Dealing with Disappointment
Christmas is only 6 days away and while it’s an exciting time (especially for kids) it’s also a high stress time for a lot of people too. There’s the worry that our kids might not like what we get them for Christmas – that we might disappoint them somehow. There’s the time spent with family members and maybe dealing with disappointment that they don’t act the way we think they should. There’s the disappointment that comes with not getting to see people you thought you would or hoped you would. There’s the disappointment that comes from not getting what you want – either out of the day (the day doesn’t go as you think it should), maybe you don’t get what you want from your spouse. There’s the disappointment that comes from not getting that visit that you thought you would or that phone call you expected. Maybe you end up disappointing yourself by not doing what you thought you wanted to do or feel how you wanted to feel.
Whatever the reasons behind the disappointment you end up feeling unhappy and wishing things could be different than they are. But this year…I want to help you. I want teach you how to navigate the sensitivities of the season, to CHOOSE how you feel and not REACT to the circumstances that arise. Ready for it? Here we go:
First, you have to know that disappointment is a CHOICE you make. It’s not a byproduct of the day. You’re not disappointed because your husband didn’t remember to buy you a gift. You’re not disappointed because all your kids came to dinner except Susan. You’re not even disappointed that Susan chose to spend the day with her friend Sally and not you either. I know this is a tough pill to swallow. I’ve been there too. But I promise you…THESE ARE NOT THE REASONS YOU ARE DISAPPOINTED -even though your brain is going to want to argue that it is – even though you really, really, really feel like those are the reasons, they’re not. The ONLY reason you are disappointed is because of how you’re THINKING about it.
You’re disappointed because you expected your husband to remember and get you a gift. You think that this is what husbands are supposed to do! If he loved you, he would remember.
You’re disappointed because you expected all your kids to come over for Christmas dinner. It’s tradition! It’s what you’ve always done. If they loved and valued you and the family, the would WANT to be there. You’re disappointed because you think they don’t care about you and that maybe they love their friends more than family. You’re disappointed because you think they’re making a choice to choose friends over family – over you.
You’re disappointed because of the thoughts you’re choosing to keep. You’re disappointed because of the meaning YOU are adding to the circumstance. You’re disappointed because you had thoughts of how the day should go and it didn’t happen that way. The disappointment comes from you. It stems from your thoughts.
I know you think this stinks. I did too. I wanted THEM to change. I wanted THEM to just do what I felt was best. Wanting THEM to change felt easier than for ME to change -after all, I wasn’t doing anything wrong, right?! But the biggest issue with this, is that it makes YOU THE VICTIM. You’re then powerless to change anything. You have to wait for THEM to change the circumstances for you to feel better. That stinks too…worse actually because you don’t know how long you’re going to wait until they change – if EVER.
The BEST NEWS is that you don’t have to wait for anyone to do anything for you to feel how you want to feel right this very second. You get to choose. Isn’t that great news?! YOU ARE IN CONTROL and you don’t have to be disappointed IF you don’t want to.
Sometimes I still choose disappointment. I don’t want to choose happy when we get together for a big extended family tradition and my parents and I are the only ones that come. I do want to choose disappointment that I didn’t get to see my other family members who I love. But here’s the distinction: I’m not a victim. THEY aren’t making me feel anything. I don’t have to wait on them to change how I feel.
I am empowered and responsible for how I feel and when I’m done with my disappointment I know that I’m going to feel great because I determine how I feel. Also, when I’m aware that it’s me choosing that – and my thoughts CREATING that – It’s a lot easier to do some much needed mental work and navigate my way through it. There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel when you take ownership for your role in CREATING how you feel by the thoughts you choose to think.
For example: When I choose to feel disappointed that my family didn’t come to the family tradition, I also recognize that I’m creating disappointment because I’m thinking thoughts like: Why aren’t they here? They should be here. This is a season for family and they don’t want to be with the family. They must not love us. If they did love us, they would show it by being here.
