Constructive Wallowing

How to beat bad feelings by letting yourself have them

Go Ahead: Get Your Hopes Up!

Don't lose out on the joy of anticipating possibilities.

During the decade I spent pursuing an acting career, I went to hundreds of auditions. I tried out for plays, movies, TV shows, commercials, and even performance art.

Some of the auditions were a total bust, like the time I ended up quarreling with the guy who was auditioning me. It was clear within minutes I wasn’t going to get that job.

Another time, I met with a roomful of hip strangers who were casting an independent film. I was as charming as I could be with the men, but I completely ignored the only other woman present.

Guess who the director was? Yup. I’d managed to ignore the one person in the room with the power to hire me.

Keeping Hope Under Wraps

There were a few jobs I knew on the spot that I’d never get, so I was able to leave hope behind when I left the building.

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But there were plenty of occasions where things went well — even exceptionally well — and I'd be giddy with hope.

Sometimes I’d try in spite of myself not to get my hopes up.

After a good audition I avoided talking too much about it with others, or I spoke as casually as possible about my chances of getting the part.

I tried to distract myself from waiting for my agent to call by engaging in other activities.

When I wasn’t paying attention to my don’t-get-my-hopes-up regimen, I’d find myself daydreaming about getting that phone call. But then I’d stop myself.

Occasionally the call would come: I got the part! But more often, I never heard a peep.

I might find out through the grapevine that they’d gone “in another direction” (as if I were a dot on a map) and hired someone else.

Whenever I didn’t get a job that I'd tried not to hope I would get, I was disappointed no matter how much I’d reined in my excited anticipation.

Even when I painstakingly refused to get my hopes up, I was disappointed anyway to have those suppressed-but-secretly-still-there hopes dashed.

When I did get the job, success was tempered by other feelings.

Sure, I was pleased about it, but it wasn't the same as the pure, bouncing excitement I'd kept tied up in a bag while waiting to hear the news.

Achieving the goal wasn't the same as that indescribably pleasant anticipation of good things to come.

It was "Yay! I got it!" for a couple of minutes and then it was on to thinking about details of the job, and the challenges it might entail.

Savor the Anticipation

I learned to enjoy having high hopes about things that might not happen.

It feels good to savor the anticipation of dreams coming true.

The best time to enjoy that delicious feeling of hope is before you get the news, one way or the other.

If the news is bad, hope will be extinguished and replaced by disappointment.

If the news is good, it will morph into something else. Satisfaction, maybe.

In either case, the hope itself is deeply pleasant while it lasts.

If things don't work out, embracing hope won’t make you any more disappointed than you would have been anyway.

So go ahead and get your hopes up. It’s the only way to make the most of that wonderful feeling.

Counselor and workshop leader Tina Gilbertson, LPC is the author of Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings By Letting Yourself Have Them.

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