Looking for the Teaching in Disappointment


panda disappointmentEach and every one of us has been disappointed at some point in our lives. Frustration, regret, disillusionment, setback, let down, failure, defeat. Disappointment is part of life, and unless we can find value in life’s disappointments, they can take us down for the count. Then we become hesitant in taking risks, venturing out into new and uncharted waters, or doing much of anything unless we have some fairly soundproof guarantees.  Yet, whether we are able to find value in disappointment or not, the phenomena still hurts. Disappointment can leave us harboring feelings of being lied to, or betrayed, or gypped, or any other such thing that leaves us feeling out of control and at the back and call of the fates.

The beauty is that through disappointment you can gain clarity, and with clarity comes conviction and true originality.”                 Conan O’Brien

Yet, if one is lucky enough to survive disappointment, something happens to you that could never have happened without it. By allowing yourself to just go with it—to go deep into the pain of it—disappointment can have a way of making you more humble, more human, and as a result more compassionate. And the value of that is priceless.

Eventually disappointment can even make a person stronger, more resilient, and more able to take on bigger risks, bigger goals—and all without needing guarantees of safety or success in return. In fact, disappointment is merely a nudging toward a better direction—a clearer vision of what one truly wants to be or hopes to achieve.

Sometimes when you get disappointment it makes you stronger.David Rudisha

It is not easy giving a voice to disappointment because it is usually back loaded with shame. When one feels disappointment at its heaviest, they can be heard to say such things as: “How could I have been so stupid!” “I am such a loser!” of “Everything happens to me!”—which is fine when one is traveling through the deep waters of feeling, but not where one needs to moor their boat. Instead if one can seek out the value of the current disappointment for the gold it may contain, then they can give voice to something transformative such as: “I made a mistake, but better to find out now than later;” “I didn’t do as well as I had hoped, but I think with some education or training I will have more success;” or (as my sister-in-law says with great humor) “I guess this was just another boil on the butt of life!”

One thing I have found is that the more value I place on my disappointments, the more joy I find in my successes and joyful encounters. And by giving voice to the transmutation of these bumps into clumps of gold, I give myself permission to be more accessible and vulnerable as a human being.