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Disappointed? Dejected? Down in the Dumps?

Reset expectations!

Did you think you were alone in feeling let down and generally dismayed because someone you trusted wasn’t so trustworthy? Research shows us that when we expect something good to happen, or for a friend or lover to be faithful and trustworthy, and when it doesn’t go as planned (or the person lets us down) it’s a disappointment.

Sounds pretty basic, right? Well, fascinating research by Kyara Tobias talks about the Psychology of Disappointment.

Having a plan in life for where you want to go and what you want to do makes sense: Without a clear destination, any port will serve as a stopping point. But it seems there is a fine line between having a clear goal, and navigating toward that goal and placing expectations on the way it “should” be or what you “should” have. When you set an expectation and feel deserving or entitled, and it doesn’t turn out the way you expect it to, disappointment is the result.

Disappointment can be debilitating because it can create a domino effect; I expect what I think I deserve, I don’t get it, I feel disappointment as a result, I feel less capable or confident or strong, and then I feel undeserving and depressed! It’s a cycle with no good outcome.

Kyara shares an example that, as a Boston Red Sox fan for many decades, hit close to home for me. It seems that us long-suffering fans don’t fare as badly (psychologically) when our team loses all of the time. We actually get used to it and expect the loss. However, the teens around me have had the taste of winning. They are more devastated when the team doesn’t come through. As I write this, we are still in the World Series, so we’ll see where it goes. Honestly, I will be “disappointed” this year if they don’t win!

It’s not just our home team—the research showed that fans used to losing were, well, used to losing. They don’t expect more. It applies to life, too. If I am used to being beaten down and let down, I don’t expect much for myself. But if I have been a winner, I expect to continue to be a winner. When I don’t “win,” I feel a sense of disappointment.

The problem with disappointment is that it doesn’t stop there—it can continue to spiral. We might get stressed and have physical ailments or difficulties as a result. Kyara lays out a series of negative steps that can take place that can impact both the emotional and physical aspects.

But the news isn’t all bad. You can certainly continue to think, “I deserve this!” and then run the risk of being letdown or feeling disappointed if something doesn’t pan out. Or you can just stay open to watch life unfold before you without expectation of “should be” and “should not be”. Having a sense of “I wonder what will happen next?” might be more useful. In addition, writing your story before it plays out can backfire. Instead, set the goal and work toward it, but don’t pre-empt and expect what will happen along the way. Take things as they come a bit more, and look at “negative” experiences as learning opportunities.

Kyara shares a number of other tips and ideas for using disappointment in a positive fashion and learning from it. Mostly importantly, watch the self-talk you have associated with events. If you tell yourself you “deserve more” or “should have” or “could have” instead of being more objective and data-oriented, you will drag yourself down.

Watch events unfold and wait to see where they take you. While you pursue a goal or dream, remember that the journey along the way is often just as important as the gratification when you get to the end.