How To Overcome Disappointment

How To Overcome Disappointment: You feel let down. Your expectations of a happy outcome failed to emerge.  Surely, you deserved the positive outcome. What happened was surprising and could not be controlled through your personal actions. You even suspect that you will not get, or ever achieve, what you genuinely wanted. What you feel is not a sense of regret about your own actions, but distress, tinged with sadness, or anger, over the outcome. You wish to escape this overwhelming sense of helpless gloom. Take heart. There are actions you can take to calmly accept the mishap, still the distress and move on. 

The stressful emotions you feel are instinctive and impulsive reactions to a let down. You can overcome the agitation, when your mind shifts away from its emotional viewpoint. A changed outlook will banish the cycling “what might have been” images in your mind and still the nagging sense of sadness. Disappointment is a frequent and negative emotion. It provides a graded response. The greater the anticipation, the greater the disappointment. The emotion can lead on to depression. You mus act to replace disappointment with creative excitement and joy by understanding and overcoming the
emotional triggers of turmoil in your mind. Follow these steps to reach a sense of creative calm. Then you will make a practical plan to move on.

  • Your mind makes its decisions by calibrating the strength of your emotions regarding the outcomes.
  • The LHb responds to errors in your decision making process.
  • Disappointment is one of the most powerful among the calibrating emotions.
  • Become aware of your thought processes.
  • Accept the setback and avoid "what might have been" thoughts.
  • Revise your expectations.
  • Be aware that you may be over reacting to a setback.
  • Fill your life with small and rewarding tasks as a part of your daily routines.
  • Make a new plan for your life.

How To Overcome Disappointment - The Calibrating Emotion
Nature uses disappointment to teach you how to make crucial decisions, when faced with uncertainty. It is a powerful emotion, which calibrates actual outcomes against your expectations. Damasio's Somatic Marker Hypothesis suggests that emotional calibration is cardinal to complex decision making. Life throws you many conflicting options. According to the scientist Frijda, emotions, their bodily effects and the desire to enjoy, or avoid similar experiences in the future decide your choices. Your mind is constantly recording your significant experiences with a calibrated range of emotions. 

Such finely differentiated grades of experienced emotions enable you to make wise choices. Stronger emotions prevail over weaker ones. Your mind makes those subtle choices, which empower rational thinking, including reward anticipation and decision-making. Your distress marks the event, which proved that your judgment has been seriously wrong. You feel really bad. But, the event has made you wiser. But, the effect of the emotion is to
shifts the goals of your mind away from a search for opportunities to the fearful avoidance of problems. This troubling effect is caused by the lateral habenula (LHb), a pea sized bundle of nerves in your brain. You should not be affected by a faulty program in your nervous system. 

Since life is full of
uncertainty, LHb adjusts your goals by keeping track of your information-prediction and reward-prediction errors. If your expectation of increased sales did not materialize, you made an information prediction error. If your expectation of a raise did not materialize, you made a reward prediction error. Since you failed to predict such mishaps, LHb assumes that you have false expectations from life. LHb weighs your setbacks (without counting your blessings) to conclude that your activities will lead relentlessly into disaster. It sets off a series of neural actions to motivate you to retire from all activity. To overcome your disappointment, you must understand that it is your LHb, which colors your world black. The organ creates a bias in your mind by triggering neuro transmitters, which cause a loss of energy in the system.

How To Overcome Disappointment - It Leads To Depression
The studies of Schimmack, on the frequency and intensity of emotions in real life events, found that disappointment is one of the most frequent and one of the most negative of such emotions. It provides a graded response. The greater the anticipation, the greater the disappointment. According to Steven Shabel, disappointment is signaled by the release of the neurotransmitter, glutamate, by LHb. When more glutamate is released, the more intense are the disappointment signals, which spread in the system.  Disappointment stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. The chemical responses lead to melancholy, inertia, and a feeling of hopelessness. The heightened sense of dismay leads to increased expectation of future letdowns. 

The setback envelops you in feelings of helplessness. You lose interest in your daily routines. There is a loss of energy and self criticism. Your appetite and sleep get affected. Your problems look bigger and you worry about problems that could happen. You feel scared with no specific or direct threat. You become more prone to anger and irritability. Your actions become less well considered and more impulsive. This continuing emotional roller coaster can lead to heart disease, digestive disorders, and a depressed immune system. All this is triggered by a changed balance of chemicals in the habenula. 

How To Overcome Disappointment - Self Awareness
You have no awareness of the intuitive process, which activated LHb, which enabled your animal instincts to take over. Reduced dopamine availability in the forebrain has lessened your energy. Intuition has inhibited the memories of lilting songs and bright mornings to morbidly convince you that your situation is hopeless. It is not. A simple mental exercise can stop this whole knee jerk process in its tracks.

Your common sense will take control and set free memories of sunshine and laughter. All you need is a little practice of 
self awareness. Learn to become aware when emotional turmoil begins within you.  Self awareness is the key theme in the meditation practiced for centuries by the Buddhists. They recommended “staring back” at your thoughts. 

