think about what might have been, in contrast to what actually IS, you may experience disappointment. The further our ideal life is from our actual life, the more disappointed we will feel.
You likely have been disappointed many times before—by yourself, other people, and situations. It is extremely human to experience this emotion.
However, in trying to provide ourself with the ability to best cope with life’s inevitable “disappointments” we need to shift what we expect out of ourself, others, and life in general.
Life is never the problem. Our expectations are. Often if an outcome is worse than expected, we experience extreme disappointment.
This is all simple stuff to understand but we are often not cognizant that our own expectations are what cause us to feel disappointed. We often shift the blame to “out there.” We blame the other person, the situation, anything but ourself.
When things go right, you feel happy.
When things go wrong, we feel sad, angry, frustrated, and YES disappointed.
I find in counseling session, many of the people I work with do WHATEVER they can to avoid experiencing disappointment. They play it too safe. They live cautiously. They avoid “putting themself out there” out of fear—fear of rejection, fear of looking foolish, or fear of being disappointed by how things turn out. This is no way to live.
The problem with disappointment is it feels so hard to manage and overcome.
In disappointment comes a certain finality–the fact that you don’t have, didn’t get, or will never achieve whatever it is that you wanted. This is a bitter pill to swallow. Thus people avoid experiencing the emotion at all cost.
In disappointment, a goal we are trying to achieve is not achievable. It can be not getting our “crush” to agree to a date, not getting into our first choice college, not getting a job we wanted, not getting a house we put an offer on. Throughout life many opportunities present to experience disappointment.
In dealing with the people we love, disappointment can be soul crushing. When we expect our loved one to give us what we want or treat us with respect and they do not–it is quite painful. Constant disappointment by a loved one leads to blame, resentment, and eventual detachment as we no longer are able to see them as a person we can trust with our feelings and emotions. Being repeatedly disappointed in the actions and behaviors of another lead to friendships ending, marriages dissolving, and family estrangement.
It is often in feeling disappointment that we turn to anger. It is easier to feel anger towards whatever it is that is causing of us to feel disappointment then to face the sadness about the course of events. It is also easier to not look at ourselves and the role we played in our disappointment. We stay angry to avoid the sadness experienced in disappointment.
With anger you can continue to fight against what is and denigrate the person, situation, or event that is causing you to feel this way. However, disappointment requires an acceptance of what is and the reality of the situation.
Many people do whatever they can to avoid reality. This includes avoiding the experience of disappointment.
Much of what we experience is life is relatively neutral but our view on the experience colors whether it is good or bad.
How can we cope with our disappointment?
- Accept disappointment is a fact of life—it is an emotion we all will experience. Some disappointments are bigger than others but in resisting the reality of the situation, all we do is perpetuate the negative emotions that come with disappointment. Acceptance and normalizing the experience of disappointment is the first step in moving on.
- Reframe your perspective. Often our expectations of ourself, others, and situations are out of line with reality. Are you looking at the big picture? Take time to reflect on what mindset you are bringing to the table.
- Speak with a professional. If you are constantly feeling let down by life, now may be the time to speak with a professional counselor. Talking to a therapist who truly listens and has your best interest at heart can be incredibly helpful. Therapy can help you readjust your expectations to live a happier, more positive life.
- Shift your expectations. Are your expectations realistic? Can we expect people to do what is in the best interest of us over themselves? We forget that sometimes what is best for us is not necessarily best for another even someone we love. We all have our own lives to lead. Often our expectations of life can be unrealistic which sets us up for disappointment. Ask if what you’re expecting is reasonable.
- Don’t take it personally. Much of what people do is a reflection of their own reality, their own dreams. We need to work on becoming immune to the negative actions of others as to not destroy our own well-being. People largely do things because of themselves not you. It is not all about you–for most people it is all about THEM.
Life tests us all. We will all be disappointed. However, in self-reflecting you may find you are setting yourself up for much pain and disappointment by your own making. It is time for you to live a more positive, joyful existence. Don’t let yesterday’s disappointments cast a dark shadow on today.
To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):
Anew Counseling Services LLC
617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649