Disappointment Revisited

A listener messaged in asking us to revisit the subject of disappointment. We had looked at the subject in episode 159 and tended to focus around the hot topic of the EU and the potential, whatever the outcome, for half the population to be disappointed.

The request here was to look at the effects of more personal disappointments. For example what happens when the job interview doesn’t go so well or we feel let down in other areas of life? This raises the issue of competition and the idea of winners and losers, often seen as the survival of the fittest. The reality is that in a competitive world disappointment is just a fact of life. You can’t have one without the other.

But there are alternatives – You can’t be disappointed without your permission.
To be disappointed you first have to buy into the concept of wining and losing, of gain and loss. These concepts involve the separation of ‘us’ and ‘them’ or ‘you’ and ‘me’. For ‘me’ to win or succeed ‘you’ have to lose or fail’. If ‘we’ win ‘they’ lose. These tribal separations are the seed of all conflict and war be it religious, sexual, ideological, sectarian, ethnic or whatever. It all involves ‘you’ and ‘me’, ‘us’ and ‘them’ concepts that lead to ‘have’ and ‘have not’, ‘success’ and ‘failure’.

In the personal sense for ‘me’ to succeed at the interview and get the job ‘you’ will be disappointed. On the other hand if ‘you’ get the job then ‘I’ will be disappointed. Unless we begin to see this process of winning and losing in a different way. Perhaps these things that I identify as disappointments are actually good things.

My own assumption is that the universe is not out to get me and that the things that I am presented with are for my own growth and development. I am not a fatalist I believe in free will but I do get the law of attraction and see that the things that happen to me do so because they are meaningful to me and my level of development. I see the same things as true for you also. In this way nothing is ever bad. It is my response to what happens that labels it good or bad.

What if I didn’t get the job because, in the greater scheme of things, it would have been damaging to me or the wrong direction for me, held me back and not allowed me to develop to even greater things? If this were the case the fact that I didn’t get the job should be a focus of celebration and thanks not of disappointment and loss.

To be disappointed assumes…

1: Expectation. This is craving, my demand for the outcome that my ego seeks. When we project forward in expectation of outcomes, be they good or bad, we are firing up our anxiety circuits. Learning to see the things that happen in life not as problems but as learning opportunities means anxiety dissolves. If you consider that the human race has survived because we each have this amazing problem solving ability that, should we need it, will come to our aid and solve whatever the issue is that we are faced with.

We don’t have problems we have learning opportunities.

2: Loss. This is attachment, my inability to let go of my feelings of possession for things, people, events or the belief of what I see as ‘mine’. It could be that I saw the job as ‘mine’ before I went to the interview. This attachment to the past creates depression. When we feel the loss or bereavement for what was, or for what might have been we often ruminate. When this happens the rumination keeps it alive, so that many years after an event it can still feel like it is live action as though it has just happened.

When we learn to let go we overcome depression and stop projecting into the future we can live in the present. In the present, in the now there can never be any disappointment because there is no attachment to the past and there is no carving for the future. The trick to living in the present is gratitude. The following is attributed to Buddha.

Let us rise up and be thankful,
for if we didn’t learn a lot today,
at least we learned a little,
and if we didn’t learn a little,
at least we didn’t get sick,
and if we got sick,
at least we didn’t die;
so, let us be thankful.

At the end of each line of the above the option is to be disappointed or grateful. It is not what happens it is the way that we see it. We are not effected by events but by our response to those events.

In a very real sense being disappointed is a choice. What do you choose?

Take care

Sean X