Disappointment happens to us all the time. Those of us who have BPD it seem to feel its sting more profoundly than others. How you deal with disappointment when you have BPD is very important and will, ultimately, determine your future outcome.
Nobody likes to be disappointed and most of us will go to great lengths to avoid it. One of the best ways to avoid being overly disappointed is to adjust your level of expectations. We all have expectations. It’s normal but if you are a person who tends to put all your eggs into one basket you are setting yourself up for a basket full of heartache. For those of us with BPD, our level of expectations and the subsequent disappointment we feel when they are not met are usually rooted in childhood. If you had a parent who used to promise you the moon but never delivered, you will most likely turn into an adult who feels very angry whenever you are disappointed. Completely understandable reaction. But how do you deal with the emotional fallout from those feelings?
Disappointment can be a tricky emotion for most us because we are uncomfortable with it and most of us don’t want to even acknowledge it when we feel disappointed. Many of us can’t even name the emotion but only recognize the resulting anger response it triggers in us. But, it’s important to learn how to deal with disappointment because we live with it every single day.
Sometimes disappointment comes in waves, sometimes it is life changing. But, like most other stressors, how you choose to deal with disappointment will have a great impact on your BPD and whether or not you are able to put it into remission.
There are several crucial steps when it comes to dealing with disappointment effectively in a way so that it doesn’t derail you or have a huge negative impact on your life.
First of all, you are allowed to wallow and feel sorry for yourself. Yes, you read that correctly. If you allow yourself to feel the feeling but don’t allow yourself to get stuck there, you will be able to process your disappointment better. So, let the news resonate in you for a while. Acknowledge it without making a judgment about it. Say why you feel disappointed to yourself. Say what you wish could have happened instead. Attach feeling words to it like resentment, or afraid. Going through this exercise will help you figure out your next steps.
Next give yourself a reality check by asking yourself “How bad is it really?” Do an honest, objective assessment of the situation. Was it really and truly the most horrible thing that has happened to you in the past six months? Really? If not, put it into perspective. Doing this will help you separate fact from fiction and keep you from catastrophizing the situation.
Take steps to keep yourself from stewing in your negativity. Reading some positive affirmations goes a long way with this part. Negativity has a way of “growing legs” and takes on a life of is own if left to fester. Don’t go there and stay in that headspace.Deal with any residual anxiety you may be experiencing. How? Meditate for a while or listen to some soothing music. In other words, practice DBT distress reduction techniques.
Yes, indulge yourself. Light some candles and get into the tub with a glass of wine and your favorite book. Stay there for as long as you need to help yourself calm down. The feelings will pass. They always do.
One of the most important parts of dealing with disappointment is to grow a thicker skin. In other words, if the other person in your life is “always hitting below the belt” then perhaps you are wearing the belt too high. A lot of us do this whether or not we have BPD. We take things way too seriously. So lighten up a little bit and give the people you love some leeway to make mistakes and be human.
Be careful about how much you share with others when you are feeling disappointed. This is because doing this kind of thing also takes on a life of its own. Have you ever noticed that divorce seems to be “catching” in some social circles? I believe this phenomenon occurs because people overshare their unhappiness with their friends and that breeds unhappiness with their close friends. If you have a friend who does this to you, be careful what you share with him or her.
Journaling about it is also another way to process disappointment. Journaling can help in many situations because it gives you some distance from the feelings. It gives you space. When you journal don’t edit yourself. Just write as honestly as you can, giving voice to your feelings as honestly as possible. Many people find this helpful because their journals are non-judgmental places where they can express their deepest concerns, worries and fears. As journal is a good place to talk about your disappointment as well.
Practicing radical acceptance is the best way for me to deal with my disappointments. Of all the DBT skills I learned, radical acceptance was the most difficult to learn but it has proven to be the one which has helped me the most. I highly recommend it if disappointment is something you struggle with. As Dr. Marsha Linehan says, “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” The choice is yours.