Do you see how those thoughts CREATE disappointment? Sadness? It’s certainly NOT creating peace and love.
First off, let’s take a look at the thoughts: “why aren’t they here? They should be here” – Really, Why aren’t they here? Did I take the time to ask THEM why they aren’t here? or did I just quickly assume to know the answer to that? Even if I DID ask and they said they don’t want to come – I can’t know that the thought:“they should be here” is true or not. I don’t know what’s going on in their minds, in their lives – maybe they shouldn’t be here. Maybe home or their friends or wherever they’re at is EXACTLY where they need to be right now. I’m not them. I can’t know what’s best for THEM. Maybe they’re not comfortable in this setting- would I want them to be somewhere where they’re not going to feel good? If I love them why would I want them be somewhere that it’s what’s best for them?
Also the thought, “This is a season for family and they don’t want to be with the family.” – Is this a season for family? Can I prove that? Or is that a societal/cultural idea? What about the people that don’t have family? What happens to them? Are they doomed because they don’t even have the choice to be with family? – It’s just a thought.
Same goes with the thought, “They don’t want to be here. They must not love us.” – I can’t prove that. I don’t know what’s going on in their heads. Even if they say flat out: I don’t want to be here – it’s still NOT A PROBLEM until you add meaning to it – until you attach yourself to it by your thoughts. If they say, “I don’t want to be here” – then ask yourself: So what? What are you making that mean?* It only becomes a problem WHEN YOU MAKE IT MEAN SOMETHING. And that something is generally about you – it doesn’t feel good when we think things like, “they must not love me” – Why do you NEED them to love you? Does that change the love you have for them? Is your love conditional? Is it contingent upon them loving you for you to love them?
You get to still feel LOVING even when they don’t come, even when they choose to be somewhere else instead of with you. You get to feel love towards them by how you choose to think about them. Once you know this, you also know that you can change your thoughts. It doesn’t have to be, “They must not love me.” It can be, “I love them and this year they need to be somewhere else. I can let them because I love them.”
This doesn’t mean that you need to be okay with it either – You can still decide to feel disappointment AND loving. It would feel “off” to think, “YAY! they’re not coming to the family dinner – I’m just going to love them! la de dah de dah” -uh, No. Sometimes you’re going to want to choose disappointment – You’re not going to want to be HAPPY. It’s okay! This is part of being human! To experience ALL things, all emotions.
You can feel disappointed because you wish they’d come (taking ownership of your thoughts) – but you can also feel love because YOU ARE LOVING – not because of what they do or don’t do – you feel love towards them because it’s who you are. And because you are loving – you’re also going to be more quick to be forgiving, understanding, and compassionate.
It becomes this: “I do wish they would come. I would love to see them and hug them but it’s okay that they’re not here this year. I’m still going to love them and know that they’re just doing the best they can – like I’m doing the best I can. Maybe next year we can try again.”
It feels so much better to think thoughts like this – a little disappointment and a lot of LOVE than to feel victimized, unloved, and uncared for. It is possible. It takes a little more thought work and effort on your end – but this is the ONLY place where change can take place – doing this will help you move forward and progress – the other way keeps you stuck.
I know I spent a lot of time with one example today but this applies to every disappointment. It’s a choice. It stems from your THOUGHTS. If you’re feeling disappointed take a long look at your thoughts. Whip out a piece of paper and write it all out – every thought – everything -don’t edit – just write. When you’re done then you can take a look at the thoughts that have been swirling around and you’ll think, no wonder I’m feeling this way! Then you can choose what to keep and what to pass on.
Taking ownership of your role in how you feel is hugely empowering. You don’t have to reside in victim mode anymore. “THEY” don’t determine how you feel – you do. Decide to be loving. Decide to be disappointed. Either way, it’s a choice and you are in charge. You get to make this holiday season however you want it to be and that’s one of the BEST GIFTS EVER.
Need more help? Need some clarity with specific examples in your own life? Set up a FREE mini session with me and let’s talk!