November 2018 

Disappointment ~ it can happen to anyone at any time; no one is immune. From early childhood and on through life all of us will experience disappointment at some point.

The Merriam-Webster definition of disappointment is “unhappiness from the failure of something hoped for or expected to happen.”

The disappointment might be caused by an action or inaction of someone else or from your own inability to achieve something. Disappointment can be about something minor that is soon forgotten or it can be something major that impacts significantly. What might seem like a minor incident to one can be life-changing for someone else.

How greatly something affects us will depend on a number of things.

  • Temperament or personality: all temperaments respond differently to situations; some are more sensitive than others.
  • Desire: how deeply something is wanted will correspond with the feelings of loss when it doesn’t happen.
  • Expectations: when something is thought to be likely to happen as opposed to being a possibility.
  • Recurrence: when someone experiences disappointment after disappointment.

In this blog we will look at the effects major disappointments can have on us. A false message can rise out of the disappointment and attach itself to our belief system. This false message will skew our beliefs about ourselves, other people, and life which in turn alters how we think, feel, and behave. (see Custom Counselling’s previous blogs on The Life Experience Chain ~ November 2016 – April 2018). Because this blog is focusing on the disappointments that have caused an unbalanced life view, I will call the result a wound.

Some of the false beliefs arising from this wound might be:

  • You’re not important
  • Love isn’t possible.
  • No one wants to be bothered
  • Eventually people fail you
  • Don’t expect too much
  • Life is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Possible results from these wounds are:

  • Become disillusioned and give up or limit desires.
  • Become resigned and decide not to enjoy anything too much.
  • Hide or “disappear” from life’s activities
  • Turn to comforters: alcohol/drugs, work, food, sexual activity, hobbies, fantasy
  • Overcompensate by trying to look/sound important and successful.
  • Become bitter and complaining.
  • Become harsh and demanding.
  • Become depressed and self-destructive.


Healing the Wounds of Disappointment

A disappointment occurring in the present, perhaps even what would be considered  minor or insignificant, can be a trigger from a disappointment from the past. When looking at the dynamics of the present disappointment, it is prudent to see if there is a connection to a previous one. (see Custom Counselling’s blog on Triggers (November and December 2017).

I like using the analogy of a physical wound. Physical wounds can get infected if they have not been properly cleaned out. The wound needs to be reopened, all the gunk that has caused the infection cleaned out, and then the wound can heal properly. There will always be a scar there but the wound is clean.

So it is with emotional and spiritual wounds. If not “cleaned out” they can cause “infection” in our lives. It infects our beliefs about ourselves, other people, and about life in general. It then infects our way of thinking, our choices and decisions, and ultimately our behaviour. The “gunk” that needs to be cleaned out is the anger, bitterness, resentment, and hatred we felt as a result of the abuse or loss (or whatever caused the wound). We need to reopen those wounds by looking at what happened, admitting how that wounded us, and then allowing those memories to heal releasing us from those feelings. The memory will always be there (the scar) but it will no longer be able to “infect” us.

Limiting Future Disappointments

  • Thinking Patterns: We often recognize a feeling before realizing the thought that produced it. Recognize the thinking patterns that lead to despondent feelings and start to change those destructive unhealthy thoughts.
  • Reality: Realize that life will always have disappointments and has nothing to do with you as a person.
  • Expectations: Look at your expectations of yourself and others. Are they realistic or do they need to be modified in some way?
  • Communication: Do you make clear uncomplicated requests or are they vague and undefined? Have you misunderstood what others have said or made assumptions?
  • Perspective: Sometimes a disappointment can make room for something better. See if it can be turned into an opportunity.
  • Move on: don’t dwell on the disappointment. Stop looking or listening to things that remind you of “what might have been”. Have back-up plans.
  • Learn: if an event/situation or person is consistent with disappointment, then look at making changes in regards to that.


By having a healthy belief system in place and dealing with disappointments as they come, you can now prevent future emotional wounds from occurring. May all your disappointments turn into wonderful opportunities.

Judith S. Carscadden