Does it feel like your life has been full of unfulfilled hope or expectations? I know mine has. I think that in many ways we try to cover up disappointments and brush them away or numb them through making more effort, working too hard, using food, drugs or other substances to hide the ache where disappointment lies, but it doesn’t work long term.
The biggest problem with disappointment is that it seems final and to accept that something hasn’t worked and may never work can be hard to take in and embrace. In many ways it feels much easier to be angry at the world, angry at partners, to feel that the world and people in it have behaved a certain way that has led to things not working. We fly into envy or rage more easily than acknowledging and owning our deepest disappointments.
When we express and experience anger ‘out there’ we don’t have to feel disappointment because disappointment means we need to accept ‘what is’, to accept reality.
But I’d also like to take this a bit further, because for me it is not as simple as just embracing my disappointments, in a sense grieving them like any loss we experience, but to recognise that some of us are programmed early on to expect the worst, to expect suffering, to expect things to not work out or go wrong. It’s not that we were born this way, it’s that we learned how to be this way.
I think we live what I call a double-edged sword.
We have such a high expectation of beauty, peace, prosperity and success early on, that when unfulfilled, consistently, over time, our inability to get ourselves up and dust ourselves off reduces over the course of a lifetime. I spoke about this in a recent blog post Don’t Punish YOU For Your Failures. So our expectations can be so high, and they may continue to be high because unconsciously we need to fulfil our expectation of disappointment even more.
Low Self Esteem Means It Hits Us Harder
And many of us have low self esteem and a sense of ‘not feeling enough’. We think that if we just achieve X,Y,Z we will be enough. So the feeling of disappointment can hit us even harder.
We dream big but expect big disappointment. We can feel as if we are on a merry-go-round where we dream, we take action, and we fail.
Not a nice cycle to be in. It hurts like hell.
And as I said in the above podcast, it’s not as simple as ‘You need to think positive’ or ‘Choose ease’ or ‘This is simply a stepping-stone to something better’.
Seriously, when you have had this pattern for so long, those words just get old very quickly. I think that most of us who have had this expectation of disappointment probably suffer from depression or some other mental health issue, and for us positive thinking can be the equivalent of hitting the inner child over the head with a happy stick. The inner child simply says, ‘I don’t believe you. I don’t trust you!’
And that’s it isn’t it? We don’t trust.
We simply don’t trust life or our ability to achieve or experience satisfaction or triumph in many areas.
When thinking about this subject, I lay in bed, considering my own ‘expecting disappointment pattern’ and thinking what is the opposite of disappointment? And this feeling was so ingrained in me I had no idea. I met an empty blank space in my mind and so I literally had to search online to find out what was the opposite. And there are many.
Sometimes, when we have experienced what has felt like ongoing disappointments, these feelings are completely alien to us. And, knowing the opposite is a challenge to some people, but it can be an insight into what someone who experiences depression feels (for those who have never experienced depression).
Antonyms of Disappointment
Looking at this list of opposites, my heart sank.
I think many of us know that people could tell us until they are blue in the face that we have achieved so much, in different areas and that success is, by Western definition, often interpreted wrongly, but the fact is that many of us see when our expectations are dashed or unmet, that we have not achieved, that we have not succeeded and it’s sad. It hurts doesn’t it?
Sometimes we create our own heartbreaks through expectation. ~ Unknown (CLICK to TWEET)
I think where a more positive minded person will see a setback or something not working out how they had hoped as a stepping stone and keep on working, keep on creating, keep on meeting new people (if the disappointment was relationship related), whereas someone who initially believed in the magic and possibility of life, but was trained early on to expect the worst and expect things not to work, instead will look at every perceived ‘failure’ as proof, proof that nothing will work and so the cycle continues, until we question the cycle.
Are You Setting Realistic Expectations?
Okay, I am going to be honest here. My expectations have not been realistic. And they served a purpose, because by not having realistic expectations I met my unconscious need for disappointment and confirmed the results or lack of results as proof that I was right all along to expect things not to work out.
In my youth I expected, like many young people, life to be much easier, I expected not to have to work hard and when I butterfly hopped through different ideas, jobs, projects, relationships…I did not own the fact that I was not committing to myself or my ideas. I had no positive role models of success in my young mind.
Little did I know that underneath all of those ‘BIG DREAMS’ was a need for things not to work out, to fulfil my failure story in life.
I looked for quick fixes, easy outs. After travelling in my early twenties, I got lost in the whole ‘Law of Attraction’ and ‘Create Your Reality’ bandwagon and I left a job I disliked because I believed that if I just believed enough, my dreams would happen (coincidentally, at the time, my job was also being taken over by a new member of staff and my favourite aspects of the job were being removed. In a sense my employer was getting rid of me by making my role intolerable).
But my unconscious did not believe this was true, so all the positive thinking in the world was going against my unconscious core beliefs that promoted a failure story, not a success story.
