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.