I will disappoint you

 

If we idealize, we’ll sooner or later be disappointed. It’s built into the process.

We may idealize a person, a situation, the past, the future, ourselves in the past or future, God, or something or someone else. It’s often an attempt to find safety somewhere, often outside of ourselves, and to fill a perceived hole in ourselves.

Reality doesn’t live up to our idealizations. And that’s a good thing since disappointment – used wisely – brings us back to ourselves. It helps us notice and take in that we are our own final authority. There is wisdom built into the disappointment, and it’s up to us to notice and make use of it.

Idealization-related disappointment and disillusionment is an invitation for us to notice several things. It’s an invitation to notice that we idealize. When we idealize. That the idealization comes from us and is not inherent in reality. That reality is more messy than the ideas we have about it. That we idealize for a reason, perhaps to find a sense of safety in relying on something outside of ourselves. And that we already are our own final authority, no matter how much we would like to tell ourselves otherwise.

Conversely, if others idealize us, we’ll likely eventually disappoint them. In some situations, it may be good to point that out, especially if this other person is a student or client. We can mention this dynamic before the disappointment happens, and bring attention to how it can be used in a constructive way.

Disappointment

 
Sometimes I look forward to something and it doesn’t happen. I feel disappointed. Sometimes, I even feel heartbroken. I know and sense it’s old and not really about the current situation, and it feels a bit childish to get so disappointed. That may be a reason I haven’t thoroughly looked at this yet. The embarrassment and the thought “it’s childish” serve as gatekeepers for entering and exploring the wound behind it. I recently had this disappointment triggered again. The situation triggering disappointment, what does it say about me? What do I tell myself about me in that situation? 

I am missing out.

I am unloved. I am uncared for.

I am alone.

These thoughts are familiar to me and came easily. I want to see what more is here.

Others have more fun than me. They are enjoying life more than me. They are getting something I am missing out of.

My life is not worth living. It’s hopeless. It will be like this forever. I am unloved by God. I am unloved by life.

This second set of thoughts are also familiar to me, but I hadn’t seen that they were behind this disappointment and the emotions and states that came with it. What’s my earliest memory of feeling so disappointed? 

I am 6-8 years old and in London on vacation with my parents. I am exhausted from a long day walking around in parks and galleries, and I want and am looking forward to my favorite thing which is coca cola in a can. (We didn’t have coke cans in Norway.) The street vendor doesn’t have it, and I am grief-stricken and angry. My parents buy me a souvenir knife (a small folding knife with ivory on it and a picture of a beef eater). I throw it hard at the ground.

If I bring myself back to that situation, what does it say about me?

Life is over. My life has no meaning. I am unloved. I am uncared for. Life is against me.

Seeing these thoughts, I also see that it makes sense I felt the way I did. The sadness, grief, hopelessness, frustration, and anger didn’t make sense in the context of the current triggering situation, but they do in the context of this early situation where I was worn out and had looked forward to one thing that I didn’t get. These thoughts spun around in my mind, and although I was not consciously aware of them I certainly experienced their effects in terms of emotions, moods, and states. As I identified these thoughts and wrote them down, I got to see what created these feelings and states, and I got to see that it all makes sense and that it has to do with early experiences in my life. I got to see the innocence of it all. And there is some relaxing of these dynamics just from identifying the thoughts and seeing the innocence of it. Read More