Dealing with Disappointment
by Earle Donelson, Ph.D.
Samaritan Counseling Center
past October, the Boston Red Sox finally won a World Series
and put an end to 86 years of disappointment. (And,
gratefully, a stop to our having to hear about “The
Curse.”) But amidst the New England team’s joy
and celebration, the St. Louis Cardinals extended their 20+
years of frustration for having missed yet another World
Series victory. One person’s ecstasy often can be another’s
It’s just a part of life. It comes
in all shapes, forms and degrees. It can range from our team’s
losing the “big game” to our not getting the
job/promotion we hoped for. It may signal the end of a marriage,
relationship or friendship. It may be related to your child,
your health, the church, politics, finances or someone’s
behavior. It can involve your dreams, hopes and aspirations
and invade every aspect of life.
work as a therapist, I often hear about disappointment.
I also hear the emotions, feelings or thoughts that go along
with it: sadness, anger, self-doubt, despair, depression,
rejection, hopelessness, dismay, surrender. Disappointment
typically involves some form of loss, rejection, betrayal
and failed expectations, and sometimes self-blame. Depending
on how one feels about it, thinks about it, or reacts to
it, disappointment can have a significant effect on mood,
behavior, self-concept, confidence, outlook, health, relationships… everything.
So how do we deal with this debilitating state of mind?
That depends on the type of disappointment. We can rely
on our family and friends to help us cope, or talk to our
pastor or a therapist to work through our feelings. Numerous
verbal and mental exercises can help address the issues associated
with disappointment--thinking realistically, the use of coping
dialogues, stress and relaxation techniques, meditation and
distraction, among them. Dealing with disappointment may
just take time. Also important are what lessons we learn
from our disappointment.
And of course, our faith is there to sustain us. We can
look to God for guidance, support, answers and relief from
our pain. The Bible, a favorite verse and other spiritually
related material can guide us, and prayer can deliver us.
Many answers can be found in our faith. Through prayer, the
study of scripture and careful discernment, we may find avenues
for navigating through the disappointments that come our
it’s important to realize that our faith
may be a source of our disappointment--that is, when we misuse
faith. We often pray for things to happen, and when they
don’t, our disappointment may deepen. We feel that
God has abandoned us, that God is not listening, or, perhaps,
that God is punishing us for something we’ve done.
Similar to a child asking for gifts from Santa, when our
prayers aren’t answered as we had hope, we begin to
question our beliefs. Although God is not Santa, God does
listen and does answer our prayers, regardless of how things
of “God as Santa” in prayer reminds
me of the words of former President Jimmy Carter, a man of
deep faith and strongly held moral convictions. When asked
if he believed that God answers all our prayers, he smiled
and said, “Of course God answers all prayers. Sometimes
the answer is ‘Yes.’ Sometimes the answer is ‘No.’ And
sometimes the answer is, ‘You’ve got to be kidding
me!’” We have to be willing to understand and
accept that life can have many disappointments, but God and
our faith should not be one. We can always rely on God for
support, love, nurturance, blessings, abundance and guidance.
God will help us deal with disappointment, if we’ll
end, how we face our disappointments, how we think about
them, and more importantly how we utilize our faith
enables us to more effectively deal with life’s shortcomings.
Ironically, it is when we are able to learn from our disappointments
that we are also able to live more fully.