Dealing with Disappointment

Dealing with Disappointment

 

It seems that is a common theme these days.

Plans are made, an interruption strikes, and disappointment enters.

 

A relationship doesn’t work out the way we hoped it would, a job doesn’t turn out how we thought, plans we were looking forward to are cancelled.

The day becomes entrenched in it, the weekend overcome by it. 

 

 

 

However, we often give away so much of our power to disappointment.

What would happen if we viewed the impact of the disappointment differently?

Notice I didn’t say “view the disappointment differently”. This is not a post on maintaining only positive thoughts and ignoring sadness. In order to feel happiness, we have to also feel the other emotions, including sadness. We can’t push down one without pushing down them all. 

So yes, it is okay to be sad when something we were hoping for doesn’t work out. It is okay to be disappointed when we were really excited for something to happen.

The key is how do we allow the disappointment to impact us.

Part of casting off the lie of powerlessness is not allowing external factors to control us.

Yes, external factors will impact all of us. However, we get to control our mindset, our hope, and how we respond.

So after feeling the disappointment, where do we go from there? Here are two key questions:

 

Can I flow with the change? – Similar to waves coming onto a beach. If we stand against the wave, it crashes against us. If we go with the wave, it takes us right back to shore. With disappointment, can we flow with the emotions then adjust our mindsets?

Often, when we hold our lives, plans, and ideas with tight fists, any slight adjustment will send us spiraling. The key is to hold our plans and relationships with a dose of both hope and reality. Hope that things will progress a certain way, but also reality in realizing the world we live in and that plans can change.*

 

How do we adjust our mindset? – Let’s say plans are cancelled because you were exposed to covid (again). You now have more free time on your hands than you did before. How do you view that time? Do you allow it to be overcome by the disappointment or do you find ways to still live? This could look like reading a good book, maybe taking a much needed rest, or deep cleaning that space in the house that you’ve been avoiding.

In therapy terms, this is called “reframing”. It is this concept of taking the same picture (ex. the exposure) and putting a new frame around it. It does not negate what has happened or take away the frustration, sadness, or disappointment. However, it does change how we view the picture.

For your disappointment, what is a possible reframe?

 

*Idea of holding hope and reality together came from a book called, People Can’t Drive You Crazy If You Don’t Give Them The Keys by Mike Bechtle. 

Surviving the Unknown

It took me a while to figure out how to begin this post.

So much has occurred in the previous weeks (years, really) that cannot be put into words.

The grief that has entered people’s lives, the chaos in the world today, and the fires that never seem to end. 

There have been so many “once in a lifetime” occurrences that I’ve lost track.

However, here is the dilemma : if we want to survive this, we have to find a way to survive. In other words, we have to find ways to take care of ourselves.

But if you’re anything like me right now, just being told to engage in self care is exhausting. It’s another to do list that I have no energy for, and frankly, don’t want to spend energy on.

So where do we go from here?

Below are three simple ideas that can maybe provide some encouragement during this time that take no energy to do at all

Comfort Corner : This one is my favorite. The whole premise is to find a place to de-stress. It doesn’t matter if it is a corner in your room, a seat in your car, or a place in nature. The goal is to have a place that is specifically used for receiving comfort and de-stressing. This way, whenever you go there, your body will actually begin to relax. Our director, Andrea, is doing a special Instagram Live on the Comfort Corner this week. You can visit our Instagram page to watch the video on more ways to do this, and other creative ideas. (My area that I go to currently has chocolate and cookies in it. I’ve prepped that area well.)

 

Drop the phone : Overstimulation is real. Our bodies were not created to take in coverage from the entire world non-stop everyday. The threat response systems in us are extremely sensitive to any possible threat, and that includes news coverage. Since it is also important to know what is going on outside of our immediate circles, maybe practice spacing out the times you are on social media or watching the news. For those born before the 2000’s, you probably remember how the news used to only come on at 5 pm. That’s when we would receive our daily updates for everything going on. Now, we are bombarded with information 24/7, most of it not comforting. So find times that work with your schedule – where there is an intentional time of gathering information and then a break to allow your body to regulate. 

*For those who want to really be challenged, try spending an hour (or even a full day) without your phone. Really allow your body to detox from the information overload it may have been experiencing. 

 

Release the shame : We live in a culture that is highly focused on performance. Not surprisingly, this has seeped into our view on taking care of ourselves as well. Now, we feel ashamed for “not doing enough” to take care of ourselves or those in our families who rely on us for provision and answers. Here is the truth though: you won’t have all of the answers and know exactly what to do every time. There will be days that getting out of bed is hard. There will be days that realizing you are awake and still here that are even harder. Give yourself permission to release the shame telling you that something is wrong with you or that you have failed. Physically push the shame off of your body. Like right now – physically push it off as you take a deep breath. As you inhale, imagine gathering the shame. Then as you exhale, imagine releasing the shame from your body.

As we continue this journey together over the coming weeks, I encourage you to form a mental mantra that you can repeat when you feel yourself getting burned out, exhausted, or just about to explode. 

For the end of this blog post, let’s practice one together. I placed the statements next to either “inhale” or “exhale”. As you breathe in or out, I encourage you to say those statements and allow your body to rest in them. I received this idea from an Instagram account called blackliturgies. Each post is powerfully written.

Inhale: I am still here.

Exhale: There is always hope.

Grief – The land between…

Do you wish there was an instant switch from insight to doing life differently? 

Have you ever been stuck in the transition between dysfunction and learning how to live in a new way? 

Back in 2015, I heard Jeff Manion speak on his new book, The Land Between.  I purchased the book at that conference and have referred to his thoughts many times since as I have passed through various transitions.  In therapy at Phenix, we walk our clients through a grieving process after we have deconstructed their story.  As I would explain the process to my clients, I caught myself using that phrase, “the land between” to help them understand where they are in the process.  It finally occurred to me to return to Jeff’s material to see if there were any specific concepts that I could adapt specifically to this grieving process.

