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Dr. Lowenstein

Disappointment: How to conquer and reframe it

Your divorce may be over but you could still be experiencing feelings of disappointment that family life didn’t turn out as you hoped it would. The same is true of many things in life. You didn’t get the expected promotion. You weren’t accepted to the college of your choice. Or the pandemic is lasting longer than you ever imagined it could. Disappointment is everywhere, and no one is immune.  

Merriam-Webster defines disappointment as “unhappiness from the failure of something hoped for or expected to happen.” Yet despite how ordinary it is and how often it happens in daily life, some disappointments are easier to get over than others. At the same time, some people are just better at overcoming disappointment than others.

So, how can you learn to conquer disappointment and reframe it for a better, happier life? Let’s take a closer look.

  • Give yourself a reality check. While it’s okay to spend a little time grieving the disappointment, it’s equally important to assess what happened and then move on. Begin by asking yourself if things are really as bad as you might think they are. Perhaps your expectations were out of line to begin with.
  • Change how you talk about it. It’s easy to wallow in your disappointment and act like it’s the worst thing that ever happened. But negative talk—and thoughts—will only make things worse. The sooner you reframe it, the better. Instead, focus on what you will do next and shift to a more positive attitude.  
  • Learn from it. You can transform your disappointment into a lesson that will hopefully make you wiser about what lies ahead. Start by reflecting on what went wrong and try to determine what role you may have played in the outcome. Then take what you’ve learned and use it to grow.
  • Write down how you feel. Recording your thoughts in a journal is a great way to heal, especially when they become unmanageable and start to consume you. Once your thoughts are on paper, it frees your mind up to focus and increases your ability to think more clearly and rationally. While you’re at it, write down all the things you’re thankful for and consider developing a daily gratitude list.
  • Avoid letting your disappointment define you. Surely you’ve been around someone who allows a series of disappointments to become part of their identity. They start to think they’re the problem or that they just have bad luck. A sentiment of doom eventually takes over and before long they view disappointment as inescapable. Keep in mind that disappointment is something that happens. It’s not who you are.
  • Talk it out. As human beings, we survive best with strong relationships to guide us. When things go wrong, it helps to be able to discuss the situation with someone you trust. Ideally, that person should help you put things in perspective and encourage you to move on. When you dwell on your disappointment, you could quickly become angry and resentful—even bitter.
  • Make a plan. Channel your disappointment into self-determination and a plan for better days ahead. You didn’t get that promotion? Maybe it’s time to look for another job or at least talk with your boss about any changes that need to take place. It helps to develop a plan for moving forward, regain your confidence and start setting new goals.

The last couple of years have been an ongoing series of disappointment for many. Now more than ever it’s important to reframe how you will cope with any letdowns and move on with your life. Hopefully these tips will encourage you to start moving in the right direction. So much of what happens in life is about how you respond to it, and an optimistic attitude may be your best defense.

Dr. David Lowenstein is a Columbus, Ohio-based psychologist with more than 35 years of experience. He conducts individual, family, and group therapy sessions in his German Village office and also via telehealth. Dr. Lowenstein is also available for expert forensic testimony, and for educational workshops and presentations. He is frequently called upon as an expert source for print, radio, and broadcast media. Contact Dr. Lowenstein at Lowenstein & Associates, 691 South Fifth Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43206, or call 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.