Sooner or later, disappointments will knock on your door too. It can be disappointments in a relationship. A disappointment at work. A project that did not come to end. Something that made you illusion but you could not get. The loss of something or someone important to you…
In fact, did you know that people who feel disappointed continually have a higher risk of suffering physical and/or emotional problems? These people usually have more headaches and gastrointestinal disorders, as well as chronic stress and depression.
The good news is that disappointments, like everything in life, has two faces: you can let them sum you in the deepest sadness or learn the lesson and move on. Disappointments help you to grow. It’s up to you.
Disillusions are fueled by the gap between your expectations and reality
Disillusionment is a form of sadness, a sense of loss that occurs as a result of a painful gap between your expectations and reality. You are disappointed when your hopes do not find support in reality. In fact, the philosopher Eric Hoffer said that “Disappointment is a sort of bankruptcy – the bankruptcy of a soul that expends too much in hope and expectation.”
If you prepare to get the best and everything goes fine, the setbacks you will encounter along the way will discourage and disappoint you. When you think you “need” to have something to be happy or feel satisfied, you are preparing the ground for disappointment. When you feed too many expectations, you are preparing for a great disappointment.
Of course, we cannot always avoid disappointments because our brain is programmed to anticipate events and we always hope for the best. We trust that the project that we are so excited about and in which we have invested so much time and effort, will work. We trust that the others will behave correctly. We trust that our partner will always support us…
However, sometimes things go awry. Then it comes disappointment. We cannot help it, but we can decide how to react. Although disappointments are not pleasant, they give us valuable information about ourselves, our expectations and the other people. Every disappointment comes with a lesson, it is up to us to take advantage of it.
Obviously, getting stuck in disappointment is not a good idea. The event has already happened. You cannot go back to change it. You can reflect on what happened, and it is convenient that you do it so that you can take on some teaching, but you cannot forget that you are looking in a rearview mirror. When driving, from time to time you should look in the rearview mirror, but for most of the journey you should keep looking ahead, to the future. If you look too much backward, you expose yourself to an accident with more serious consequences.
Disillusionment is also a great master of life, it is simply telling you that, for some reason, you have ended up in the wrong place. Disillusionment alerts you that you are living a situation that you do not like and, therefore, it should become an agent of change, a reason to react and leave that place where you do not feel comfortable. Instead of lamenting, you should ask yourself why you have ended up there and, above all, what you can do to not return to that place.
The 4 riders of the apocalypse of disappointment
- What? Believing that only one thing can bring happiness
The constant exposure to advertising conveys the idea that we can only be happy if we have certain things. In this way, we can begin to subordinate our happiness to the acquisitive level. Without realizing it, we let things determine how happy we are. And when we do not achieve what we want, we feel disillusioned and unhappy.
The curious fact is that obtaining certain things is not a guarantee of happiness. In fact, often when we reach some things, we realize that they do not report the joy and satisfaction we expected. The satisfaction that things give us is very ephemeral. On the contrary, the experiences we enjoy give us a more lasting happiness. Therefore, it is a fallacy to think that we can only be happy if we achieve certain things.
- Who? Believing that there is only one person who can satisfy our wishes
The biggest disappointments usually come from our interpersonal relationships. When we expect the others to behave in a certain way and they do not, we feel disappointed. The problem, obviously, lies in our expectations.
In many cases, we are victims of the “Halo Effect“, according to which, we arbitrarily attribute positive or negative qualities to people according to our first impressions. In practice, we make inferences from isolated characteristics, about how those people will behave. When those expectations are not met, we feel disappointed. When we place hope in a person and he does not satisfy it, we become disillusioned.
We cannot escape the halo effect, but we can be aware of its existence. Instead of thinking: “he should take care of me” and feeling bad if it does not happen, we should ask ourselves: “what can I do to make that person cares for me?” Basically, it is about taking charge of the situation, being aware that there is a margin for disappointment, instead of just feeding expectations.
- When? Set a time limit to get what we want
Not only do we have expectations about what we want to achieve, but also about the time frame in which we want to obtain it. Unfortunately, a society that turns at a dizzying speed, where needs are quickly satisfied as soon as they appear, has made us think that we must have everything immediately. If we do not reach our goals quickly, we feel disillusioned, we believe that we have failed.
We do not realize that many times life does not say “No”, but only “Wait.” We all have our own rhythm, compare ourselves with the others is totally counterproductive. We should not set too short time limits, especially when our dreams are very ambitious. Life is not a race of speed but of resistance. Therefore, do not set arbitrary and unrealistic time limits. Learn to apply more the Taoist concept of Wu-Wei.
- How? Have clear ideas on how everything will work
Perhaps, the hardest expectation we should give up to avoid disappointment is how we should do things, how we should feel and think and how the others should behave. It is normal that when we set certain goals or get involved in a relationship, we establish a roadmap. That roadmap foresees how everything will work.
Life will take care to let us know that we cannot control everything. If you have very well crafted schemes and you cling to them, you will be more likely to feel disappointed. There are different ways to reach the same goal, we have to stay open to all possibilities. If life does not work according to your plan, it does not mean that you cannot get what you want, but only that you have to change strategy.
In fact, Abraham Maslow explained that one of the characteristics of self-realized persons is the ability to distinguish means from ends. These people are able to stay focused on their objectives, being open to different means to achieve them. Life changes the rules of the game continuously, the key is to know how to adapt and take advantage of opportunities.
Gilovich, T.; Kumar, A. & Jampol, L. (2014) A wonderful life: Experiential Consumption and the Pursuit of Happiness. Journal of Consumer Psychology; 1: 152-165.
Aspinwall, L. G. & Taylor, S. E. (1993) Effects of Social Comparison Direction, Threat, and Self-Esteem on Affect, Self-Evaluation, and Expected Success. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; 64: 708–722.
Nisbett, R. E. & Wilson, T.D. (1977) The Halo Effect: Evidence for Unconscious Alteration of Judgments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; 35: 250–56.