Expect Nothing and Accept Everything and You Will Never Be Disappointed

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  • Post last modified:July 8, 2022
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How Our Greatest Sucess comes from our greatest disappointment


If there is one predictable thing in this life, it’s that you will be disappointed somehow. It can start young – your parents don’t parent well, your teachers are bullies in school, your friends turn on you for no reason – or it can happen later in life; someone you care about betrays you, you lose a job you love, or you are let go after many loyal years. To navigate through disappointment, is it as easy as simply having no expectations? That’s pretty tough to do in a world that expects a lot from you. It might be expected that you will be highly successful, find the “right one” and settle down happily ever after, and be rewarded for the hard work and toil you have put into your job. Other people will inevitably disappoint you or let you down sometimes. Whether it’s a friend canceling arrangements at the last minute, a neighbor acting mean, family members not showing up for an important occasion, a co-worker throwing you under the bus, disappointment is a fact of life. Time has become increasingly scarce, stress is high, and this puts a strain on relationships. You can’t stop people from acting badly or letting you down, but you don’t have to let it derail you from living a happy and successful life. As an emotion, researchers describe disappointment as a form of sadness — a feeling of loss, an uncomfortable space (or a painful gap) between our expectations and reality. Studies tell us that many of us fear disappointment so much that we actually change our behavior just so we won’t have to feel it. What makes disappointment so painful? Why are we so afraid of it? And what can you do to be less afraid of the feeling, so that you can make decisions based on something more important than avoiding a negative emotion? The answers are pretty straightforward: Disappointment is, in and of itself, a painful or sad feeling that happens when something disrupts our positive feelings and hopeful expectations. When we believe that there’s something we must have to be happy and fulfilled, we can set ourselves up for disappointment. The choice of just staying in disappointment isn’t a good one. Think about the scenario – the event has happened. It’s past. You can’t influence it. You can’t change it. You can certainly ruminate over it and replay the many, many things you should’ve, could’ve and would’ve done differently if circumstances were different. Though unpleasant, our experiences of disappointment provide valuable information about our beliefs about ourselves, other people, and what will make us truly happy.

What is the cuase of disappointment?

The root of our disappoitment comes from our expectations. The word expectation comes from the Latin expectare, which means to await or look out for. In any social interaction, expectations exist. You have ideas about how you think the other person will (and should) think or act, and they of you. And of course, the more people involved, the more expectations there are in play. We all have expectations and many of them are legitimate. When expectations aren’t met, problems arise. But where do these expectations come from? While there is any number of factors (e.g., social norms, group stereotypes, others’ views of the person they shared with you, job roles, prior knowledge of the person), one that is possibly overlooked is how you yourself would act. What we think we would do shapes our expectations of others. This is because our entire existence is from an egocentric perspective. By this, I don’t mean selfish. I mean that our views of the world all derive from our own sensory and cognitive experiences. For instance, research on the false-consensus effect indicates that people tend to make higher estimates for people who share their beliefs and behaviors than those who do not have those beliefs or behaviors. A person who loves tennis will think more people will enjoy tennis, on average, than a person who doesn’t enjoy tennis. A person who is sad a lot will do the same for sadness. You get the idea (I am not going to put too much thought into why I chose those two examples, of all things, but I now have an image of a very sad tennis player in my head). This is a well-established effect and has been for decades. This work shows that we tend to see others to a large degree as we see ourselves. That is, we use our self-perspective and tend to work from there in terms of our expectations of others.  Legitimate expectations are grounded in an important sense. They arise out of particular contexts in which parties have a shared understanding of the nature of the relationship and shared goals. Legitimate expectations are tethered to reality in an important way; they are neither free-floating nor fly in the face of reality.

