Journal Writing Through Emotions: Disappointment 8

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

DISAPPOINTMENT is the opposite of optimism, hopeful anticipation, and joy. We feel disappointed when something we’ve hoped for or expected doesn’t occur. Perhaps you’ve worked for a reward — a promotion, a raise, an acknowledgement of some kind — that didn’t materialize. Or someone made a promise to you that he didn’t keep. Whatever the reason, even the youngest of us has experienced disappointment.

It’s one of those “negative emotions” that, like frustration, anger, and emotional hurt, just doesn’t feel good. As soon as something happens to create disappointment, we want it to go away. Some of us quickly create a new goal, a new plan — action catapults us out of our feelings and into our heads. Others nurture the disappointment, letting it grow into frustration and anger. And others allow it to represent the story of their lives, sinking into despondency. What each of these responses fails to do is to look truthfully at the source of the disappointment and to find the value in it.

Journal Writing about your disappointment can help you find the value in any so-called negative emotion. Emotion, after all, is just energy. And when you guide emotional energy into positive channels, you can experience positive outcomes and even shift your emotion to something more desirable. So next time you feel disappointed about something, grab your notebook and pen and write about it. Some things to consider while writing through disappointment:

  • Go ahead and rant! Hey, it’s okay to feel bad once in a while. Rant on paper to burn up some of that negative energy. Then move forward. (See the rest of the bullets for writing ideas.)
  • What passion or sense of caring is at the source of your disappointment? In what other ways does this passion show itself positively in your life?
  • How can this disappointment become an opportunity for growth? What mistake in your thinking did you make? Were your expectations unrealistic, or did you misplace trust in someone? What can you learn, in a positive sense about this situation? (Deciding not to trust anyone ever again, is not what I mean by “positive.”)
  • In what ways can you change your goals and/or expectations to make them more realistic and achievable?
  • How are you receiving your desired outcomes in other ways? (Maybe you didn’t get that job, but you received positive feedback from a colleague about some other aspect of your work, which could lead you in another direction altogether.)
  • Is this a case of needing patience and perseverance — to keep pursuing your goal — or is it a case of needing to move on? What does either scenario mean to you? And if this door has closed, what other door(s) might open?
  • Might this disappointment represent an unhealthy attachment to something? What would happen if you relaxed and let go?
  • Look up some quotes about disappointment and then write about your reactions to them. Here’s one I found: “Disappointment to a noble soul is what cold water is to burning metal; it strengthens, tempers, intensifies, but never destroys it.” ~ Eliza Tabor

These bullet points are ideas to get you started. Once you begin writing about your feelings of disappointment, you will most likely generate new ways of thinking that help you to see events in a different light.

How do you use journaling and life-writing to help move through disappointment? Do you have some ideas that might help others? Leave a comment and let us know.


Image Credit: Meredith Farmer
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8 thoughts on “Journal Writing Through Emotions: Disappointment

  • Dawn Herring

    One of the greatest benefits I have found in my journal writing experience is validating and working through my emotions; so this post really resonates with me. I love your step by step process to help folks who want to use their journal to deal with disappointment in a positive energy way.

    I have chosen your post, Journal Writing Through Emotions: Disappointment, for the #JournalChat Pick of the Day on 3/9/11 for all things journaling on Twitter. I will post a link on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and my blog, Refresh with Dawn Herring.

    My @JournalChat account on Twitter is for all things journaling. 🙂

    Thanks again for such an encouraging post helpful toward working through disappointment in our journals.

    Be refreshed,
    Dawn Herring
    JournalWriter Freelance
    @JournalChat on Twitter for all things journaling

  • Sharon Lippincott


    Your list of questions is truly awesome. Those of us who do intuitive journaling often benefit from prods like this to help us go deeper. Brava. And kudos to Dawn for tweeting. I shall join the throng she’s leading.

  • Georgina Mavor

    Hello Amber, I have saved your post in my inbox all week waiting for a moment to respond … and it seems go through my own spiral of disappointment, the experience of which has deepened my understanding of what is happening in the moment. The great thing about journalling and the types of questions that you pose is that they allow us to play with thought and if we allow ourselves the freedom to truly go in and respond to those questions without putting rules on what we should write then we will experience something different to our original disappointment. Because the truth is that we can only experience what we are thinking. As a psychologist I understand this principle but because I do I now find that I hold myself back from writing my distressing thoughts because I know that most of them are unfounded. But today I sat with that realisation and wrote my heart out. This evening I look at what I wrote and was aghast at the thinking I have been doing! In rereading my earlier writing I underlined statements that clearly delineated the thinking going through my mind. And then I sat with the question of whether they were really true. It would be same sort of approach as Brandon Bays (not that I do her type of work but I am familiar with it). Most of them then weren’t and in the seeing that the thinking flowing through my mind was errant I was then able to write what was more true. My process obviously covers the questions you have raised but I begin with the one principle that our thinking creates our feelings. I often find it useful to start with a snapshot of where I am at that begins with “I feel as if I …” It is the feeling that is the pointer. Step 2 is to write everything flowing from that statement. Then reread what you have read and turn feeling statements to “oh, so I am thinking xyz”. Then to write in response to each of those – do they feel true and right or ridiculous! And if they feel ridiculous what feels more true? At the very least the process frees up all the thinking that was creating the sadness in the first place and there is a pretty good chance you are then on your way up a whole new pathway. That’s my ‘lived’ process and if you really want to gain the most from the process find a quiet space in Nature … she helps.

  • Amber Lea Starfire

    Georgina, thank you for your heartfelt response. I agree that our thoughts create our feelings … which is why I need to write (I often don’t really know what I’m thinking until I read what I’ve written, or hear myself speak). I love your process of working from feelings back to thoughts and then to new ways of thinking. Thanks for sharing!

  • Daniel

    Amber. Thank you for this wonderful post. I googled “journaling disappointments” and your post was at the top of the list. I recently experienced a major disappointment. I’m going to use your process along with that of Georgina’s to help me sift through my emotions so I can move from a state of desperation to one of resilience. Thank you!