Dealing with Disappointment

How to deal with disappointment effectively

With the beginning of a new school year coming up, there are plenty of new opportunities for someone to feel disappointment.  A bad grade on a test, not making a sports team, being dumped, or not being accepted into your college of choice.  There is always a first time for disappointment and often times we do not know the best way to handle it.  I had a friend once tell me she had not experienced disappointment or being told "no" until she did not make the cheerleading team in college! That's 18 or so years of her life that she always got what she wanted and never felt significant disappointment, therefore when this situation came up she really didn't know how to handle it.

So, perhaps you've experienced a lot or only a little disappointment in your life, but either way you may feel that you didn't always handle it in the right way.  Of course, disappointment in our lives is inevitable so let's talk about some ways in which we can manage it in a healthy manner.

Sometimes we may respond to disappointment in a passive manner, which would look like giving up and becoming self-critical, feeling sorry for yourself and sulking.  Alternatively, we may have an aggressive response to disappointment, which would be anger or resentment at the situation or person that led to the disappointment.  Although these responses might feel helpful in the moment, they likely don't do anything to change the feeling of disappointment.

A healthy approach to disappointment would be assertiveness in which you don't blame yourself or other people and you don't get stuck in the negative emotions.  Taking ownership for the disappointment will help you accept the situation for what it is and move forward.  Often, a big part of accepting situations for what they are is changing our thinking related to the situation.  Rather than thinking "I can't tolerate this" or "that person is bad" try changing your thinking to either more neutral or positive thoughts about the disappointment.  For example, instead of thinking "I am so dumb, I will never get accepted to any college" you can challenge your thinking and instead think "It is undesirable that I was not accepted to my first choice, but it is not awful."  If your significant other breaks up with you, instead of thinking "that person is terrible, I can't bear this" you can challenge that thought to think something more rational, such as "I can stand this hurt and frustration and I can do something about how I respond to the situation."

Disappointment is inevitable, but if we feel better prepared to handle it in a healthy, effective manner that may help soften the blow just a little bit.

When I was dealing with a disappointing situation one time a friend told me "it is how you handle the disappointment that they will remember" and that has always stuck with me. I think it's a good lesson to remember because it is not an expectation that we won't be disappointed, but rather how we handle it is what will be remembered.

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