How to Deal With Disappointment
I just finished reading Ashley C. Ford’s gorgeous memoir Somebody’s Daughter. In one of the passages she talks about a realization she had, at a certain point in her adolescence, that a person can manage their disappointments by managing their wants.
In other words: the way to avoid disappointment is to not need anything.
This is a topic (conundrum?) that’s run deep throughout my own life. I too came to a point where I made this connection in my mind and heart. But I didn’t make it consciously. It wasn’t until my divorce that I finally read the book Codependent No More and began to see a clear pattern in my experiences.
Many of the problematic behaviors in my relationships had one thing in common: my willingness to negotiate with my own needs. In most cases the tactic I was using on myself was more like complete denial than negotiation.
When we grow up being gas-lit out of our true feelings (“You’re fine, stop crying”) and heavily praised for all the ways we’re “helpful”, independent and accommodating, we learn to gaslight ourselves as adults. "I'm ok" becomes our mantra when actually we're absolutely not ok but it feels too dangerous or overwhelming to admit it.
We learn to conveniently turn away from the protests of our own Souls and the warning bells of our intuition. We learn that we are only worthy of love when we’re being useful to someone else or making them happy. Our own happiness, our own preferences and desires, are last in line.
If there’s nothing at stake, there’s nothing to lose. If we don’t want anything, nothing can disappoint us.
I’ve come to an understanding at this point in my journey and also in my career as a coach that our relationship with disappointment is probably the most powerful one in our lives. It dictates all of the other relationships we will have - including the relationship with ourselves.
When a person is afraid of feeling disappointed, when they perceive disappointment as something they can’t handle or something that has to be avoided, they will choose the smoothest roads at the cost of their Souls and the destiny they came here to live.
When a person believes they won’t survive disappointing another person, by asserting their truths and preferences, they will do all kinds of gnarly things to override their needs and keep granting the other person’s wishes (demands).
When a person is very good at disappointing themselves, in order to save everyone else in their life from feeling disappointed, the muscle of self love atrophies and feels less and less available or possible to engage.
We are living inside of negotiations with longings and disappointments all the time. We just aren’t conscious of it.
There’s a famous saying re: “What would you attempt if you knew you couldn’t fail?”
But it’s not failure most of us are afraid of. It’s the disappointment of experiencing ourselves as failures. It’s how identified and confused we are around the idea of what we can actually handle vs what our Egos tell us we can handle.
I guarantee you these are not the same!
What would you attempt if you knew that the possibility of being disappointed by the outcome didn’t have the power to destroy you?
What kinds of choices would you make for yourself if you weren’t a hostage to the threat of potential disappointment inside your relationships?
What would you ask of your partner? What would you refuse to offer or do any longer?
What would you allow yourself to want and try for?
How much more powerful would you feel if you were living without these unconscious chains around your ankles? How much further could you journey? How far off-road? Off the beaten path, toward your true heart’s desires?
Kinda fun and energizing to consider, isn’t it?
Have an extra beauty-full week friends,