WHAAAAAAH! Buy Me Another Right NOW!
I grew up in a family with eight kids and two parents that worked night and day to make things happen for us. There were the occasional treats but as a rule those treats were few and far between compared to lots of kids I knew. I realized that mom and dad were doing everything under the sun to make life ‘ordinary’ for us (whatever that means).
But that macrocosm of a family had some interesting effects on me in the long run. I learned early on that disappointment is unfortunate but common. When you have eight baby birds in the nest and only one worm, there’s bound to be seven birds that don’t get fed. They’ll just have to wait for the next worm or bug to come along.
Disappointment never really bothered me that much. Oh, I had my stomping hissyfit reactions: why can’t I have a Nehru jacket and some beads? All the other kids are wearing striped bell-bottoms, where are mine? Why can’t I go to Woodstock?
Too Bad For You, You Big Baby
Sometimes it really bothered me to go without. And of course I was teased mercilessly by those who had, and commiserated with by those who had not. Small towns generate that kind of dichotomy in social class.
Little did I know that real disappointment — the kind that flays your insides — doesn’t show up until much later, when you lose a job possibility, or the love of your life boards a plane for New Jersey forever without even saying goodbye. Those are disappointments that have some teeth.
By Hercules, I Will Never Be Happy Again
I love to wallow in it. Well, for a little while, anyway. Who says we all don’t enjoy a little ‘pity party’ from time to time? And sometimes it’s just plain necessary to throw a fit, plumb the depths of depression, swear you’ll never love again, or wish this had never happened to you. Boo hoo.
Sometimes a good wallow is just the thing.
Well, That’s The Long And Short Of It
Putting things (and people, and thinking, and just about everything else) into perspective is an interesting if sometimes painful process. When you’re disappointed, ask yourself: did I have this situation in a good, solid perspective? Chances are you didn’t because you had an unreasonable expectation.
I know, I know, I write about this all the time. But it is unreasonable expectation that causes so many of our problems and frankly there’s a lot of work behind lowering those expectations and of course, lowering those expectations results in fewer disappointments.
Ah, The Power Of Emotional Mathematics
When things don’t add up in your checkbook, what’s the first thing you do? Find out what’s causing the imbalance. You forgot something. You didn’t account for a bank fee. You forgot that you wrote a check for cat food at the store. Somewhere in your financial transactions, there’s something missing.
What’s missing when your disappointment isn’t balanced? You expended too much energy on an expectation in your emotional account and now, the disappointment and the expectation don’t balance out.
Disappointment Loves To Be Your Personal Dementor
So how do you handle the imbalance in your life created by your unreasonable expectations and the resulting disappointment? Well, to some degree you can and can’t at the same time.
You can’t prevent disappointment from trying so suck out your soul like a Dementor in a Harry Potter film. Dementors feed on negativity, on fear. This is what disappointment can do to you if you’re in denial about it. You’re refusing to believe that you need to take action to get that Dementor away from you so it doesn’t hurt you.
When Harry Potter wants to force the Dementors to flee, he casts a Petronus charm. It makes those ragged sheet-wearing, soul-sucking goons run like scared little deer.
So, here’s the deal. When you realize you have an expectation forming, put a sticky note on it, a great big yellow and red sticky note that says WARNING: UNREALISTIC EXPECTATION. You need to remember that each and every expectation needs to have this big warning on it so that when you’re disappointed you’ll remember why you had that warning on it in the first place.
Not easy. Sometimes you have hopes. And to misquote Yoda, misplaced hope leads to expectation, expectation leads to suffering. So don’t put your hopes on the wrong Jedi.
When you experience balanced disappointment — realizing that your disappointment is in direct proportion to the value you placed on the original expectation — then you’re being a little more realistic. Divorce is a great example. When someone doesn’t meet our expectations it can be one of the most painful emotions to experience. But think about it: if you didn’t have those high and unrealistic expectations you wouldn’t have such grief over the situation.
I’m guilty of making all these mistakes and many, many more. But when you’re aware of the mistakes then you can begin to do something about it.
Ah, Disillusion, You Temptress
So here’s my advice: forget what I said. What do I know? I only know why I suffer from disappointment and what I’m doing about it. It’s the same advice I tell myself all the time.