The Art of Handling Disappointment

How do you handle disappointment?

Disappointment in life happens to be one of those things we like to avoid at all costs.

The emotional feeling of disappointment is a feeling we’d be very happy to never have to experience again.

Sometimes we can get so excited and worked up over something that we really want to happen only to have it blow up in our face and fail miserably to work out the way we hoped.

I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s not a pleasant experience and it can leave you feeling powerless and helpless over the results in your life.

But the fact is disappointment is an unavoidable life experience.

Even if you’re the calmest, most patient person in the world, you’ll inevitably have to deal with disappointment from time to time in your life.
So how can we learn to deal with it in a way that helps us to feel more empowered, instead of feeling hopeless and distraught?

Well I think we need to take a step back and look at it from the outside to get a better perspective.

Something seemingly positive had the potential to happen that didn’t happen, and because it didn’t happen we felt disappointed and helpless about it not happening.

So when we look at it from the outside, what is disappointment?

It’s our own emotional reaction to an event or circumstance that didn’t happen the way we expected.

So what does this mean?

Well it means that disappointment is an internal, self created experience and not an external thing affecting us from the outside, even though it seems that way.

We create it within ourselves by how we are choosing to think about the situation.

Our thoughts of disappointment and hopelessness about the situation create the feeling of disappointment.

The reason we have such a strong aversion to disappointment is because as children we experienced it very strongly many times over.

Every time we didn’t get what we wanted we felt helpless, confused and powerless, and that’s why those same feelings seem to happen automatically whenever we don’t get what we think we really want and that creates the experience of disappointment.

So it’s the revisited memory of those past feelings of helplessness, confusion and powerlessness from when we were children that creates our disappointment.

So then really it’s a child’s reaction, not an adult’s.

We feel disappointment because we believe that we can’t do without whatever it was we were hoping to happen.

But we were already doing just fine without it, it was only until we started believing that we needed it to happen the problem was created.

It was our attachment to the outcome that caused the problem, not the outcome itself.

If we hadn’t have been attached to the outcome, we wouldn’t have felt so disappointed when it didn’t happen the way we wanted.

So what’s the answer to all this??

How do we crack the disappointment code? Simple, by creating objective indifference to things working out the way we want.

Disappointment only comes from being too attached to getting what we want, so in order to overcome it we need to be indifferent towards getting what we want.
Sometimes we use getting what we want as a tool of escapism, thinking that if we get it our life will change for the better.

But what we’re really doing is resisting things the way they are, and that can only ever bring us more of things the way they are.

So we need to accept things the way they are, be grateful for all the good in our lives (you can’t be grateful and disappointed at the same time), be indifferent about getting what what we want while at the same time being grateful for the possibility of getting it.

And if we don’t get it, we accept it and move on in the faith that something bigger and better will eventually come along.

Take a look back on your life to all the apparent failures and adversities you’ve ever had and then look at all the good things that eventually happened to you because of them.

If you look hard enough you will find that something bigger and better always happens eventually because of apparent failure and disappointment.

So maybe the experience of disappointment is just the universe showing us a better way.

And if we developed that as a belief, we would never be disappointed again.

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Death – An Objective Look

One of my brothers friends passed away this weekend.

He was in a car crash.

I won’t go into the details of what happened but it got me thinking about the objective truth of death and why we have such a hard time coming to terms with it.

In our society, the philosophical concept of death is something that’s really swept under the rug.

In other words, we only contemplate the meaning of death when we have to, when we’re directly affected by it.

We see the superficial aspects of it all the time in movies and t.v. shows; but when something happens to someone we know or know of, we’re suddenly thrown into an dark abyss of thoughts and questions about the meaning of life and the inevitability of our own death, as well as thoughts and concerns about those close to us.

In our everyday lives, death is the very last thing we want to think about.

Even writing this now, I feel a compulsive need to stop and just get on with my life; but I really think death is something we all need to come to terms with in some way or another.

The fact is; we can only ever leave this world through death.

That’s it, there’s no other way for us to leave.

That’s a scary thought isn’t it?

Or is it?

Every night when we fall asleep, we leave this world behind.

How could death be any different?

Do you ever remember your everyday life when you fall asleep?

Does it ever bother you that you don’t remember?

How can you miss something that you’re not conciously aware of?

Why are we so afraid of death anyway?

