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Disappointment; The Importance Of Its 'Sting'

16/11/2016 12:51

Disappointment- tastes like a strong whiskey.

I'm talking about the big disappointments, of course. It burns the throat on the way down, sits coiled like a snake in your chest cavity, making for a heavy heart. It certainly leaves a bitter taste in the mouth and depending on how strong the let-down, can be extremely shocking. We've all felt it. Most of us, myself included, have caused it in others.

But who decides what a 'big disappointment' is? Isn't it all subjective?

There are of course levels of disappointment, these would most likely differ for everyone. And it depends what you hold dear as a person, as to why you would feel disappointed in the first place.

For example, a friend letting you down on the day that you were due to have dinner, because she had double booked. That's a shame- disappointing some might say. Or your brother telling you that he can't come for Christmas because this year he needs to go to his husband's family. Fair enough, but disappointing.

I would attribute these types of disappointments to being out of the person's control; so, I would feel disappointed but I wouldn't hold it against them. Attribution Theory at its best!

That being said, bigger disappointment would appear to be attached if we hold the person directly responsible for their action. Humans have a natural bias of attributing other people's behaviour to their personality traits. This is, and where we make fundamental attribution errors, according to the Attribution Theory. What we perceive as their intention- is the reason why we feel upset- because they did what they did regardless of what the consequences would be.

We are more likely to underestimate the significance of the situational causes when it comes to us trying to rationalise other people's behaviour. The consequences in this case being that we are sad, our feelings are hurt, or we are surprised. Yes. Surprised, but not in a good way. Hearing that someone's teenage boy got arrested for stealing from a shop-but he's a straight A student. The disappointment that his family feels is shocking, because it seems so out of character for that boy.

I think back to the times that I've really felt aggrieved. It was usually because it was from the people that I least expected it from. I didn't see it coming. I think the biggest disappointments always come from those that you know. Sure, I've had disappointments that have arisen from situations, bad timing, or simply bad judgement on my own part, but the ones involving other people? Those seem to be what hurt the most.

Some, if not most disappointments I think, are caused unintentionally. We can't please everyone all the time and sometimes you have to put yourself first. We let ourselves off the hook far quicker than we do other people. That damn Fundamental attribution error again! In this case, we tend to overestimate the importance of the situation as a reason for our behaviour. But surely this seems reasonable being that we are in the situation and know more about why we are doing what we are doing? When someone else is doing something, it is them in the situation, not us, so we don't know enough about the situation, which leads us to be bias towards the person themselves... logical? No, not entirely, but how our brain works, none the less. Those pesky brain short cuts. We can be the maker of our own disappointment it seems and not entirely be aware that we are doing it.

Disappointments are inevitable. They are part of life. Some feel worse than others. And how we deal with them varies; we are all vastly different. So when push comes to shove, we have our own personal limits and what we will and won't put up with; what hurts and what we just let roll off our shoulders. We can toughen up, or we can feel the disappointment, deal with it and move on. I vote for the latter- feel the bitter sting. It's a reminder that none of us are perfect. And eventually wears away, to a state of where you either forget about it completely or you learn from it. 'So-and-so let me down, well I won't rely on them again then'...The trick is to not hold grudges. Forgive people. Let them off the hook, when you can. We're all trying here! Key word being 'trying'....

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