After writing my first book, a small part of me expected instant success. I was not realistic. In the back of my mind was this thought ‘Somebody, somewhere is going to make life easier for me’. I was battling against three decades of programming that I was not of value and that I had no worth.
I was doing the equivalent of pouring ice-cream on top of dog poo, the poo was still there regardless of my high ideals and ‘positive thinking’.
When I paid for a small office space in my local area, because it was risky to start a business from where I was living at the time, I believed my online business would be so good I could afford those kind of outlays. I sat in my office, feeling excited and my ego was feeling like I had made it. I was wrong. I was very unrealistic, bordering on believing ‘castles in the sky’ over reality. I sat in my office, with no plan of action, no idea how to make it work, but in my mind all was okay because look at me, ‘How impressive I was, I had my own office and I was paying for it’. Needless to say, that business did not work out. I got into debt trying to keep it going and I did not look at reality.
And as I write this, I begin to understand that those dreams, those desires, worked, but only to the level I was able to allow them to work. I had too much unquestioned programming that was not prepared to face reality and accept ‘what is’.
Learn to Accept Not to Expect
I think that most of my ideas, dreams, desires for life have not been based on reality, but on a heightened expectation born from wanting to escape my inner turmoil and pain.
I wanted an easy out. I wanted life to give me the opportunities I saw others given in life. I did not understand why I was dealt a bad hand in life. I wanted better for myself, but until I was able to accept reality, to accept ‘what is’, I was always going to run headfirst into projects, relationships and dreams that would be unfulfilled, to match my expectations of disappointment.
When I created Peace Within Radio (mental health radio station) in 2019 I think closing it down became the straw that broke the camel’s back (as the saying goes!). I hit an all-time low. It has made me question so much about my life, my choices, how I automatically respond to perceived failure and it made me question why?!
I genuinely thought I had found my North Star, my purpose, my passion, but realistically I had not considered the depth of work involved for one person, to make it work and to further it in the long term. There is a reason radio stations have a team of people, but I set it up so that I did not have enough funding to pay me, never mind anyone else. My unconscious was in charge. My unconscious had no knowledge or understanding of the opposite of disappointment and because of this, my inner child was scared to succeed.
I was meant to hit my rock bottom.
“Disappointment is the nurse of wisdom.” – Sir Bayle Roche
They say life will keep giving you lessons until you get what the lesson is teaching you. Apparently, I needed a lot of lessons in failure and a lot of disappointments to make me face reality and as I reach my 44th birthday, I am scared to do new things, but I know I must, but I also must face reality and accept that these new things may or may not work, to not put all my eggs in one basket and to appreciate what is possible and what is not.
I need to focus on any inspiration I receive and follow through with it, but more importantly, to see my worth and my value as far beyond any expectations. To accept instead of simply expecting.
And it can be hard to begin anything new, for those of us working through this pattern of disappointment and expecting things to not work out. To not expect but instead allow the opposite.
For me to allow achievement and to allow success in anything, I need to face and embrace the opposite with a deeper sense of self-kindness. To appreciate that my unconscious, my inner child was protecting me these past 40 years. Protecting me from change. My inner child believed the failure story was far safer. But, to experience things working? Now that’s risky to my inner child. To experience a sense of accomplishment and achievement on my past projects, dreams, relationships from the perspective of ‘they worked to the level they were able to’ and not to the level I wanted is a big shift in perception for me.
When disappointment has been big, failure has felt more comfortable than success…to allow myself to even follow through on inspiration is a big deal. I used to be a big dreamer. As a child I believed in the magic of the world and the wonder, but somewhere along the trials of life I lost this belief. I met too many things that opposed this experience, so instead of continuing to believe in magic and wonder, my inner child said ‘No…we can’t do that anymore, it’s too painful’ and so instead, I tried to keep myself safe.
And in trying to keep myself safe, I stopped risking failure, I stopped risking disappointment, but I also stopped risking joy, triumph, pleasure and satisfaction.
So, readers… where do we begin? How do we start a new story based on the opposite of disappointment?
Acknowledge Our Past – I think the first thing we need to do is to acknowledge our disappointments, all of them.
We need to go through our past and look at what we have done, how we felt about the endings that took place and see if we can have compassion for the inner child that was hurting and protecting us.
Risk Dreaming Again – We then take the risk to dream again, we take the risk to create, to meet the world…and we accept, we accept that our riskings may not work out, but we find new ways to look at our value and worth that do not involve ‘doing’ but loving self, being and appreciating all we have experienced.
Stop Unrealistic Expectations – We don’t give ourselves unrealistic expectations.
Allow Both Inspiration and Fear – We allow inspiration to rise and when the fear arises alongside it, we breathe into the fear and quietly say, ‘I know you are scared little one, but I am here for you and whatever happens I will always have our back’.
Start Exploring Again – I think this is all we can do to begin with and start exploring again. Regardless of the fear that it awakens within us.
What do you think?
Disappointment is just the action of your brain readjusting itself to reality after discovering things are not the way you thought they were. –Brad Warner