You can’t always get what you want.
But if you try sometimes,
well you just might find,
you get what you need.
Have you always gotten everything you’ve ever wanted? No? Well you’re in good company. We can all understand the Rolling Stones lyrics above because we’ve all experienced dissappointment. We all run into situations where we want one thing, but get quite the opposite.
As some of my readers may have noticed, last week my August 26th newsletter went out….a week and a half late. I was going on vacation the last week of August, and had written up my blog post and prepped the newsletter but then forgot to send it out. I was really upset when I got home and discovered my mistake. And so let me now reveal the three steps I went through to overcome my disappointment.
You may think that my example is a small issue, but these steps can be useful from very small disappointments to very big ones. The three steps to overcoming disappointment are 1) be present with your feelings, 2) accept your needs which aren’t being met in the moment, and 3) try to find some other way to get your needs met. It sounds very simple, and yet this can be very hard since you often don’t want to feel the unpleasant emotions and you get stuck “wishing the past was different”.
First, be present with your feelings. When events don’t go the way you wanted them to, you experience negative emotions. But you probably don’t really enjoy feeling sad, scared, angry, disappointed, or dejected. And so you resist them. Instead you’ll distract yourself by trying to forget about it, or ignore that anything happened, or you’ll blame someone else or the world, or you’ll attack yourself, or if the feelings are so overwhelming you may even use substances like alcohol to avoid these uncomfortable feelings.
When I discovered the forgotten newsletter the way I tried to avoid feeling my anxiety and disappointment was by sending it out immediately. By doing that my mind could try to trick me “there, see now its done”. And then I added a dose of “I can’t believe I forgot, how stupid of me” to really try and seal the deal on these pesky emotions. But honestly I still felt upset about the newsletter not going out on time. And if I didn’t eventually allow myself to be present with those feelings I would have gone through the whole day being grumpy “for no reason”. When I realized that I was trying to avoid my feelings of disappointment and anxiety I stopped, sat down, and just let myself feel those things
And after you’re present with your feelings then you can accept what’s happened. After you allow yourself to really feel your emotions, they tend to subside. As you open yourself up to your emotions in a moment they initially seem to get more and more intense. But then you’ll notice that they peak and then subside. And once they start to fade you’ll discover what’s really bothering you. So for me once I let myself sink into my chair and feel glum for a minute or two the feelings of anxiety and disappointment subsided. And suddently my mind was cleared up to ask myself “why does this really bother me?” The answer was that missing my deadline meant I wasn’t as consistent, effective, or in integrity with my values as I would have liked. Those were my unmet needs.
Finally, once you’ve accepted the needs that were not met in whatever your situation is, you’ll then become freed up to find ways of getting those needs met elsewhere. You can get so hung up on wishing the past was different that you never move on. ”But I wanted my newsletter to go out on time!” However, when you accept the unmet needs then you can look and see how you can get those needs met going forward. For me that looked like: “well, if I write a blog post about my mistake I’ll have more integrity with myself. And as long as I get the next newsletter out on time I’ll have that consistency back and effectiveness.”
So as a final recap, the three steps to overcoming disappointment are to 1) be present with your feelings, 2) accept the unment needs, and 3) find a way to meet those needs in the present or in future moments.
KindCommunication.org is a project by a close friend of Wiki World Order, Alex Leach. WWO fully supports the study, practice, and teaching of non-violent communication as one of the core solutions which already exists.