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Disappointment is Normal.

Disappointment is normal. How we deal with it is part of personal growth.

First: Disappointment is normal. How often do we feel upset because there is part of us, inside, that really believes disappointment is abnormal? That our expectations should always be met, and when they are not, it is a sign that something clearly is not right with the world?

But the world is not our personal possession. Other people get to make decisions that may impact us.

What's the matter with your life?
Is the poverty bringing you down?
Is the mailman jerking you 'round?
Did he put your million dollar check
In someone else's box?
-- Pop Life, Prince

There are many ways to deal with disappointment, and each situation will warrant a different response, based on your personal guiding principles. There are times when complaining directly to the source of the disappointment--to a manager, to a friend, to a congressperson--is the right thing to do. There are times when acceptance is appropriate. I thought I was ordering a cheeseburger, but I misread the menu, and it's a grilled cheese sandwich. There are times when fighting for the change you believe in is right.

Taking the time to discern what is the right response for you opens up the opportunity for personal growth. The goal is to make a decision based not on your feelings, but on your guiding principles. Who do you want to be in this situation?

(I always try to remind myself to really probe why I'm responding. Because it so terrifically easy to justify my response, and to argue I'm responding according to my guiding principles, when really, I'm responding based on my feelings, and just coming up with justification for it.)

But wait, wait, wait. I think I glossed over something big. Let's go back to that thing about complaining...

"There are times when complaining directly to the source of the disappointment..."

Ah. That. Right there.

But I don't want to complain directly to the source of my disappointment! I want to complain to my friends, who I know will agree with me!

Will anything change with my complaints to my friends? Probably not. And if something does change, it's because I've created a triangle, and one of my well-meaning friends has gone to the source to complain on my behalf. Not their job. And I grow not at all from that.

It takes a tremendous amount of courage to go directly to someone and let them know we're disappointed. But doing so creates an opportunity both for our own growth, and for the growth of the source. When I complain, I get an opportunity to practice being courageous, vulnerable, and direct. The source of my disappointment gets the opportunity to practice moving past defensiveness, and into their own discernment of operating from their guiding principles.

And still, I may be disappointed. The other person may not agree with my assessment of what is the "right" thing to do. They may not respond the way I want them to. They may, in fact, respond defensively or with meanness, operating out of their own anxiety.

I cannot control them, only myself. But I also can grow, no matter their response.

But there I am, left with my disappointment.

And ... disappointment in normal. It is a fact of life. And sometimes, the healthiest thing we can do is grieve that disappointment in order to move on.

Do you ever take time to grieve a disappointment? 

I am slowly learning to. Rather than quickly zooming past it, or chalking up a grudge, or moving to "plan b," I sit with my disappointment. I catalog the physical sensations. Hmm, my stomach hurts. My shoulders are tensed up. I try to analyze the feelings. Hmm, this is anxiety, because I'm not sure how this will affect the future. And there's also sadness, because I was already imagining a different future.

And I let myself feel my feelings. When an idea intrudes of a way to distract myself--food! Drink! Blocking it from my brain with tv/computer/a book!--I pull myself back. Not to wallow, but to give myself time to grieve the disappointment.

Then, I can move on.

Disappointment is just a fact of life. 


And a whole lot of life is learning to deal with disappointment in healthy ways. Maybe even, sometimes, taking them as an opportunity to practice generosity. Because what causes me disappointment may cause someone else joy.





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