Sometimes, things don't work out the way you wanted.
As a therapist and life coach, I frequently sit with people who have experienced terrible disappointments. (As well as those who are celebrating victories and successes). This week, I am aware that while some people are feeling pleased about the outcome of the recent election, many others are feeling very upset and afraid. So today on the Love, Happiness and Success blog I am reposting an article that originally debuted a few years ago in hopes that it may be helpful to those of you that are hurting, and sharing a podcast on the same subject.
With love and respect to all,
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby
How to Cope With Disappointment
Having your dream crushed can leave you sitting in emotional rubble, feeling disempowered and confused.
Our disappointments have many faces: Causes, or candidates, you believe in get creamed. The most interesting first date you've had in a long time ghosts out. You realize that your partner is never actually going to change. The pink lines of the pregnancy test fade away, and the bleeding begins. Bad things happen to good people. People fail you.
If you get in the ring of life, sooner or later, you're going to take a gut punch.
So how do you keep going? We know that grit — the ability to get back up and continue plodding forward despite adversity — is the ultimate key to success. But It’s hard to maintain your hope and motivation when reality slams the door in your face.
If you've suffered with disappointment lately, here are three ideas that can help:
- “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” — Winston Churchill
I love Winston Churchill's wisdom regarding grit and determination. What his “going through hell” quote means to me is this: You can’t stay here.
Look around. Is your current reality what you want? If you stop trying, this is likely where you’ll stay. Scary, yes, but if you give up now and simply accept your present circumstances, nothing will change. Allow your fear to motivate you.
Yes, take some time to pause, grieve, and regroup. But never believe for a second that this is where the story ends. Just because it didn't work out this time does not mean that it can’t be different next time. Learn from your mistakes, recalibrate your goals, and turn the page into a new chapter.
- Wring every drop of knowledge and meaning you possibly can out of adversity.
Negative life experiences are some of the greatest teachers we’ll ever meet. They give us an unparalleled opportunity to contact with our feelings, values, and untapped strength.
If you pay attention, you’ll notice that all disappointment offers you two choices— a vast black hole of fear, self-pity and despair, or a spark of light and hope. All adversity has a secret escape hatch, and the sign over the door reads “Growth.” When you walk though it, new possibilities emerge. Whether it's being able to let go of resentments or expectations and find new tolerance and appreciation for your formerly impossible partner, access a previously untapped well of determination, break free from a self-limiting way of thinking, or simply entertain a brand new idea, accepting responsibility and reaching for growth is your ticket to freedom.
As improbable as this seems when you're in a pit of despair, I know it's true because I've seen people do this amazing work over and over again. I've also lived it. For example, after years of heartbreak and disappointment in dealing with secondary infertility, I was finally able to expand my definition of “motherhood” and accept new possibilities: My husband and I are now foster parents. That has been a very meaningful experience for us. When you stretch toward growth, new doors open and your life can transform in ways that were impossible to imagine previously.
- Tell the voice whispering in your ear, “It shouldn’t be this hard,” to go bother someone else.
The people who have the most difficulty in coping with disappointment are the ones who don't expect it to happen, or who imagine that other people do not experience the same kind of adversity.
If this has ever crossed your mind, it may be helpful to remind yourself that it's not just you. Welcome to the human experience. Nobody gets to passively glide up an escalator of constant-and-never-ending wins and successes.
New idea: It is actually this hard. For everyone, sooner or later. Meditate on the beautiful line that Jane Catherine Lotter wrote to her children, in her own obituary:
“And may you always remember that obstacles in the path are not obstacles, they ARE the path.”
Climbing over, tunneling under, circumventing, or bashing through obstacles is the machine of self-actualization. How we act and what we do in challenging moments both reveals our character and helps us develop it. Understanding the harrowing nature of life emboldens you to meet it fearlessly.
Empowerment comes when you nurture the idea that truly valuable things worth having in your life, like building a good life or having a healthy relationship actually require tremendous effort. Just because it's not easy doesn't mean it's not worth continuing to strive for.
Getting back up is what courage actually feels like, in practice. Allow your life experiences to strengthen you, to teach you, and to prepare you to fight another day. And in the timeless words of my muse today, Winston Churchill, “Never, ever, ever give up.”
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, LMFT, BCC is the founder of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching in Denver, Colorado, author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness and Success Podcast.
How To Cope With Disappointment
Music Credits: Leonard Cohen's “The Sisters of Mercy,” performed by Serena Ryder.
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