Disappointment never fails to give us what we really want—the perpetuation of our deepest wounds
The funny thing about disappointment—that visceral feeling of being let down—is that we actually want it. We don't want it consciously or deliberately, but there is something about that familiar feeling that we crave. So much so that we create situations that basically guarantee our expectations can't or won't be met. But why? Why would we set ourselves up for disappointment when we know how bad it feels? My answer was in the expectations I was setting.
I did it again. I built a fantasy in my head of what a certain special night would look and feel like with someone, knowing full well that the conditions weren't in place for it to happen. When reality inevitably struck, there was the heavy and heaving throe of disappointment at a dream destroyed.
Waking up alone the next morning, I started to ponder what had really happened. I asked myself one of my favorite (and most powerful) questions:
If you strip away the drama and emotion, how would you characterize what happened?
When I ditched the self-pity and hyperbole, it was easy to see. I had set expectations for what I wanted from someone and those expectations weren't met. I had chosen to get upset. With a clearer head, I reminded myself of what I know to be true about expectations, starting with the fact that I have no control over other people. None of us ever do. It may sometimes seem like we do, but the only power we wield over someone is the power they yield. And that dynamic is usually not a healthy one.
Simply put, in the chaos of freewill, we don't always get what we want.
We need to learn that as kids and remember that as adults. No one owes it to us to deliver our wants and needs on a platter. Especially if we haven't clearly communicated what those wants and needs are to the person we are holding to them. Now, if those wants and needs are seldom being met, I would question the relationship. But in the meshing and buckling of human lives, we aren't always going to sync up. In the parlance of quantum physics, if something doesn't materialize, there wasn't sufficient resonance. It wasn't a match.
Yet, instead of accepting freewill and acknowledging background energetics, we like to tell a story. That is where my revelation popped in. It wasn't just that disappointment was a well-worn neuro-pathway in my brain. Disappointment was getting me something. But what? How could I want something that felt so bad?
Why beliefs matter
Underneath every feeling is a belief about ourselves. There is a story we've been telling ourselves, usually from childhood, that seeks to interpret the world around us. While we can accumulate hundreds of beliefs during our lifetime, there is usually a fundamental assumption or core wound that drives our thoughts and behaviors. It hurts us, limits us, and frightens us, but our mind clings to it like a life preserver when we're lost at sea. We often build our identity around it.
I realized that disappointment kept my core wound alive—a belief that I don't matter.
When I looked at the expectations that I was setting for people—the expectations I made significant—I saw a common thread. It was a form of the fallacy, "If you loved me, you would X." To my ego mind, if I was important to someone, that person would do what I want, even if he didn't want to or it inconvenienced him. Let's face it—sometimes we expect people to read our minds and get indignant when they can't. Then, when they don't deliver, we make it about us, even if it objectively wasn't.
This is how our mental model works. We start with a belief and then we seek out evidence of that belief, often by setting up the target for the arrow, as Pema Chodron says. We engineer situations or choose interpretations of otherwise neutral events that affirm that belief for us. With that belief confirmed, we behave a certain way (such as getting upset), which affects how people respond to us (such as dismissing our needs), which further reinforces our belief. As if to say, "See, that's what I thought."
What we are doing is creating a reality that allows us to keep recycling our view of ourselves and the world like a bad sitcom plot. Even when it doesn't seem to make sense. Even when we bemoan what we see as our lot. At the quantum level, we are always getting what we want. We are honoring and projecting our ego's beliefs, no matter how much we suffer.
Stopping the disappointment addiction
So how do we break the cycle? We release the underlying belief and abandon the habitual way of thinking. We realize that we can choose how we think and bring a higher perspective to the situations in our lives.
Frankly, I thought I had chucked that bogus I-don't-matter belief into the dustbin long ago. But clearly not. We keep recreating situations in our lives to bring out evidence of our beliefs so we can address and heal them. Our deepest, most hurtful beliefs often require revisiting. Thankfully, due to a regular practice of self-examination and introspection, I quickly saw what was happening and didn't stop asking questions until I emerged with a new way of looking at disappointment that seemed like it got to the root cause.
Because obviously I matter. We all do—profoundly. Whether someone likes, accepts, or respects me says nothing about me. I may not matter to someone but that doesn't change who and what I really am beyond this human perception. We are all divine.
With my innate importance and worthiness settled, I can bring greater awareness to the expectations I set for other people and take responsibility for any manufactured disappointments.
The goal is not to stop wanting anything from anyone but to see where we are setting people up to fail and why, and to look at our own behaviors, fears, and beliefs before blaming others.
Part of that is understanding that nobody is ever really letting me down. Sure, someone may not do something I want but I am choosing the meaning I give it. The only drama is in the stories we tell. At the end of the day, the physics of frequency, resonance, and amplitude explain everything.
I can refuse to fall into the trap of disappointment by assuming positive intent in others and seeking an objective and neutral perspective, considering alternative interpretations that don't make that person wrong or me unimportant. Perhaps I view the missed expectations of other people in the same light as an ice cream shop out of my favorite flavor. It sucks but c'est la vie. It ain't personal. The world is an unpredictable and uncontrollable place and everyone is operating with their own set of mental programs.
Finally, I can look for and act upon the belief that I do matter. With that belief running in my mental model, I will attract people and situations that genuinely value me and vice versa, leading to fewer mismatches and misunderstandings. This is how we change our reality—from the inner to the outer. We get to the inner through curious questioning and a willingness to change.
Where are you ready to grow and change?