How To Deal With Disappointment

This is part 3 of a 4-part series on dealing with disappointment.

  1. Why Disappointment Is Good
  2. Are You Letting Your Disappointments Destroy You?
  3. How To Deal With Disappointment
  4. My Experience with Disappointment and How I Overcame It

Sunrise at the desert

“What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

In our previous article, we talked about destructive methods of dealing with disappointment which you should avoid. In this part, we will be discussing dealing with disappointments in the constructive manner.

Dealing with Disappointment – Constructively

Put yourself in a clearer mental state

Whenever you experience disappointment, you are pulled down into a lower state of consciousness, where your thoughts are predominantly rooted in fear, sadness, grief or even apathy. There may be times when the feeling of disappointment is so overwhelming that it feels like the end of the world.

Being trapped in such a state it prevents you from thinking logically and clearly. When dealing with disappointment, your first focus should be to bring your consciousness up to a more neutral or positive level such as desire, neutrality, willingness and reason so that you are in a better position to react to your situation.

Look for positive activities where you can recharge yourself. What activities do you most enjoy doing in your life? Identify them. It can be writing in your personal journal, playing games, walking in the park, watching a happy movie or talking to positive friends. If you find that reading your favorite book uplifts you, then pick up the book and start reading it. If taking a stroll along your neighborhood makes you more relaxed, then get out of your house and enjoy the breeze outside. If playing games can makes you feel happier, go ahead and play them. Do whatever makes you feel better. Sometimes, simply spending time alone might be the best way for you to clear out your mental clutter and regain personal energy.

For me, I find that a combination of activities including alone time, talking with my good friends, watching my favorite shows and playing my favorite sports help to lift me up considerably. I absolutely love playing Ultimate Frisbee and badminton; whenever I am playing them I get a lot of exhilaration and fun out of the exercise. In times when I feel really down, I would rather prefer spending time by myself. This alone time allows me sort out the thoughts in my mind, think without external interferences and gain clarity on what to do in my situation. Talking with my friends, on the other hand, makes me privy to other perspectives and thoughts which I may not be aware of in the beginning.

Attach with your desires, not your goals

When you are disappointed, your source of disappointment is rooted in your over-attachment to a certain outcome. When an outcome does not manifest the way you envisioned, you become disappointed. This is a perfectly natural response. However, understand that your expectations in the outcome, or goals, is a reflection or external projection of an underlying desire you have. They might or might not be accurate projections, because they are merely subjective interpretations of what you think is needed to live up to your underlying desire.

For example, let’s say you went for an interview with Company A. You love the job scope, the benefits package is great, you have heard rave reviews about the place. All in all, you see a career at Company A as the equivalent of your dream career. However, you are passed over for another candidate whom they deemed as a better fit for the role. Company A happens to have a policy of only accepting applications from the same candidate once every 2 years. There is no way you can try until 2 years later. What should you do from here?

The second step toward dealing with disappointment requires you to attach yourself to the desires behind your desires, not your goals. Start off by recognizing that a job in Company A is just a projection of your inner desires. Your inner desire may be to get a career which challenges and stretches you in a dynamic working environment. If there’s the case, there are many ways you can do that, such as working in Company G, Company X, or even setting up your own business. Working at Company A is just one of the many ways which you can achieve that.

A common example where people tie themselves too much to their external projections of their desires is in relationships. For example, you like person A. You want to be together with him/her, but the person A does not reciprocate the feelings. While you may feel disappointed, stop and think – What are your underlying intents? It is to be in a loving, authentic relationship with someone. Person A is just one of the many people in this world who can make you feel love. He/she is not going to be only person you are capable of loving; there are many other people out there whom you will love as well. Instead of tying all your expectations to this one person, link yourself with the underlying desire to find real, authentic love.

Ask yourself this question: What are your actual desires that are driving your expectations? Understand what they are and list them down. Say you are at point A and you want to move to point B. When you link yourself with these desires, you will realize that point B is just one of the many destinations you can go to. There are many other possible destinations, such as point C, D, E.. all the way to Z, then there’s even A-1, A-2.. and so on, where you can achieve your desires just as well, if not better. Attach yourself to your desires, not your interpretations of what will achieve your desires.

Release yourself of your mental illusion

The next step in dealing with your disappointment is to release yourself of your mental illusions of what reality should be. Many people remain in a disappointed state because they are hung up over their expectations of what reality should be. If you are disappointed over something, you are harboring certain perceptions of what it should be. These perceptions are not the reality; they are figments in your mind which are untrue. If they are true, why are they causing you disappointment?

