You land your dream job, but you have a boss who makes your life miserable. You plan the perfect party and no one shows up. You finally meet a person you really like but they don’t feel the same way about you. You receive a nice bonus check and then your car breaks down. You take that much needed vacation, but you’re sick the entire time.
Sometimes it feels like the universe is a mischievous prankster who likes to screw with us for entertainment. For many, the knee-jerk reaction is to feel victimized and defeated. That’s a fair and natural response, after all. But it’s unhelpful and doesn’t change anything.
While many of these kinds of disappointments are relatively minor, sometimes they feel devastating and in some instances, truly are devastating.
Here are some tips that may help if you find yourself faced with an unexpected and unfair plot twist:
- Be gentle with yourself. Allow whatever emotions naturally arise. Even if you’re thinking it’s “really not a big deal” or a “first world problem.” You’re allowed to feel disappointed or frustrated when things don’t go your way. It’s ok to feel angry. Try not to stifle or discredit your feelings.
- Understand the source. Sometimes our responses are not simply about the current scenario. Disappointment is often cumulative, meaning there have been multiple situations that evoke a similar feeling. Sometimes the emotional memory of a painful past experience is triggered by this one. Even if you can’t identify the exact root cause, it may be helpful to acknowledge the familiarity of your feelings.
- Move beyond blame. Even if you were treated poorly, it is unhelpful to ruminate on that fact. You may want an apology or some sort of restitution but you may never get it. So let it go. Most importantly, avoid blaming yourself.
- Check your ego. Is the disappointment due to unrealistic expectations? Do you feel you deserved better? Does it seem like you’re getting screwed more than others? Everyone knows this feeling, no one is exempt. So before you throw a pity party, remember that pain is not exclusive.
- Don’t wallow. While it’s important to acknowledge and allow your emotions, it’s not necessary to stew in negativity. Distract yourself, do things you enjoy, get together with friends and loved ones, go out and have fun. Spend time doing positive, uplifting, or self-nurturing activities.
- Put things in perspective. Is it truly the end of the world? How can you learn and grow from the experience? What’s been going well lately?
- Trust. As one door closes, another opens, as they say. While it may be hard to know what benefit you’ll reap at the moment, chances are you will one day look back and breathe a sigh of gratitude for the way things worked out (maybe the universe isn’t such a jerk after all
Can you recall a time when things didn’t work out the way you hoped? How did you feel? What helped ease the disappointment? Please comment and share your wisdom and, of course, share this post if you think someone else might benefit from it.
Adina Arden Cooper
I'm a healer, a guide, a supportive companion. A storyteller, an artist, an ally and an advocate. I help individuals thrive and communities come together through counseling, coaching, and community building. I believe that shared humanity is a powerful strength and that our stories connect us in beautiful and sacred ways. As I stumble, skip, or soar my way through this life, I invite you to join me on the journey. Likewise, I'm honored to travel with you. In witnessing one another, we find meaning.