How are we supposed to handle disappointment? Let’s be honest, we face disappointment on a regular basis; both large and small. We find it when our favorite restaurant is out of our usual culinary delights or when we arrive for happy hour to discover that it ended 15 minutes earlier. We also confront larger disappointments when we are let down by those we care about or worse, when we let ourselves down.
The idea for this blog post came to me earlier this week when I was turned down for a job I’d interviewed for; my summer employment. Of course I was disappointed that the job fell through, but where I felt the most confusion was in the fact that I felt disappointment at all. I had, just a few days earlier, decided I wasn’t going to take the job. So, instead of disappointment, I should have felt relief. But ultimately rejection brings disappointment to the forefront of our emotions.
In the end it boils down to this simple idea: I wasn’t wanted. It isn’t the first time I’ve faced this realization. I’ve been rejected by people I wanted to date. I’ve been rejected for jobs. I’ve been rejected for promotions. I was once even rejected for rejecting someone (it’s a long story but they refused to accept the fact that we would not be dating). Rejection does not feel good. No matter what spin you place on it, you’ve still been measured and found wanting.
The question then becomes, what do I do with these emotions? How do I take this negative kick in the gut and transform that into a positive. My answer? I have no freakin’ clue. But I know what has been working for me lately. The power of the affirmation. I used to be a self-help junkie. Of all the books on improvement I’ve read my favorite, by far, is Louise L. Hay’s book You Can Heal Your Life. In it she extolls the virtues of positive affirmations. I plaster them all over my bathroom mirror. But for many that is probably going too far. However, reminding yourself that you are strong, or powerful, or just simply saying “thank you” to yourself can make a positive difference in how you’re feeling.
I’ll fully admit that when I began my practice of affirmations I felt like a complete idiot. Staring at myself in a mirror saying, “You are a powerful human being,” was completely unnatural and I was more than a little embarrassed. Then, without completely acknowledging it, I started to feel better. Less disappointment, less fear, less anger. Did it solve the issue completely? No. Did it take the edge off the emotions? Yes. Just as with my anger, I sit with my disappointments as well. I nurture them to find the root of my deeper pain. The expectations I have set for myself, and worse, for others, has led to much of my disappointment in life. As the Buddha taught, the cessation of desire leads to happiness. Does that mean I stop wanting and striving and hoping? No. But I work, through my practice, to keep those in check and keep my disappointment at bay.
The next time you’re faced with disappointment sit with it, nurture it, delve into to it to find the deeper meaning. For it is only through greater understanding that we can control and eventually conquer our difficult emotions.