What is it that we’re actually afraid of?

Do we even know?

Have we ever really thought about it?

What if there’s nothing to be afraid of?

The only reason we’re afraid of dying is because we don’t know what’s going to happen to us when we die.

But if you look back on your life to all the things you were afraid of when you were young because you didn’t know what they were; eventually when you learned the truth about them, you stopped being afraid.

Might death not be the same thing?

Maybe death is a realisation.

A realisation of truth.

A realisation of love.

A realisation of home.

Maybe our negative perception of death is all wrong because we can only see it from one side, our side.

Maybe it’s a necessary stage in our spiritual evolution.

Maybe it’s the contrast that we need in order to appreciate the true value of life.

Objectively, we don’t really know what death is; so ultimately it’s not death that we’re afraid of, it’s our concept of death that we’re afraid of.

But that concept is our own creation.

Even to this day there are ancient cultures around the world that celebrate death, and accept it as a natural part of life.

They consider birth and death as doors into and out of this physical plane of existence. Kind of makes sense if you think about it.

I recently saw a quote that said ” We are not human beings on a spiritual journey, we are spiritual beings on a human journey.”

I don’t know about you, but when I saw that quote there was something inside of me that really resonated with it.

Kind of like my soul or spirit was in agreement.

I love it when stuff like that happens, it’s almost like spiritual deja vu.

So maybe death is just the doorway back to wherever we came from, maybe it’s just a shift in our consciousness from this physical plane back to the non-physical.

Whatever it is, it’s a necessary something that allows life to be.

Everything in the universe has an opposite, and without death there could be no life.

I think the best thing we can do with death is; instead of fearing it, commit to use it as a contrast to appreciate the fragile value of life, and to treat life as the truly fragile and valuable thing that it is and never take it for granted or complain that it’s not good enough.

That saying “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone” is never any clearer than when contemplating the loss of life.

But I think if we could live our lives through that realisation, our world would be a much brighter place.

Life is what you make of it, and in this context so is death.

So I think we can use death to live life more consciously and appreciate it all the more. Most people take their lives for granted in one way or another, myself included.

But if we can remind ourselves just how lucky we are to be here and enjoy it while we are, then we can give life the respect it deserves by being grateful and living it to it’s fullest, the way it was meant to be lived.

Conditioned Responses

I want to talk today about conditioned responses.

Conditioned responses are the emotional reactions that we seem to automatically feel when experiencing an external event or situation.

The amazing thing about conditioned responses is that they are based on a subjective perception of reality.

What I mean by this is that 2 people can be faced with exactly the same situation but react to it in a totally different way.

Have you ever wondered why that is?

And which person is right?

They both believe how they see it is right but who actually is?

Neither, Or Both.

It depends on which way you choose to look at it.

The most obvious example is being “stuck” in traffic: One person will be complaining and getting really stressed out resisting the situation saying to themselvesĀ something like “This shouldn’t be happening to me” or “This always happens to me when I’m in a hurry”.

This person is clearly playing a victim role and denying the present moment by resisting it.

The situation is what it is but they make it so much worse for themselves by the way they have unknowingly conditioned themselves to respond to it.

Yes, that’s right.

They may have learned how to react by society or other people but ultimately they are the ones who choose to respond this way, the only reason it seems automatic is because it has become habitual for them.

Think about it, do you think the first time that person was in a car in traffic they reacted that way?

No, they didn’t.

But somewhere along the course of their life they adopted this behaviour from observing it as normal and then made it into a habit that became automatic.

Now take another person faced with the exact same situation who has more awareness and has trained themselves to observe reality more objectively.

If they were “stuck” in traffic they would probably say something to themselves like “Ok, I’m waiting in traffic.

It’s not the end of the world.

I’ll get there when I get there.

The situation is what it is so there’s no point in getting stressed out, instead I’m just gonna relax and enjoy the free time I have to gather my thoughts and plan what I’m going to do when I get there”.

Isn’t that a much more beneficial way to react to being stuck in traffic?

Of course it is.

Some people might say “Well that’s just the way I am, that’s how I react to being stuck in traffic.

It’s perfectly normal, plenty of people react in the same way”.

Ok, it may be generally perceived as normal to behave that way but does it do you any good?

No, it doesn’t, and if you were honest with yourself is that really the way you would want to be if you had a choice?

