I was disappointed this week in an ‘I was really, really looking forward to something that now isn’t going to happen’ type way. It wasn’t a life shattering style disappointment but I definitely experienced some emotion! Of course this set me off thinking about disappointment. It’s not a straightforward emotion in that is has different components: some sadness, yearning for what’s gone, grief at the loss of what was going to be, grumpiness, agitation, possibly sulking and a need to reconcile with the new reality. Mmm that is quite a lot. Now I am (nearly) a grown up so presumably I have developed tools to deal with disappointment but children probably feel it in a similar way but may have less skill at processing such a complex feeling.
So how do we deal with disappointment effectively? I considered my personal approach.
1) I definitely started with a bit of wallowing. I don’t think that is actually a bad thing. It’s a full acknowledgement of what I was feeling and getting on and feeling it. Often with uncomfortable feelings this can sometimes be denied to us if someone tells us ‘not to be silly’ or ‘it’s not that bad’.
2) I told someone who knew how excited I was. Their sympathy helped me a bit. I guess this is also part of wallowing but sharing how you feel definitely helps.
3) Then came perspective. It’s not actually the end of the world – there’s far worse could happen. I had indulged in the enjoyment of looking forward to something which had brought about the benefits of positive emotion. The reality of what I was looking forward to wasn’t necessarily going to provide me with incredible joy!
4) Then came optimism. I will be able to do other things. I can make new plans and enjoy other things etc.
5) And then gratitude which I guess is both perspective and optimism together: there are so many other things I have to look forward to and enjoy and I am lucky to be in a position for this to be true!
I am sure everyone processes emotions in a way that is unique to them. Effective coping strategies can benefit from reflection which brings what you have done into consciousness.
My personal approach could possibly be applied to other uncomfortable emotions that do not necessarily need an immediate cool down, do not need a practical approach or are not caused by a huge life-changing trigger. So in a nutshell.
1) Acknowledge the emotion and know it’s simply how you feel and therefore justified.
2) Talk to someone.
3) Put whatever triggered the emotion into perspective.
4) Exercise optimism
5) Exercise gratitude.