Handling Disappointment

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Hopeful anticipation can be just as biased as gloomy hopelessness. Obviously it feels better to fall in the first category, and there’s no question that cultivating a life attitude of hope is healthier for you than sinking into hopelessness, but both attitudes are future focused, they base much of their evidence upon variables that have not yet come to pass.

The future is by definition unknowable. We can make educated guesses of course, and many of these educated guesses end up being right, but there are often countless variables at play that we’re either unable to measure or even see or that we misinterpret due to our various cognitive biases. We’re therefore either proven right but not for the reasons we believe or we’re proven wrong despite the fact we were so sure we knew how things were going to turn out.

In the realm of hope and disappointment, obviously the higher our hopes fly the harder our disappointment hits when the hoped for outcome doesn’t come to pass. The typical response to having high hopes shattered is bitter disappointment. So handling disappointment better starts with mindfully paying attention to your relationship with the hoped for entity.

The key is to temper your hopeful attitude with a gentle reminder that no matter how likely the outcome seems, the wanted circumstances have not yet come to pass and only exist in your mind. One of the psychological processes that tends to accompany the hopeful attitude is thinking, feeling, and acting as if the hoped for entity had already come to pass. So it’s almost shocking, incomprehensible, when you are proven wrong.

It’s helpful to remember that there will be other opportunities in life even though the currently wanted variables didn’t materialize. Usually it only seems like everything has come to a crashing halt when that bitter disappointment arises. Actually the world remains full of beauty and opportunity.

There’s nothing wrong with experiencing disappointment when wanted for circumstances don’t come to pass, but it does become a problem when you can’t let go, when this disappointment clouds your present vision, keeping you focused on a past that you no longer have any power to influence. The sooner you can reorient to the present, the sooner you can dust yourself off and move forward with your self-actualization, the sooner new opportunities will appear that your psyche wasn’t prepared to notice when you were gripped by disappointment.