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“Disappointment can be a strong emotion, and it intensifies feelings of contempt and the possibility of conflict.”

Previous section: “Feelings of Inequity

Today’s section from Descending into War, Descending into Contempt, pp. 12-14:

Feelings of Disappointment

Disappointment is a feeling that afflicts from an early age, and no one is immune from its appearance. The growth process is accelerated when people work through feelings of disappointment. It is not a negative emotion when it is a catalyst for appreciation and adaptation.

Sometimes, disappointment is an accelerator of despair. Disappointment with despair is more difficult to overcome, but when they have been faced and handled, the growth process continues. When they are not handled, the disappointment can underlie future responses to ordinary happenings. When despair is mixed with feelings of inequity and with inaction to change the situation, the feelings of disappointment can increase the likelihood of conflicts.

Disappointment on its own lowers vigor. When  disappointment is accompanied by feelings of inequity, of violation, or of injury, desire for revenge or sabotage can foment.

Disappointment at the group level (two or more people), which comes from the feeling of having received unfair treatment, waits for a trigger that will either direct towards dismissal of the urge to act (restraint) or release restraint towards action (positive or negative). The release of restraint can unite group members or create disunity, because each group member experiences disappointment differently.

Disappointment can also be an accelerator of demoralization. When this situation happens, the strength of disappointment overcomes surety of self and challenges courage. Courage is needed when envisioning possible disasters and when immersed in challenging feats. Disappointment dampens courage, and then when courage is needed, it (courage) is less commanding.

The other contributors to conflict—feelings of superiority, feelings of inequity, and feelings of emasculation—are intensified when disappointment accelerates feelings of despair or demoralization. Disappointment can be a strong emotion, and it intensifies feelings of contempt and the possibility of conflict.

Next section: “Feelings of Emasculation

Overcoming Disappointment


“Deserving” one thing and receiving something else brings on a bout of disappointment.

“Deserving” is an interesting word. We want many things, and the wanting can cause a sense of entitlement. When the feeling of deserving overshadows reality, the feeling of disappointment is close by.

Wanting something can also lead to disappointment if the fulfillment of the wants depends on someone else’s actions. Wanting carries expectations, and expectations have within them the seeds of disappointment.

Wanting someone else to do something for us or wanting someone else to say wonderful things to us or wanting someone else to give us just the right thing or wanting someone else to recognize our needs or wanting someone else to … (and so the list goes).

The expectation of certain actions or words or gifts or responses or outcomes brings disappointment whenever the expectation causes sadness. Sadness is the root of disappointment.

We learn to be disappointed; it is not a natural feeling. We learn it from promises unkept, from advertisements that create impossible results, from friendships betrayed, and from hopes thwarted. When we learn disappointment at an early age, it can sabotage future relationships and endeavors. Events outside ourselves influence our living, and when these events bring sadness, they deafen our resistance to feelings of self-pity. The sadness can become disappointment by self-pity becoming self-righteousness.  Believing that we deserved something or needed it very much builds the disappointment so that it overshadows outcomes that are fine. The fine aspects of life get forgotten and the disappointments come more easily.

What can we do to overcome disappointments?

Our perceptions influence our feelings of satisfaction or disappointment. Our experiences influence them as well. Accepting that perceptions and experiences have enabled disappointment to affect our viewpoints is the first step.

Here are other steps that can lessen the grasp of disappointment:

  • Smile at regular intervals. For example, smile when you arise and when you get out of bed, when you get dressed and when you put on your shoes, when you start eating your first meal of the day and when you have finished it, and while doing obligatory beginning-of-the-day routines, movements, or chores.
  • Practice surprise! Young children live surprise day in, day out. They gawk at animals, flowers, and brightly colored boxes. They experience wonder when they experience daily living. Surprise is their constant companion. As children age, societal pressures to conform destroy the surprise feelings. To bring back feelings of surprise, purposely look at things around your home that you really like and notice how you feel when you look at them. To encourage feelings of surprise, marvel at the mundane things in your life (like curtains, kitchen utensils, and dirt in the garden).
  • Don’t let feelings of disappointment fester. When you notice these feelings, push your stomach in and out several times and then consider why you are feeling this way. If your disappointment is at yourself, acknowledge your part in bringing about your current situation. If your disappointment is at someone else, let yourself be distracted by other things. If your disappointment is at an event that wasn’t to your expectation, force yourself to move on.
  • Find a volunteer cause that you can help and give time to the cause. Donating money is not giving time. Actually spend time helping the cause.

We can unlearn being disappointed. It’s worth the time and effort to banish disappointment from our lives!

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