Thursday, November 13, 2014

5 Ways To Deal With Disappointment

Does this sound familiar?

“I didn’t sign up for this.”
“I thought things would be different.”
“I feel so stupid for thinking it would work out.”
“I can’t believe I trusted that person.”

Paulette recently went into escrow on her dream house – and then the deal fell apart.   She said, “I feel so stupid for thinking things would go my way.   I can’t believe I let myself get so excited about the house.  I should have known better.”

A moment later she added, as if in jest, “I bet stuff like this doesn’t happen to skinny people.” 

Paulette was disappointed about losing her dream house.  Instead of processing the disappointment, she turned on herself, accusing herself of not being psychic, and joking that  thinner people don't have to deal with things not working out.  

In other words, if she changed her weight and became one of those "skinny people," she’d never be disappointed again. 

This is an illusion, because you cannot manage life situations by controlling your weight.

The definition of disappointment is, “the feeling of sadness or displeasure caused by the nonfulfillment of one's hopes or expectations” (Google dictionary).

Disappointment can be about a person or situation.  It is often more acute than "sadness or displeasure" because there are many other elements bound up in the experience of disappointment, including the notion of losing basic trust in others and in the world.

If other people and/or situations seem unpredictable or unreliable, you may be vulnerable to turning away from others and relating primarily to your body or to food.  

When things don’t work out or someone lets you down, you may also feel a sense of powerlessness or helplessness.  Focusing on your powerlessness over food, which you ostensibly can control, may be preferable to experiencing powerless in the context of your relationships or in the world.

If you’re disappointed in yourself for something that is food, weight or body image related, you may be displacing feelings towards others and turning them on yourself, as Paulette did.

Food for thought:

Ask yourself the following questions:

What situations and/or people are disappointing me?
What is going on in your life that is causing disappointment?   Perhaps a friend has let you down, or other things have not gone as planned. 

What does it mean about you? 
i.e., Perhaps you fear that you’re not good enough, not omniscient, that you somehow should have known better.  If so, explore the basis of your self-esteem and the meaning of powerlessness.

What does it mean about other people?
i.e., You cannot trust others, that they are inherently self-serving and will throw you under the proverbial bus?  If so, consider where you learned that people are inherently not trustworthy.

What does it mean about the world?
i.e., The world is an unfair, unsafe place and there are no rules.  Bad things can happen to good people.  If so, explore your life experiences and identify what you may be re-experiencing in the context of this situation.

What does it mean about the future?
i.e., Nothing is ever going to go your way and there’s no point in trying or trusting again.  If so, examine your ideas about hopelessness.

When you acknowledge your disappointment and process the underlying anxieties about your good enough-ness, powerlessness, trust, fairness, and hopelessness, you can move forward – like Paulette, who is now the proud owner of another house that she ended up liking as much as the first.

When you deal with the underlying emotions and conflicts that impact your sense of wellbeing, you make peace with yourself.  When you do that, you will make peace with food.

Dr. Nina

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