We all know the feeling…We had high hopes; we made plans and envisioned exactly how things were going to go in our mind. And then life does what it wants without even checking with us. Things end up going in a completely different direction and it’s like a shot to the gut. The pain of disappointment comes when our experience does not live up to our expectation. Sometimes it’s a searing heat and sometimes it just sits like a rock in the pit of our stomach.
The feelings often come in waves: we get mad, then we think it will work itself out; we get sad, then we tell ourself it’s no big deal; we may cry, scream, blame, and question why this is all happening. It can cause us to completely reassess where we are going, what we are doing, and who we are. Or we may try to deny all the feelings and act like we aren’t disappointed at all or like this total 180 degree turn had no effect on us whatsoever.
Even though it may not feel like it in the moment, we do have a choice in how to respond to the twists and turns; to the disappointment. Pausing and remembering that we must allow ourselves to feel all of the things is important, AND then we want to keep on moving. Getting stuck and retriggering the emotions over and over with our thoughts doesn’t help.
Sometimes our reactions come from a place of expecting that all is supposed to go our way. As if we had an agreement with life that it would all be cupcakes and happy dances and how dare it not go according to that plan. Alas, there was never such an agreement. This is how real life goes and it there is no guarantee that it won’t include lots of challenges and surprises.
We can end up in a situation of making things harder on ourselves than they have to be, keeping ourselves in suffering when we refuse to accept the moment as it is. (On a personal note, I have found in my own practice of handling stress and disappointment that when I can breathe, recognize that I am not in control, and notice what is happening without judging it as good or bad, I can find some relief from the suffering.)
Author and teacher Tara Brach teaches a mindfulness technique in dealing with hard times using the acronym RAIN. I think it may be helpful here:
R- Recognize what is happening
A- Allow the experience to be as it is
I- Investigate with interest and care
N- Nurture with self-compassion
By first recognizing what is happening in the moment, we can step into the role of witnessing the patterns in our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors and start to see what often happens in our minds without our even noticing. When we begin paying attention to our patterns and building awareness, we can handle things differently. From here, allowing it to be as it is may bring up resistance or fear around feeling out of control or not knowing what to expect next. If we can coach ourselves through it, we can recognize that we are ok even when we are uncomfortable. Our growth happens in that edginess of feeling uncomfortable. Next, we investigate by asking ourselves questions about what is coming up for us and how we can best care for ourselves in this difficult time. Again, we are growing our awareness so that we can notice what is helpful and what is not. And finally, we become our own friend by recognizing that it is hard and by nurturing ourselves with loving words and compassionate thoughts.
Following these steps, we can take the disappointment in stride without getting caught up in fear, anger, confusion, or denial. We can more clearly plan for what is next and begin to provide ourselves with the loving kindness that we so often afford only to others.
This week, I invite you to give it a try. Reach out and share your experience or ask for support if you need it. You know I will be practicing right along with you.
Chat again soon,
Check out this blog from Tara Brach for more on her RAIN method: https://www.tarabrach.com/selfcompassion1/