How we can deal with disapointment

To deal with disappointment we must accept the fact that disappointment happens to everyone – and it happened to you. It can be helpful to start by normalizing the situation. No one gets through this life without disappointment; some are bigger than others, but everyone experiences it. Know that you are in good company and accept your state as perfectly normal. Instead of sitting in your state indefinitely, once you have allowed yourself to acknowledge that you are in good company, start the process of reframing. Reframing means taking any situation and putting a more objective “frame” around it. It can be helpful at this step to actually write your disappointment down, like journal notes. Record what happened but capture it like a journalist. Be clinical. Trying to separate the emotions from what happened is helpful to getting some personal power back. Starting the process of reframing will allow you to change your self-talk. Instead of talking to yourself as if this was the worst thing that could happen to you, shift your language to something more powerful (yet still true) – “It happened and now I need to figure out my next steps.” Or “Disappointment happens to everyone but it doesn’t have to stop me from moving on.” Or “I’m disappointed, but who dictates that I have to wallow in it? I can do something differently right now if I choose.” Any time you hear yourself say to yourself, “It’s the end of the world” or “I can’t go on” or “I’m a terrible person with bad luck”, allow these phrases to be a trigger to shift the talk to something more positive. Changing your self talk will allow you to make a plan. Having a way to move forward when you’ve been thwarted and feel stuck is important. Don’t make grand plans – “I’m going to move to Costa Rica and start another life” – unless you have the will and the means to do so. Instead, start small; set a goal of something you can accomplish and move confidently in the direction of it. Experiencing some form of accomplishment can send the message to your mind and your emotions that you can do it. Then ask yourself this question: do you believe only a certain thing can make you happy? Exposure to media messages teaches us to associate happiness with certain things, like expensive objects, beautiful people, or important titles. So we can develop some pretty fixed ideas on what will make us happy, and eventually train our minds to believe that we’ll only be happy if we get those things. We mistakenly believe that it’s the thing that is going to make us happy, and when we don’t get it, we’re disappointed. Researchers have found that there’s no guarantee that if you get the things you want you’ll be happy — in fact, there’s quite a bit of evidence to the contrary. People’s satisfaction with things is very short lived. Experiences in which we enjoy what’s happening in the moment have a much more lasting effect on our overall happiness. And the great benefit is that you can start enjoying the present moment anytime — and it’s free. Focus on how you want to feel in the moment, rather than how you believe you’ll feel once you get the thing you want so badly. Then ask yourself this: Do you believe a certain person is the only one who can fullful your desires? A common misconception is believing that if we meet “the one,” then everything else in our lives will fall into place, and we’ll live happily ever after. We learn to associate a small number of positive personal attributes with many others: It’s called the halo effect. For instance, if we meet someone who’s tall and good looking, we’re more likely to believe that the person has a number of other positive qualities (like being rich, trustworthy, intelligent, sexy, and fun), but all we really know about the person is…they’re tall and good looking. We may be profoundly disappointed when that person on whom we pinned our hopes on doesn’t meet our expectations. The key is knowing how you want to feel in relationship and to focus on that instead of how you think the other person should be.

You may want to feel at ease, interested, and engaged. So instead of thinking, “They should be interested in me and engaging me and making me laugh,” think about being interesting, engaging, and in good humor yourself. It’s a simple shift in intention that can save a social encounter from the clutches of disappointment. And it may help you approach the situation as one that helps you get clarity on what you want in a relationship, instead of what the her person should or should not be doing for you. One bigger disapointment we have is setting a time limit for how long it will take to get what we want. Our expectations about when things should happen are influenced by social norms. There are unspoken rules for how long it’s supposed to take to achieve a certain career goal or relationship status. So we put our goals on a timeline. We often gauge our success based on how well our peers are doing; this is called social comparison. We compare ourselves with those who have the same goals and are similar in age and background. Social media can fuel such comparisons: It’s difficult to remain unaware of our friends’ successes. (But it’s important to remember that very few people post updates to let everyone know that they haven’t reached their goals!) If we don’t meet these deadlines, and we watch others reach their goals quicker, we can become disappointed — what’s more, we can become discouraged and give up. It’s important to remember that these time limits are self-imposed, somewhat arbitrary, and often unrealistic. The key again is remembering how you want to feel — it’s unrealistic to think that if you’re suffering along every step of the way toward your goal that you’re going to be in a state of bliss once you finally achieve it. A better indicator of a satisfying outcome (whenever it occurs) is how you feel along the way. If you enjoy the process, you’ll be less focused on how long it takes to get there. Though perhaps the most difficult expectation to relinquish is how. Once we have a desire, we often immediately began to think of ways to go after it. If we can’t think of a good way to get what we want, we may simply give up on the spot — and feel disappointed. Or, we may develop elaborate schemes for how to get what we want, which usually involve other people following a script that we have written for them and/or having a series of events unfold in a particular way. When life doesn’t go according to our plan, we may interpret it to mean that we can’t have what we want, and we can feel disappointed. In this case, it’s important to distinguish between the means and ends — that is, remembering that what we need to do to get what we want may be different from the end result.


