“No, Alyssa, you want it, but you do not need it,” I remember saying to my daughter on numerous occasions. There is a huge difference between the things we want and the things we need. We might want that shiny piece of jewelry or the extra big flat screen television, but we don’t need them. We need things like air to breathe, food to eat and clothes to cover our body to protect us from the elements.

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Understanding Disappointment

When we are children, it is sometimes hard to distinguish the difference between wants and needs, but often as adults it is equally difficult because we get caught up in the emotions of the moment. The problems really begin when there is an expectation attached either to our want or need. For example…

  • You need shoes.
  • You want Louis Vuitton pumps for your birthday.
  • You expect your husband to give you Louis Vuitton pumps for your birthday.
  • You’re disappointed because your husband gave you Jessica Simpson pumps for your birthday and you were supposed to get Louis Vuitton pumps.

Of course you’re going to be disappointed! You had it in your mind that you should have Louis Vuitton pumps for your birthday, could have Louis Vuitton pumps for your birthday, and you would have Louis Vuitton pumps for your birthday because your husband loves you.

That kind of thinking sets you up for all kinds of disappointment and hurting.

This is a really important concept and I don’t want to gloss over it, so let’s look at another example that is more relatable for men.

  • You need a better paying job so you can provide for your family.
  • You want the job you just applied for yesterday.
  • You expect that you’re going to be offered the job you just applied for yesterday because you have all the experience they are looking for and you nailed the interview.
  • You’re disappointed because someone else got the job you just applied for yesterday and the company didn’t even have the courtesy to send you a rejection letter.

Your reason for getting a new job is admirable, but you can’t make an employer hire you for that better paying job that you just applied for yesterday and thought was in your pocket.

There’s a similarity between the shoe example and the job example. Did you catch it yet? No? Let me give you one more example and maybe you’ll figure it out this time.

  • You need your partner/spouse to be more romantic.
  • You want your partner/spouse to hold your hand, watch movies together, cuddle on the couch, talk about the activities of the day while sharing dinner and kiss you longer than a sneeze even when they don’t want you to do anything for them.
  • You expect your partner/spouse to know all that you need and want without you ever telling them or initiating any action.
  • You’re disappointed when your partner/spouse is oblivious to your feelings and remains unaffectionate or selfishly affectionate.

Maybe the solution to the problem is just that you need to tell your partner/spouse what you need and want. If your partner/spouse blows you off and continues in their selfish ways, then counseling might help you understand each other better. Of course, I’m assuming that you’re both together because you love each other and part of loving one another is also being sure that you’re taking care of each other.

“It may help us, in those times of trouble, to remember that love is not only about relationship, it is also an affair of the soul.”
~ Thomas Moore ~

I’ve presented you with three examples and although they are very different, all three have one very important element in common.

This is it…

Your expectation, which is the thing you are banking all your emotions on, is inflexible and entirely a wish or dream in your head that includes other people, but takes away their free will by giving you all the control.

I’m not saying that you’re not good enough to own expensive shoes, that you’re not the best candidate for the job, or deserving of romantic unselfish affection, BUT…you can’t control the actions or feelings of another person. When you try to fulfill your need by controlling other people, more times than not, you won’t have your need met in the way that you want or expect. You will face one disappointment after another and most of the time you won’t even recognize that you set the stage to have yourself feeling disappointed.

That’s really deep. Did you catch it?

You will face one disappointment after another and most of the time you won’t even recognize that you set the stage to have yourself feeling disappointed.

Seriously, I didn’t just make this up. Look up the scientific research or go to a therapist and you’ll find that this is solid and sound information. Plus, I’ve had these types of stupid scenarios analyzed in depth over and over and over. Did I just say stupid? Sorry about that, so just delete the word stupid from that sentence and I’ll try again.

Plus, I’ve had these types of scenarios analyzed in depth over and over and over. I had to look at them backwards, forwards and upside down until I finally understood that the only way any of these interactions could end differently was if I changed my attitude, thinking, and my own actions.

Believe me. Those last two sentences may have only taken me a few seconds to type and you a few seconds to read, but they probably cost me about $20,000 and hundreds of thousands of tears. Yes, seriously.

Now the really sad part about all of this for me is that although I understand the dynamics of need and want, I’m still so human that at times, all my emotions stuff what I’ve learned into the trashcan and I do the Expectation Disappointment Dance in my head. Of course, if it is in my head, it is also in my heart and tear ducts.

To prevent being disappointed so often, the first thing to do is remove the words should have, could have, would have and supposed to from your vocabulary and thinking. This means that you relinquish the thought that you can control people or situations and won’t hold onto anger, guilt, and regret. You have control of only you. Period. There will always be things that are completely out of your control and there isn’t anything you can do to make the situation work out the way you need, want or expect.

Then comes the really hard part…realize that you’re not going to always get what you need, want or expect no matter what you say, do or feel. It is impossible to completely banish all disappointment from your life, however, it can be a manageable disappointment instead of an “all consuming, life is terrible, I wish I were dead” kind of disappointment.

Does that mean you need to move to an island all by yourself in order to avoid all this jumble of emotions?

Of course not! You can still get what you need even though you don’t have the illusion that you’re going to control everything and everybody.

“Sometimes we expect more from others because we are willing to do that much for them.”

How To Get The Things You Need

Everything isn’t just a want and there are some things you really need, but how do you get the things you need without manipulative control that often just ends up causing you to feel disappointment?

  • Only have expectations about circumstances that you can control.
  • Instead of using the words should have, could have, would have and supposed to, try using I wish, perhaps I/you can, I’d appreciate it if, I would prefer, I would like, and it’s better for me if.
  • It takes more than one bite to eat an elephant or in other words, take one day at a time and don’t overwhelm yourself. Creating that kind of stress often leads to self-defeating language and emotions.
  • Allow for human error.
  • Have reasonable expectations.
  • Be unselfish. Do things for other people because you like, care and/or love them. When you take the other person’s feelings into account and strive to make their life happier, your life will in turn be more pleasant.
  • Remain focused on what’s really important.
  • If a circumstance or person is continually causing you unhappiness, walk away or help them find the door to a different life that doesn’t include you.
  • Patience will get you through many rough patches.
  • Understand that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Life is full of naturally occurring disappointments.
  • Say what you mean and mean what you say because no one can read your mind. Communication is mandatory.
  • Look for the good in people instead of jumping so quickly to ridicule their flaws.
  • Let forgiveness be something you practice daily.
  • Stick to the facts. Don’t jump to the worst case scenario. Using words like never, always, everyone, everything will isolate you and create a place for bad thinking. See things and people as they really are and don’t project negativism into the future.

Making an effort to communicate your wants and needs in a more effective manner will not ensure that they are met, but it will set you up in a better place to have them fulfilled. But when life disappointments you, remember to take it one day at a time and not to put so much pressure on yourself to be perfect because perfection is an unattainable goal. You can heal and move on after being disappointed.

“Disappointments in love, even betrayals and losses, serve the soul at the very moment they seem in life to be tragedies. The soul is partly in time and partly in eternity. We might remember the part that resides in eternity when we feel despair over the part that is in life.”
~ Thomas Moore ~

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