Jeff uses the bible story of the Israelites leaving Egypt and the time they spent in the wilderness as the metaphor for his book.  Often, clients come to us because they are ready to leave their Egypt.  As we unpack the story of how they got there, they become more and more convinced that they are done with the dysfunctions of their past.  Treatment planning involves painting the picture of their “promised land” where healthy relationships, living in their calling, pursuing a career they love, intimacy with God, healed mental struggles, strong emotion management or physical ease reigns.  Problem is, a vast wilderness exists between Egypt and the Promised Land and the journey is not linear!

Not only do we need to learn the skills required to thrive in the promised land, we first need to release the waste products of our Egypt.  That is grieving.  The wilderness is necessary.  It is the place we shed our identity as slaves to our family of origin and position ourselves to live as our true selves.  Just like the Israelites…if we skip over the process, we may find ourselves languishing in the wilderness far longer than needed.  As much as grief sounds like the root canal we want to avoid, sustainable living in the promised land demands we move through it.  So, buckle up and let’s review some guiding principles for the journey:

  • Our season of grief is fertile soil for meltdown.  It is likely the main reason why most of us avoid it.  The thought of allowing emotions to emerge can feel too intimidating:  What do we do with the emotions we experience?  What will happen if I express them?  What if they consume me and I can’t function?  Those are the concerns we face together and we equip you with the tools you will need to sit with and actually benefit from, your emotions.
  • Grief is also fertile soil for complaint.  Let’s define that term.  It is not lament – which is pouring out our heart’s emotions.  Complaint is judgement against God, it is implying (or flat out stating), that we were/are better off without God.  Thankfully, God is strong enough to handle our complaints and we specifically hold space for that in therapy if desired.  For those who don’t subscribe to a Higher Power, it is judgment against life itself and the order of things – however we make sense of it.  Complaint resists eviction which is why most of us require assistance for moving it out.
  • Opening hands to release the past makes space for provision.  In therapy, provision looks like mental and emotional space for the new story.  It looks like the skills and mindset needed to enter the promised land.  As we release the self criticism, bitterness, fear and guilt of our old story, provision can look like contentment and strength.
  • Our informed consent disclosure details the risks of therapy – that classic dilemma of, “be careful what you ask for”.  One of those risks is the fact that grieving reveals our own shadow selves, inviting discipline in those areas.  This is often a painful process but it is also a rescue mission, a course correction that calibrates our compass toward our true selves…our purpose.
  • The hope of grief work is transformational growth.  It is the soil God uses to grow the things our hearts desire.  Grieving is the soil for learning to trust because trust is required for thriving in the promised land.  Trust of self, trust of healthy others, trust of God.  Trust pushes out complaint.  It evicts the lifestyle of victimhood.

So whether you need to grieve a death or the losses you’ve identified in therapy, don’t skip the process.  Seek out a wilderness guide (counselor) to help you make the most of the journey.  If you live anywhere in FL, reach out to us!

Mourning

 

I’ve often described it like standing on the sea shore.  At first, the water is stormy and I’m regularly knocked down by an incoming wave that overwhelms me.  I find myself swallowing a lot of salt water.  Slowly (over years), the water calms down a little.  The waves aren’t as huge.  I’ve developed a strategy for bracing myself.  They start coming in less frequently and I either handle the occasional wave like a champ or I get rusty and am surprisingly flattened by the next one.  There’s no rhyme or reason to which way it goes.  Perhaps it is a reflection of the context of my life – what else is going on, the level of emotional reserve I have in the tank when the wave comes.  This is what grieving feels like to me and when I’ve shared this metaphor with others on the path, they nod knowingly.

That’s not the way our culture portrays it though.  Typically, grief is shown as this linear journey which has as it’s goal – “getting back on the horse” or some similar cliche.  You feel terrible at first.  You’re allowed to have a few good cries but then you’re supposed to start sucking it up and finding something to do with yourself so that you can “get on with your life”.  You can talk about your loss for a week or three but after that – folks squirm, look uncomfortable and try to redirect the conversation to more positive topics in an effort to rescue you from your pain.  This leaves many feeling as though something is terribly wrong with them.  They go into protection mode for their loved ones…not wanting anyone to be worried – effectively painting themselves into a corner of truncated grief.

My grieving path began with the loss of my adoptive mother.  Eighteen years later, I lost my adult daughter.  A little over a week ago, I lost my cousin who was more like a big sister to me.  There have been other losses in between but those are the big kahunas.  I have found one of the most important aspects of healthy grieving is the space and time to tell stories.  I am incredibly blessed with a family that loves to sit around and tell stories about our departed loved ones.  Tears (even years after the loss) are totally accepted.  I speak about my daughter in every aspect of my life.  One of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received is when someone said they felt like they knew her based on how much I incorporate her into my conversation.  I have found that when I make it an open part of who I am, the people around me come along for the ride.  They are comforted that the subject is not taboo – they don’t have to tiptoe around it.  While our culture defaults to silence, I find that most individuals are terribly relieved when transparency is modeled.

Obviously, this topic is fresh on my mind this week and as I ponder my own path, I’m more aware of the grieving of others…The difficulty we face in this culture of doing it well.  My passion for walking this path with others and my recognition of the work as sacred is renewed.  Grieving isn’t just about the death of a loved one.  It can be the death of a relationship, of a dream, of a life stage.  Such passages are significant losses that must be acknowledged and processed if we are to glean all that it has to teach us and to move forward in good health.  I encourage you to embrace this process and enlist a wilderness guide to walk with you!