Dealing with Disappointment and Other Unpleasant Feelings

I’m not so sure how to start this post.

The reason I want to write an entry on this topic is because my own life is currently filled with disappointment and other unpleasant feelings and emotions brought on by a variety of different things.  And while we are friendly with each other, my fellow travelers, we aren’t that close. And I’d hate to bring any of you down from whatever nice and happy place you might be with my own drama.

So instead, I think I shall speak as if I was giving advice to someone dealing with the same things I am. Here we go.

Disappointment is one of the worst emotions to feel. We’ve all experienced it and it’s a total bummer. It’s even worse when disappointment becomes such a recurring theme in your life that you become somewhat desensitized to it. You know it’s there, you acknowledge its presence, but it doesn’t have that deep, visceral effect it used to.

This isn’t so alarming if it only ever happens with people you’ve just recently met. In those situations I’d say it’s a very good sign. You’re self-esteem isn’t so fragile or nonexistent that even the rejection of passing acquaintances can totally shatter you. It may, however, be cause for worry if it happens when you lose someone close to you.

This is where disappointment gets tricky.

Disappointment in others and disappointment in yourself are two very different things. Let’s focus on the former first. If someone else disappoints you, it could just be because they’ve fallen into a rut and they need a good friend like you to kick them in the ass and help them get back on track. It could be because they are really just a sucky, self-centered flake that doesn’t really care about you and you’re better off without them. The tricky part comes when you have to distinguish between the two, and it isn’t always easy. Sometimes our brains have the dumb.

Luckily, disappointment in yourself is almost always a precursor to some good self reflection and a much needed attitude adjustment. So that’s nice, but can still suck, because changing who you are, even when you want to, isn’t the easiest thing.

So what am I try to say with all this, dear travelers?

Well, a few things. First, if someone you know is disappointing you, try and be as perceptive as possible. Look at your situation as objectively as possible. Think about what you know of the other person and try and figure out if they need a kick in the rear or to be kicked to the curb. Try not to get caught up in what I call, “pre-college friendships”: those friendships that formed only because you had to see the other person everyday. They can be great while they last but that doesn’t always mean they were meant to endure.

I know it’s hard to leave something familiar behind. Ending a long friendship is like losing an appendage. You have to learn to adapt to life without it. But trust me, if things aren’t working out, you owe it to yourself and to the other person to end things before they totally deteriorate and you end up hating each other. Hanging onto something just because it’s familiar is no way to live life. Opportunities are missed and regrets are made. And that’s no fun for anyone.

Second, if someone kicks you in the rear or kicks you to the curb, be as perceptive as possible. Consider your roll in all the happenings and be honest with yourself about whether you were being an ass or an innocent bystander and your friend is just crazy. Most importantly, learn what you can, change what you can, and accept what happened.

But be warned, often the brain has the dumb, as I’ve said, and brains with the dumb are very good at conjuring up doubt and fear and self-deprecation (and not the humorously self-aware kind). The only way to combat this is to get to a place where you don’t need other people to like you and want to be with you just to validate who you are. I wish I could tell you all the steps to getting there, but sadly, there is no map for that journey.

I think that’s the secret, dear travelers, the secret that isn’t really a secret because it’s what we’ve all been told since we were young. Being completely comfortable in your own skin, wherever you are and with whoever you’re with. That’s what it takes to deal with disappointment, in all its forms.

I have one last thing to say, then I’ll stop lecturing you. While you’re deep in the throes of dealing with disappointment and a case of dumb brain, please please please, I beseech you, remember to be honest. Honest with others and honest with yourself. Disappointment can manifest as anger and anger often leads to irrational thought and shouting about things you aren’t really upset about. Try to keep a calm head and be truthful about what has disappointed you and caused you grief.

I know it can be hard to be honest with people, especially if you’re trying to tell them you honestly don’t want to see their face anymore. And maybe I’m only saying this because of my own personal experiences, but respect people enough to be honest about how you feel instead of stringing them along. Don’t keep someone on your hook just because you don’t have the guts to be straight with them (I hope the How I Met Your Mother reference didn’t lose anyone).

Nobody’s perfect. Not you or me or that guy who lives down the street or Hank from the coffee shop. But we can all strive to be better. If you’re feeling disappointed with life, remember: be honest, be thoughtful, and be open to change. Accept that things end and new things will begin.

Happy travels.



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