What sucks about disappointment:
“Age does not diminish the extreme disappointment of having a scoop of ice cream fall from the cone.” Jim Fiebig
“Disappointment is to a noble soul what cold water is to burning metal; it strengthens, tempers, intensifies, but never destroys it.” Eliza Tabor
Many philosophers and sages have said that disappointment does not exist – it is a perception about something that we had hoped for or expected and it did not come to fruition. Okay, tell this to a child who was promised to go to Disneyland and then is told he isn’t going after all.
This philosophical premise is wise and true on some level – but why then can we feel so strongly the pang of disappointment when it happens?
Usually because we do have an expectation or a hope regarding a certain outcome, feeling or experience that we are looking forward to and when that does not happen there is a feeling of emptiness (like in the photo of the empty box above). To expect is to be human. However, most philosophers would say that’s why we should “expect nothing” (try to be more spiritual) then we will never be disappointed. However to retrain and un-train our human psyches to not expect things, is not easy.
Hence, I am instead going to offer some suggestions first to deal with the pang of disappointment. Perhaps, once we have some tools and techniques to deal with disappointment when it happens – or we perceive it happening to us – then we can begin to move into a mental space where we begin to not expect or have an attachment to a certain outcome.
The reason I am writing about disappointment today is that I experienced one myself. I was supposed to go for brunch with a friend this morning – and it wasn’t just any brunch – it was a Cuban brunch at Lula Lounge in Toronto. I visited there a few weeks ago with my girlfriend and it was a combination of brunch, live Spanish music, dance lessons and dancing from 11am – 2pm in the afternoon. What a way to spend a few hours, right?
Hence, I had an expectation of a certain experience – a feeling of satisfaction from the food; an enjoyment of the music; an excitement (and maybe some fear) of taking a dance lesson; and joy of dancing. So when my friend text and said she wasn’t feeling well and wouldn’t be able to make it, I instantly felt disappointed. No matter how much teaching and training I have had about how disappointment doesn’t exist – I still felt something – and it felt very real. It is almost an instant physiological reaction and these are not easy to dismiss or prevent.
What can we do when we feel this pang of disappointment?
The first thing that we must do no matter what we experience in life – is to be true to ourselves and honour our feelings. Why? Because no matter how spiritual or enlightened we want to be – we are human and we feel. To try to dismiss it – especially if it has gone from a mental response (Oh darn, my friend can’t make it) to a physiological response (I feel a dread in my stomach or sadness in my chest) what good can it do to say to ourselves, “well, it doesn’t matter! I shouldn’t have had an expectation at all?”
We are human – and we do expect and hope for things. However, we also have a wonderful ability to feel – to express that disappointing feeling whether it be sadness or anger and express those emotions – cry, get angry or say a few angry words. After that, we also have a wonderful ability to see the “good” or the alternative to the disappointment. Which is symbolized in the second picture of the cat in the box. So, we didn’t get sold the Nike’s we wanted and yes, we are angry at the street vendor and ourselves for not checking the box before making the purchase; but we also got a cat out of the deal. Maybe we needed the love of the cat more than the Nike’s. Who knows?
The most important thing to remember is this:
A Disappointment is really a “Dis – Appointment” which means an appointment that didn’t happen. A missing of the appointment for which we had hoped.
After honouring my feelings – a feeling of sadness that I wouldn’t be able to eat, listen, learn and dance – and I wouldn’t get a chance to visit with my friend – I thought of an alternative plan. I called a couple of other friends to see if they might want to join me – I did have reservations after all. They too couldn’t make it. Damn! Now what am I suppose to do? I can’t even Re-Appoint myself. I thought I could go by myself – and I have done this before – although it takes a lot of courage to do so but sometimes it has turned out to be the most fun because I end up meeting new friends. However, this time I thought, ‘Wow…this is a great opportunity to blog about disappointment and how I have learned to deal with it – and how I am still trying to deal with it graciously and not ruminate about it all day.” So, here I am!
The third photo above is probably the most significant message regarding dis-appointment and that is: sometimes, whatever (or whomever) it is that we are hoping for is not always the best thing for us. If we do have the Appointment – we may very well end up hitting our heads and getting hurt because of it. Sometimes we do not see this wisdom right away – sometimes we push through, force that Appointment to happen and end up with really sore heads because of it. It is usually only after the fact that we realize, “wow, I should have listened to the Universe when it tried to help me miss that Appointment – because while the initial feeling of disappointment may have been uncomfortable – getting myself involved with this person or this situation has led to a whole lot more disappointment and negative feelings/ outcomes!”
It turns out that although I would have really liked to have had a great breakfast and danced the afternoon away; I am also very content to write on this wonderful, foggy Sunday morning. And guess what? I can always go to Cuban Brunch next Sunday! And in the words of Samuel Jackson: “Disappointment, when it involves neither shame nor loss, is as good as success; for it supplies as many images to the mind, and as many topics to the tongue.”
Next Blog: Well, I’m not going to include it so if I don’t write about it; you won’t be disappointed! : )
Enjoy your day!