Probably not, why would you choose stress over relaxation?

Exactly, but most people do it all the time without even realising.

You say that’s the way you are, but it’s not the way you are it’s the way you’ve learned to react to that specific situation.

But you do have a choice and you can learn a more beneficial way.

If someone tells you a lie and you believe it and then one day you find out it isn’t true, do you still believe it?

No, of course not.

It’s the same thing.

Just because you believe that this is the right way to react doesn’t mean its true.

Objectively, the right way to react would be one that benefits you instead of harms you.

The fact is stress is very bad for your health.

It causes high surges of adrenaline and cortisol to flow through your system which creates anxiety and high blood pressure which can eventually lead to a heart attack.

The incredible thing is that this health hazard can be avoided by becoming more aware of how you react in certain situations that seem to cause you stress and by changing how you talk to yourself about them.

Learn to give those situations a different meaning, one that doesn’t victimise you.

Avoid thinking things like “Things like this always happen to me” or “Nothing ever goes right for me”, these generalised statements can be very problematic to the way you perceive the world because they become self fulfulling prophecies and a core part of your belief system which then cripples your happiness and sense of self worth.

Anytime you place blame on something outside of yourself you are automatically assuming the role of a victim and this habit can make life very difficult.

So anytime you catch yourself complaining ask yourself “Do I really want to be a victim of my own viewpoint?”.

If you ask yourself this question, you will undoubtedly answer “No”.

This is where you will have taken the first step in empowering yourself in the situation.

The next question to ask yourself is “How can I change my viewpoint to one that empowers me and what meaning can I give to this situation to help me in doing so?”

So for example if somebody glares at you walking down the street, instead of thinking “What’s his problem?” or “He doesn’t like me” you can think “He must be having a bad day today and he just happened to look in my direction” or “Wow, it must be hard work holding that front up against the world all day long, it’s a shame heĀ feels the need to do that” or something along those lines.

Again, objective reality is still the same, you saw someone looking in your direction with an irritated expression on their face but how you interpret it makes all the difference in how it will affect you, if at all.

I remember a time when I would have been extremely offended and phased by someone supposedly giving me a dirty look but now I just say to myself “There could be an infinite number of reasons for that event so why bother looking for one?”

And then I just get on with my day like it never happened, whereas before I used to spend the next few hours ruminating over it and trying to figure out a reason why.

The only thing that’s changed in that situation is my perception, but that’s all the change I needed to be free from my own habitual victim mentality.

And that’s all anyone needs to empower themselves in those types of situations.

Until next time, stay conscious.

A little note on Adversity

I’ve been on an incredible journey of self discovery for the past few years.

Even though it’s been a relatively short time, deep down I’ve always known myself as spiritual even though I wasn’t aware of it intellectually.

When I was a teenager I was very sensitive and introvert, I was very depressed much of the time and sometimes I used to stare up at the stars at night and think to myself “there has to be more to life than this, there has to be”.

I didn’t know it at the time but I was referring to mediocrity and my mind made subjective reality that I had come to accept as truth.

It’s incredible to look back on your life to a time when you were really down and see it in hindsight.

When we’re experiencing it, we really believe that the way we see things is the way they are, but when we look back often times we discover that it wasn’t at all.

Anytime I think back to a perceived bad time, I often catch myself saying “If I knew then what I know now…..”

But the truth is I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t for those seemingly difficult times.

Adversity always provides insight eventually.

Those bad times forced me to look inside myself, and it was in doing so that I began to find answers.

The introspective process is an incredible thing as long as you know how to use it to your advantage.

Instead of asking yourself “Why are things this way?”, ask yourself “What do I need to do to change them?”.

Instead of looking for a meaning in the problem, look for a solution outside it.

Einstein said “You can’t solve a problem at the level of consciousness it occurred”.

So asking the second question gives you more choice in the situation and forces you to look for a way out of it, instead of a meaning or justification for it.

Nothing has any meaning except for the meaning you give it, so you may as well give meanings that empower you.

Objectively, reality is the same anyway because the event is still the event, only your perception of it is now different, which changes your experience of it and ultimately how you feel about it.

If you train yourself to give the most beneficial meaning to every event, it will make life so much more rewarding for you.

You will then realise that you really are the only person who controls how you interpret things, and that is a realisation that will change your life for the better.