How we can deal with disapointment in others?

In order to deal with disapointment in/with others, first allow your feelings. Being rejected, let down, or betrayed can trigger feelings of sadness, anxiety, or anger. It’s important to acknowledge these feelings, rather than trying to shove them down. Humans are wired to form trusting, stable relationships with others, and to turn to the people we love for support in difficult times. Our ancestors lived in tribes, and having strong social bonds within the tribe enhanced everybody’s chances of surviving an enemy or predator attack, hunger, or inclement weather. Therefore, it’s natural to feel disappointed and let down when the people you trust don’t come through for you. Putting the feelings into words and locating them in your body can help ground you. You also may want to ask yourself if your feelings are appropriate to the situation, or whether they might be fed by past disappointments. Try to focus only on the present situation, unless there’s a strong pattern that you need to confront. Then aknowledge your unmet needs. The next step is to figure out why you feel so let down or betrayed. Think about what needs of yours are not being met by this person’s response. Do you need understanding, empathy, support, companionship, commitment, or consideration? Let yourself feel the unmet need, perhaps relating it to childhood experiences with caregivers. Is your need from just this situation, or are your past experiences making you more reactive to this need not being met. For example, if you were always expected to be the responsible one while your siblings got away with slacking off, this may be fueling your current experience of lacking support from your spouse. Try to disentangle the past from the present. Feel the disappointment of the unmet need, and then ask yourself whether you can accept that need not being met in this situation, or whether you want to do something about it. You also have to take care of yourself. Are there ways you can meet the unmet need for yourself? For example, if you have a plan to see a movie, and your friend cancels at the last minute, consider going by yourself. What other friends could you ask to come with you? If your need is for support and soothing, find ways to soothe yourself by having a warm bath or going on a nature walk. If you need practical help, consider asking other people or purchasing services. The important thing is not to give up and stew in passive resentment. Think about what a “healthy adult” would do in this situation. It may help to write down your feelings and try to give yourself compassion, rather than exacerbating the hurt by being self-critical when others behave badly.

Taking care of yourself will allow to decide  if you need to speak up. Think about whether it would be productive to speak up about your feelings of disappointment or betrayal. Is this person capable of hearing the message, or will they just get defensive and counterattack? Knowing that it’s important to pick your battles, think about how big a deal this is to you. What do you want from the conversation (e.g., an apology, an attempt to make amends, a promise to not do this again, etc.)? If you decide to speak up, think about how you could do so mindfully, rather than with an angry reactivity that can make things worse. If it’s a difficult conversation, you may want to practice what you’re going to say beforehand. Examine your expectations. Think about whether your expectations are reasonable in this situation, and whether the person is capable of doing what you expect. For example, your sister might be very busy with a new baby or a work deadline, and so she’s not calling you as often. Try not to take this personally. You may want to adjust your expectations and behavior accordingly. Also, think about whether you are communicating your expectations clearly and kindly. If it’s a good friend or loved one, try to assume goodwill unless there is clear evidence otherwise. You also have to set boundaries if you need to. If this person has a pattern of disappointing or betraying you, think about what you need to do to protect yourself. If you’ve spoken up clearly, and the person still doesn’t take responsibility or alter their behavior, how can you best take care of yourself? Does it make sense to see this person less often or to keep the relationship more casual? Decide if this is someone you still want in your life, or whether your energy is better spent elsewhere. You may want to let the person know that you won’t tolerate repeated broken promises, lies, or disrespectful treatment. Let them know what the consequence will be if they continue to mistreat you. Boundaries can help you feel emotionally safe, and they help restore your self-worth and self-respect.

Life is definitely going to test you and possibly even throw you more disappointment as you move away from the most recent one, so continue to hone your skills and practice these steps. Remember that this is for life’s small and big disappointments, not significant tragedy

questions

1. what was the most unrealistic expectation you had?
2. are you the kind of person that has unrealistic expectations? do you know someone with unrealistic expectations?
3. what was the biggest disappointment you had?
4. are you the kind of the person that gets really bothered by disappointment? if so how much?
5. what are some cuases of disappointment? What is the biggest cease of disappointment?
6. how can we deal with disappointment?
7. how can we deal with disapointment in others?