These mental illusions are disempowering because they keep you caught in the negative state you are in. As long as you are trapped in them, it prevents you from progressing toward where you want to go. Dealing with disappointment requires you to let yourself go of the mental illusions.

When you are disappointed, ask yourself this – what is it that I getting hung up over? What false perceptions am I still clinging myself on with? What am I expecting from the reality that it is not giving me? Seek these illusions out, one by one. Question yourself how and when you came to have the illusions. Become aware of them and release yourself from them. These illusions are giving you an inaccurate view of reality. They are preventing you from acting constructively on your situation or living your life the way you should.

If we look at the same relationship example from above, you are disappointed in the situation because you wanted to be with person A. You feel that you have lost what could have been a great relationship. However, that is actually just an illusion in your mind that you are playing in your head. If person A is does not want to be with you for whichever reasons, he/she is not going to be the person who can achieve your desire for a relationship. He/she is not going to be the person who can give you want you desire. Your belief that he/she is the one for you is actually an illusion that you need to release yourself of.

Understand the outcome is not a setback

In Why Disappointment Is Good, we discussed that one of the reasons why disappointments are good is because it represents an opportunity for growth. Many people become disappointed with occurrences because they view that as a setback or a failure vs what they want to achieve. They feel like they have taken a step back from what they have come to acknowledge or expect.

For example, say you did a lot of preparation and late night studying for your exams. You had the belief that these actions, along with what you knew about your reality, would result in you getting high flying results. However, instead of achieving that outcome, you fell short of your expectations.

While you may be feeling disappointed, this experience is actually showing you that there is a misconception in your thinking. What you originally thought is sufficient to achieve your outcome actually isn’t. Instead, you may need to increase your resources or change your approach to achieve the results you want. Your disappointment is actually helping you to move toward your goals, not away from it as you originally thought.

Your experience has resulted in you obtaining new lessons, whether about yourself, the situation or even the world. You have gained something which nobody else is privy to. How can an outcome be a setback if it gave you something new to learn about? As Friedrich Nietzsche said in the opening quote of the article, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” With this new learning, you walk away from previous experience a better person. You will become a stronger individual. You reach a whole new level of awareness, consciousness and growth which you never had before.

Moving Forward: Focus on doing the best you can

Dealing with disappointment is definitely not an easy task, but if you work hard at the steps mentioned above, it will eventually help to pull you out of the void state you are in. As you start living past your disappointments, focus on living in fullest alignment with your desires, instead of your goals. Continue to have goals. Let them drive you forward. However, take note not to attach yourself with these goals. When you do that, you start to fall into the trap of associating your existence with them. This is not sustainable because those goals are just external outcomes which are impermanent.

I have a good friend who once said to me – “Life is not just about reaching the goals; it’s about living it to the fullest.” And she is right. In every situation you are in, choose the action which lets you live in alignment with your inner desires the most, within your abilities, within your situational contexts. As long as you are doing that, there is no reason why you should feel down or bad, because you have done all that you can. I wrote about this notion in Living in Alignment with Your Purpose in the context of living with your purpose.

When you start doing that, you will find that you are able to live consciously and freely instead of subjecting yourself to outcomes. You are able to constructively channel the passion of your inner desires to live the kind of life you want.

In the last part, I will share my personal story on how I overcame a period of disappointment in my life.

This is part 3 of a 4-part series on dealing with disappointment.

  1. Why Disappointment Is Good
  2. Are You Letting Your Disappointments Destroy You?
  3. How To Deal With Disappointment
  4. My Experience with Disappointment and How I Overcame It

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  • Keith

    Wow! You know, over the past year or so, I feel that I’ve become very adept at dealing with life the way it is. I’m actually really good at handling disappointment now, and there are several things in your disappointment series which I’m already familiar with. Having said that, I was surprised to find some valuable new insights in this series which I hadn’t realized before!

    Kudos! This is a very well done series of articles! I’m really quite pleased and happy I’ve read them.

    Thank you for writing these, and I can’t wait to read more of what you have to contribute to the world. :)

  • http://www.attractionmindmap.com Evelyn Lim

    Hi Celes, I just came over from Albert’s site. It’s great that you are also Singaporean and that we share similar interests in the area of personal development. You’ve published very well written articles too!!

    I wish you every success in your endeavors and look forward to connecting more with you!

    Evelyn

  • http://personalexcellence.co Celes

    Keith@ Thank you! It’s extremely energizing to know that you benefited from the series :) I will continue to help as best as I can :)

    Evelyn@ Welcome here! :D Thanks for your comment and I look forward to connecting with you more too! :)

  • chunky chips

    Hi celestine. thanks for a great read up . part 4 was the most encouraging to me. you really are wise beyond your years and i humbly thank you for being a great late night blog read:)