Matthieu Ricard, a respected Buddhist monk said: "One may wonder what people do in retreats, sitting for eight hours a day. They familiarize themselves with a new way of dealing with the arising of thoughts." "When you start getting used to recognizing thoughts as they arise, it is like rapidly spotting someone you know in a crowd. When a powerful thought or anger arises, you recognize it. That helps you to avoid being overwhelmed by this thought." Self awareness enables you to recognize your depression as just a transitory mood.

How To Overcome Disappointment - Acceptance
The vicious cycles of thoughts, which cause you anguish can be stilled through self awareness. Recognize the turmoil in your mind. The shattered images of your expectations of a bright future cause endless reruns of “what might have been” images in your mind. Each image of missed opportunities increase the discharge of glutamate by LHb. Just awareness that your mind is in turmoil leads you to the next thought. What can you do about it? You can takes a series of mental steps to still the anguish. 

The first thing to do is to 
face up to the worst impact of your disappointing outcome. Can you live with it? Think of the repercussions... You will have to admit that the earth will keep spinning and the sun will rise again. Life will still go on. Facing up to your let down is a purifying exercise. The flailing in a cage feeling stops. Directly facing the consequences of the mishap will stop the “might have been” reruns. The turmoil remains, but you recognize your disappointment not as an overwhelming world view, but as a sad event in your life. What action can you take now?

How To Overcome Disappointment - Revise Your Expectations
Your earlier expectations had filled you with hope and excitement. After the let down, you face a bleak future. Look around and evaluate your expectations. Hindsight grants you a better view of the real world. Your mind will store this outcome and bring it up the next time you face an uncertain choice. What was the possibility that you had ignored? Was that a freak event, or a reasonable likelihood? Plan your future course of action in the light of this new knowledge.

If you expected to win a million in a lottery, one hundred thousand will be a disappointment. If you have experienced intense disappointment before, it may be an indication that your expectations are too high. Lowering your targets will not kill your dreams. You only become more practical. Consciously lower your expectations in future to achieve a more balanced emotional life. Evaluate the reasons of the let down and see if you can improve the outcome with more resources, or better planning. Detach yourself from a losing cause. 

How To Overcome Disappointment - Don't Overreact
Disappointment is nature's way of jolting you into reality. But, don't let disappointment breed pessimism. It is a feeling, which envelops you in gloom. The 
intuitive process acts globally. It manipulates all your memories. It darkens your horizons by preventing you from recalling all your past successes. It prevents you from fighting back. 

Decision analysts operate on the assumption that individuals will try to avoid the potential for disappointment and make decisions that are less likely to lead to the experience of the feeling. When feeling disappointed, a person is more likely to sell at a loss. Give yourself time to come out of the low feeling. Make your important decisions, only after the sense of hopelessness leaves you.

How To Overcome Disappointment - Recover Your Spirit
A depressed outlook is the result of reduced forebrain activity. Shift the focus of your mind to simple tasks which you enjoy. Play computer games, polish silver, or walk in the park. Any activity, which interests you. The human mind operates at its highest level, when it anticipates a reward. Professor Wolfram Schultz discovered that reward oriented behavior is promoted by the release of a group of neurotransmitters by neurons in the early reptilian part of the human brain. 

These neurons detect signals in the environment, which indicate the possibility of a reward within a specific time frame. By releasing dopamine, these neurons increase neural activity in the forebrain. Dopamine increases alertness and provides clarity to immediate objectives and makes a person feel more energetic and elated.  Schultz noted that the release continues only for the predicted time period, when a reward can be expected. The release reduces at the end of this period. The releases stop if the rewards have become a matter of routine. 

Your work needs some novelty for sustained interest. The solution of each new problem, however simple, provides a reward. Studies indicate that energy does not require engagement in creative, or artistic tasks. It is experienced even in tasks such as analyzing data, or filling out income tax returns. Swift answers in the challenges of a job grant energy. As you continue your task, you will come out of the mood of hopelessness.


How To Overcome Disappointment - Make A New Plan
The future that you looked forward to has vanished. The human mind needs a purpose to become strong and vibrant. The famed psychiatrist, Frankl, suggested that, even when life looked hopeless, a purpose was absolutely needed for survival. Having encountered the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps, he learned that people could survive torture and beatings, if they had a purpose in life. 

But, these were not large purposes. A hope of meeting a son after the war was a purpose. Even a decision to harden oneself against suffering was a sufficient purpose. After the war, Frankl established a major field in psychiatry, assisting thousands of suicidal patients around the world to recover by discovering an acceptable purpose in life.
  After your disappointment, you too need to find an acceptable purpose. Enjoy the feeling that you are better prepared to meet the uncertainties of life. After all, trying to avoid disappointment will make you over cautious. 

Treat this experience as a foot board to avoid distress, if similar things happen again. Change your goals to overcome your errors. Can you set an easier goal? Can you reach your goal by attempting less ambitious steps? Can you get helpful advice? Can you follow the steps of those who succeeded? In the end, disappointment improves your ability to predict the future. Benefit from the powerful lesson granted to you by nature.

This page was last updated on 18-Jan-2016.



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