People let us down. Things don’t happen the way we wanted them to. Events get cancelled, not enough people turn up, a friend cancels or does something we didn’t expect and don’t like. Our boss offers the promotion to someone else, our business falters, our partner lets us down.
We end up with less of what we wanted, or more of what we don’t.
On the scale of emotions, disappointment sit somewhere between the hot emotions of anger and jealous, and the blander emotions of boredom and irritation. It’s one of those emotions that can trip you up without even really realising. It’s not deadly, but it can be darn uncomfortable. It’s the fire ant of the emotions.
A short trip down the emotional scale road
Let me share with you briefly how I came to understand more fully and richly what emotions are and how they work.
My mind was opened to the scale of emotions by reading two books: Ask and It Is Given by Jerry and Esther Hicks, and Power Vs Force (The Hidden Determinants of Human Behavior) by David Hawkins, both of which use emotional scales to help us understand that emotions sit on a continuum.
Until those books, my understanding of emotions was very limited, and my personal experience of my own emotions was a mish-mash mix-up of emotions with no shape, structure or way of understanding their significance and impact.
Having a system for understanding emotions helped me to tease apart a messy mass of emotions, to understand better how our emotions work, and how to help myself when in the grip of particular emotions.
I’d like to thank Liz Green for this graphic depicting the scale of emotions:
Dealing With Disappointment
We all deal with disappointment, whether it’s consciously or not, graciously or less so. I’ve learned a lot about dealing with disappointment and it’s critical role in my ongoing recovering from a compulsion to overshop, Some of these learnings may help you too.
Recognise where you are on the emotional scale
Understanding where the emotion you’re experiencing right now sits on the emotional scale has been extraordinarily helpful to me in handling that emotion. I can see that disappointment is in there with doubt, worry, sadness and discouragement.
I’m a world-class worrier – I could worry for the Australian team, if there was ever an Emotional Olympics. I come by it honestly, my dad is a world-class worrier too (my mother says that when there’s nothing to worry about, he makes stuff up to worry about; something only a non-worrier would ever think!).
Knowing where I’m at when I’m feeling disappointed helps orient me. It’s the “You Are Here” arrow on my emotional map.
Recognise you now have a choice
Once I know where I am right now, I can make an informed decision about what I want to do and where I want to go. Without the first step of knowing where I am, any direction I choose to go in will be random. Any action I choose to take will be aimless.
So now I know where I am, I can choose, and know that my direction will be focused and my actions deliberate. I’ll be on course.
When you are in the grip of an emotion, it can be easy to forget what choices you have, because it feels like you don’t have any. You are on the river of this emotion, without a paddle or a map (or sunscreen, or a life-preserver).
Stopping and recognising that you are now at a choice point gives you a feeling of self-determination. That you are a part of this equation and not merely the passive victim of these emotions. And that you have some control.
Just feel it
Sometimes I just want to sit with my emotions - just observe them, feel them, and let them be. They won’t last forever, I now really understand that (even the strong, red-hot ones eventually pass). I can just be with it, this emotional state, if I choose. Just feel my disappointment. Notice it. See it.
There is huge power in just feeling our emotions, and not trying to bustle them along like passengers getting off a bus. We spend so much time either avoiding emotions we’ve designated as uncomfortable or negative, not even recognising them, or trying not to feel them if we do acknowledge them. We’ve forgotten that emotions are part of the human experience – all emotions, across the entire emotional scale.
It’s a legitimate choice to simply feel what I’m feeling.
Do something differently
If and when it’s time to take action, I can do so deliberately. I may choose to do something to lift my mood like go for a walk, phone a friend, listen to a favourite CD, watch a television show I love, read my novel even if it’s the middle of the afternoon, sit with my cat and hear her purr (one of the best sounds in the whole world), go for a drive with my husband, take a nap in the hammock, sit outside with a tray of something delicious to eat or drink.
I may choose to do some analysis and place my emotions under a microscope. Is my disappointment justified? Does it stack up to some logical scrutiny? What actually happened? What was my part in that? Who else was involved and what was their part? Am I directing my disappointment at someone or something that merits it, or have I made an inaccurate connection that places the responsibility away from me? What would I do differently if faced with that same situation or person? What am I deciding to do differently from today on? How can I be sure to stick to that decision?
I may decide to take some action. I might call someone to complain or explain. I may ask for more information or to request someone take a particular action. I may tell someone what happened for me and share my feelings with them. I may return something, or take my business elsewhere. I may remove myself from a certain group or situation. I may join a particular group or start participating in regular activity. I may stop doing something. I may start doing something. I may do an existing thing differently.
Emotions are like clouds
Emotions exist – they’re real, just like clouds – emotions are not a figment of your imagination.
Emotions drift and move, just like clouds – as real as they are, they aren’t permanent.
They may be dark and ominous or light and fluffy, just like clouds – there is a full spectrum to be experienced and observed.
There may seem like there’s none or an absence of emotions, just like clouds. There may be many emotions filling the available space, just like clouds.
We want the full spectrum of emotions, we need the full spectrum of emotions to live our lives in 3D living colour. Sure, some emotions may not be as much fun as others, but they fill out the tapestry of our lives. How would it be if the only colours we had were red and orange? Wouldn’t make for a very interesting picture.
Dealing with disappointment is a skill you can learn, a craft you can master. I’m learning to feeling my disappointment, and manage it and myself with greater dignity and grace. That’s what woman I’m choosing to be.
What choices do you want to make?