“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”
– Helen Keller
As I dig in deeper to Christine Hassler’s book Expectation Hangover, I see and understand more and more how people are not taught how to deal with disappointment. It’s not a class taught in school. Parents rarely teach their children these concepts as you can view in those born of the baby boomers and younger that automatically expect handouts and write people off immediately when something does not go their way. That does not build character; that establishes a self-centered person and environment. I want to be a person working on a better character, but it takes a lot of work! So I continue to dig in.
The bottom line - YOU HAVE TO FACE IT! Here is what I have learned about what DOES NOT WORK with dealing with disappointment:
- Distractions – Seeking out distractions like adding to your to-do list, keeping busy to put it out of your mind and dodging the vulnerable conversations surrounding the situation are just a few ways that we introduce distractions into our lives. But really we are burying it which is not healthy.
- Numbing the Pain – There is no shortage of habits you can pick up when you want to numb the pain. Alcohol, drugs, binge eating, too much tv, video game overload, etc. There are so many things that are time suckers that numb you out so that you don’t have to think about it. But all they do is drain all your time, energy and mental capacity. Then you feel even more overwhelmed. This is probably the most damaging response because your addictive behavior has to continue to increase in order to continue the numbness. Your life spirals out of control.
- Acting Strong – Being brave and strong is the right and noble thing to do, right? No. You are essentially burying the emotions that need to be let out to start the healing process. Moving forward without allowing yourself to feel those emotions is like putting on a mask.
- Pep Talks – As one of the queens of motivational posting, I can get this. It can be easy to look up motivational things that mean a lot to you for encouragement. Although this is a positive thing to do, you must be real with your emotions and again, not bury them with a positive outward appearance. You’ll see most of my Facebook posts as positive motivators, however in order to keep things real, I will give bits of info out in areas I am growing through. NOT to air my dirty laundry like I was prone to doing a year ago. Balance is key. Nurture your soul but also be real with your feeling of disappointment.
- Looking for the next big thing – This goes hand in hand with distractions except with a more intentional determination of replacing what was lost. Looking for the next better relationship, a new city, a new environment and so on. It’s the attraction of the new thing that is creating a temporary diversion.
- Spiritual bypass – Having a positive outlook in general is absolutely a great thing. However, if you are the type that instantly goes to pray it away or looks for the blessing without acknowledging the disappointment, you are robbing yourself of a character building experience. There are lessons to be learned in our own mistakes and in situations that have wronged us. Opportunities to gain wisdom for your future self AND for guidance for others.
In general, if you resist, deny or judge the healing process, you will fall prey to a repeated cycle. I challenge you to dig in to your disappointment and see what things you can learn, how can you build better character, how can you use your situation that you have taken the time to learn from to be a source of experience to draw from when someone else faces something similar in the future. If you always avoid, over-spiritualize or bury your head in the sand when it comes to difficult times, how can you get through trials or inspire others?
“Allow yourself time and dignity of your process…you are worth it!”
- Christine Hassler