Disappointment: Do You Handle It or Does It Handle You?

Harriet Hodgson

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Disappointment is always painful. Though you recovered from childhood disappointments quickly, you may not recover from adult ones as quickly. Adult disappointments - missing a promotion, teens on drugs, a pending divorce - are serious things. Rebounding from disappointments like these takes time and effort. Where do you start?

THINK POSITIVELY. When you are disappointed it is easy to slip into “All-or-Nothing Thinking. " David D. Burns, MD describes this thinking in his best-selling book, “Feeling Good. " According to Burns “All-or-Nothing Thinking" is a mental distortion and you tend to see things in “black-or-white categories. " A small setback can make you feel like a total failure.

You are not a failure, you are overcome with disappointment. The good news is that you can turn “All-or-Nothing Thinking" around. When you have a negative thought, such as “I could have done more, " Burns says you replace it with a positive one. Your positive thought may be “I worked hard and did my best. " Thought by thought, you get your mind back on a positive track.

KNOW YOUR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES. Daniel Goleman, author of “Working With Emotional Intelligence, " thinks we need to see ourselves realistically in order to move forward. We need to face the “make or break moments" in our lives, Goleman says, and the people who do this know their strengths and weaknesses. These people learn from experience, are open to new ideas, continue to learn and develop, and can laugh at themselves.

So look for the laughter in the darkness of your disappointment. Laughter is energizing and, after you have enjoyed a laugh, consider your strengths and weaknesses. A former employer and family members can help you with this. List your strengths on paper and how they could work to your advantage. This process shifts your thinking from the past to the future.

DO SOME SOUL-SEARCHING. Business owner and author Harvey Mackay ("Swim With the Sharks") sees disappointment as an opportunity for soul-searching. This soul-sourching can lead to better things. In his article, “Disappointment is Opportunity in Disguise, " Mackay says you can't let disappointment get in the way of progress. “It's time to quit being disappointed and recognize that you might have to jump to another lily pad, " he writes. You may have to sharpen your skills to get there.

GET NEW SKILLS. New skills lead to new things and Barbara's story illustrates this. Barbara, an engineer and production specialist, had worked at a small manufacturing company for just over a year when she was downsized. Many other employees were downsized with her. The layoffs occurred after the parent company (in another country) took a large account away from the subsidiary company and its profits fell. Because a foreign country was involved Barbara qualified for NAFTA funding. She used this funding to pay for her MBA. Today, Barbara is a production supervisor for a huge manufacturing company.

You can grow from disappointment. Get new skills, do some soul-searching, know your strengths and weaknesses, and learn to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Life has many disappointments and these steps will help you to handle them.

Copyright 2007 by Harriet Hodgson


Harriet Hodgson has been a freelance nonfiction writer for 28 years. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and the Association for Death Education and Counsling. Her 24th book, “Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief, " written with Lois Krahn, MD, is available from http//:http://www.amazon.com . A five-star review of the book is posted on Amazon. You will find another review on the American Hospice Foundation Web site under the “School Corner" heading.


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