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How To Deal With Disappointment: Expert Strategies And Examples

How does disappointment differ from happiness? Find out what disappointment is all about and how to cope with disappointment's emotions.
by Rob Gillham | Jan 4 2023

Our lives are filled with disappointments, whether we fail a test we’ve studied all night for or lose the lottery. As reasonable, intelligent creatures, we take pride in our abilities.

Sometimes, when disappointment hits, we tell ourselves that it’s not so bad or that it doesn’t matter. Every time we are disappointed, we still feel that crushing, gut-wrenching vulnerability.

​What causes disappointment to hurt so much? How do we overcome disappointment, and what are the best ways to do so?

Disappointment – Why Do We Feel That Way?

We can’t escape disappointment. Even though we tell ourselves that the outcome was expected, it’s a raw, real emotion that hurts a lot. How exactly do we define this emotion we call “disappointment”?

​Disappointment stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the body’s rest and digestion response system. It causes feelings of hopelessness, inertia, and melancholy when triggered. Additionally, you may feel powerless and want to do nothing. 

In Psychology Today, Mary C. Lamia, Ph.D., wrote that disappointment is a profound way in which sadness is experienced. “People will twist their thinking in every direction to avoid recognizing a true disappointment, and they do whatever they can to avoid realizing it.”

​Most of the time, we avoid acknowledging our disappointment because it involves finality. It forces us to admit that we didn’t get what we wanted. Rather than accept disappointment’s reality, it’s easier to turn to anger.

What Makes Disappointment So Hurtful

Experiencing disappointment hurts both physically and mentally. The pain doesn’t seem to lessen, no matter how much we experience it. Some of us feel tired, heavy, and numb, while others feel like the world is moving too fast around us. Is there a reason why this happens? Can you tell me why it hurts?

Endorphins are released by the body when we are in physical pain. An almost instantaneous response occurs when physical injury is present. However, when it comes to psychological wounds, our brains react differently.

Our brains interpret certain disappointing events as instances that undermine our well-being, similar to depression. The brain’s neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and/or dopamine, decrease when pain occurs.

While our brain perceives sadness, depression, and disappointment as equally painful as physical injuries, it deals with them differently. Instead of dealing with it, it ignores it completely. Interestingly, many of us end up with “stress symptoms” such as migraines, muscular tension, and even movement disorders instead of the relief we crave during such occasions.

How To Deal With Disappointment.

It’s almost impossible not to feel unhappy when our positive feelings and optimistic expectations are disrupted. Whatever the case may be, disappointment won’t be such a looming problem in your life over time and with practice. These strategies can be used by the millions, if not billions, of people who force a smile to get over disappointment:

Don’t be afraid to feel disappointed.

The first thing you’ll need to do is acknowledge your recent letdown. A situation can be made worse by denying its reality or refusing to consider it at all. In addition, it keeps you confined to one place, preventing you from pursuing a solution.

Getting over disappointment begins with awareness, as with a lot of things. Whatever disappointment that you are faced with, it’s important to acknowledge your feelings before moving on.

Get it out of your system.

Researchers found that those who wrote down their deepest feelings and thoughts about their experience recovered much faster than those who didn’t. In the months that followed, their physical and mental health improved as well.

In another study, executives and engineers who confronted their feelings about unemployment were much more likely to find employment in the following months. Four months later, the number jumped up to 72%.

​Sometimes, disappointment is too much to bear. After experiencing disappointment, talking to someone or writing it down will lessen the feelings of pain and/or hopelessness.

It’s not worth dwelling on what might have been.

You’ve probably imagined how great it would be if you got that promotion, ranked at the top of your class, or won the lottery. It’s inevitable that you’ll consider what could have been if things had turned out differently when things didn’t turn out as you’d hoped.

It would have been better if you had answered more promptly, studied more, or if you had been luckier. However, the more you dwell on your disappointment, the harder it is to move on. Besides disrupting your ability to focus, it will also hinder your progress.

Take care of yourself.

The majority of the time, when things go wrong, it’s not your fault. You may have been turned down because the company needed someone with a completely different set of skills. Perhaps the person you fell in love with is in love with someone else, someone they’ve known way before you entered the picture. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be.

It is important to adopt a self-compassionate attitude regardless of the situation. Take care of yourself.

Don’t judge yourself too harshly if you aren’t perfect. Don’t hold yourself to impossible standards. The most important thing is to not compare yourself with others. By doing so, you will only damage your self-esteem and confidence.

Take some time to recognize your accomplishments.

It’s inevitable that you won’t be able to accomplish everything you hope to achieve every day. There are always obstacles and tasks in life, and they seem to come out of nowhere. It often distracts you from your goal.

There will always be mistakes, and you are allowed to make them. The best you could do was what you did. You should forgive yourself for your mistakes and learn from them instead of holding them over your head.

View things from a different perspective.

Most of us find ourselves looking back on events that seem trivial now. It might even occur to us to ask ourselves why we were so concerned or upset about something that wasn’t as bad as we thought it was.

How will you feel about your situation in a week, a month, or a year? If you believe that your disappointment will eventually pass, you’re already on your way to getting over it.

In a perfect world, the odds would be in our favor. Reality, however, isn’t so kind. Instead of viewing the event you’ve just experienced as an utter disaster that will ruin your life forever, think of it as a mere inconvenience. It’s not the end of the world, after all.

Become familiar with your own feelings.

You must balance that external validation with your own inner wisdom, of course. The problem with emotions like disappointment is that they can completely derail our self-perception. As a result, we may begin to doubt our abilities and feel like imposters. Stacking up too many disappointments can skew our sense of self. 

That’s why it’s so crucial to know your own core values and principles before pursuing any goals. Better yet, ask yourself why you do what you do. The “why’s” you keep in your mind will help you get up and try again while keeping your self-worth intact.

Accept yourself as you are.

It’s easier to accept where you are as the right starting point for a fresh start once you’ve checked in with yourself and your supporters. 

In order to practice self-acceptance, you must practice positive self-talk and constantly stay in the “now.” Eckhart Tolle calls this “the power of now” – a similar practice to meditation and mindfulness. Acknowledging what is real requires accepting the present moment. Disappointment comes and goes like breath. Let it go by breathing into it.

Keep it from festering.

Negative experiences are the worst thing you can do. Time is again the variable here. After all the previous steps have been taken, you don’t need to bounce back from disappointment.

After you’ve taken some time to come to terms with your circumstances, it’s time to start over. Resentment, anxiety, and negative thinking could easily result from disappointment if it’s not dealt with properly.

 

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