How to overcome a disappointment?
Life is a continuous cycle of joys and disappointments, of hopes and disillusionments. Venturing to live entails the risk that not everything, or almost nothing, will turn out as we expected, as the ideal often differs greatly from reality.
When we create expectations about someone or something, we become hopeful. Due to the mechanism of hope, we project onto things and people characteristics and attributes that are often quite unrealistic. And based on this distorted image, we build countless things...
"We think that person will make us happy"
"We believe that friend will be unconditional"
"We expect that endeavor will go smoothly"
"We assume our life will change if we move to another country"
Buddhist psychology tells us that everything in life is an illusion. We don't see things as they truly are; we see them through the glasses we wear, which we have designed based on our experiences, education, beliefs about ourselves, others, and everything around us. Buddhism calls this grand illusion "maya," which, like a veil, covers the reality of what is so that we see it as we want to see it, or perhaps as we need to see it at a given moment because we struggle to accept things as they are.
Every single human being falls into the deceptions of our minds. From our expectations, we create a sort of Photoshop for reality, making the person we fall in love with appear perfect or turning a certain situation into a promise and hope for a better life.
However, when the veil of illusion falls and reality differs from what we expected, disillusionment (painful but necessary) comes to take away the fantasies we had woven in our minds.
We often make the mistake of getting angry with ourselves, reproaching ourselves, feeling foolish, for having trusted or believed.
When disillusionment arises from someone we love who has disappointed us, we scold ourselves, saying, "How did I not notice?" or "How did I not see what was right in front of me?" It's because when we are in love or infatuated with a particular person, our perception becomes distorted. Our brain releases countless substances into our bloodstream that cloud our judgment. It's not about being foolish; we are overwhelmed by hormones that blur our reasoning.
When disillusionment occurs due to expectations placed on a situation or a change, that much-anticipated moment arrives, and we realize that it neither transformed us nor changed our lives. It is a pivotal moment to recognize that perhaps the sought-after change should not come from outside but from within.
The solution to disillusionment lies in finding a balance.
Avoiding disappointment means not expecting anything, but emotional detachment can lead to a life lacking in vitality. To be excited and then disillusioned is a true sign that we are alive, that life matters to us, and that things do not leave us indifferent. We cannot live without hopes and desires, as they drive life forward. The key is learning not to take what the mind tells us too seriously when it exaggerates everything. Instead, we must recognize that in life, both hope and disillusionment, contentment and discontentment, are part of living. We shouldn't resist this reality but accept it as two sides of the same coin. Above all, we should learn to be guided by our values rather than by momentary emotions, which can be so volatile.
How to learn to manage disappointment?
The most painful part is not the disappointment itself but how we handle it. We hurt ourselves immensely by blaming ourselves for not realizing or making a wrong bet. What hurts the most is not accepting what is and resisting the reality as it unfolds.
Carl Gustav Jung once said, "What you resist, persists," and he was undoubtedly right. The more time we spend feeling indignant and wallowing in what is not and will not be, the more the disappointment grows, along with anger and discomfort.
Acceptance means being willing to stop looking back repeatedly at what could have been and wasn't. It's not easy, it doesn't come naturally; it's a decision we have to make. So, every time our minds wander to that unreal scenario, we must bring them back to reality and do the best we can with what we have.
Acceptance is not resignation.
Acceptance means taking note of what is and stop denying it to take action. It allows us to "let go to reframe." In other words, we abandon an ideal and start doing something with what's real, weaving with the threads of truth a possible blanket to shelter ourselves. It's much better to do something with what's possible than to endlessly cry over an illusion, consumed by the phrase "what would have been if..."
We never know what we're saying NO to when we remain stuck for a long time in more of the same. Insisting on unrequited love may be obstructing a new love when it comes to a person. Just as staying anchored in an ideal situation makes it impossible to act in real life.
Recognizing life as a succession of joys and disappointments brings relief. That's when we can accept that life is messy, sometimes hurtful, and we have the opportunity to learn from each of our experiences.
We need to learn to sharpen the tool of "discernment" to better discern the deceptions of the mind. This means consciously taking care of our mind's enchantments. It also involves projecting less of our own perspective and seeing others more objectively.
As we evolve, we will make countless mistakes. Instead of condemning ourselves, we should learn to cultivate patience—the science of peace—to learn with dignity from each experience.
The good thing about disappointment is that one can get excited again and rekindle their desires, as long as we manage not to get stuck in frustration. However, this mechanism of hope/disillusionment cannot follow a horizontal path; it must align vertically, where each new hope finds us with a clearer and more realistic mind, turning that hope into a project of something possible and real.
Getting excited is wonderful when we keep moving forward and unveil the illusion to turn it into something concrete and good, using the resources we have at a given moment. It may not be an exact reflection of the perfect idea we imagined, but "maturity" is about embracing the possible and nurturing its growth.