Maybe you took a job that was supposed to be fulfilling, but now you dread going to work. Maybe you went to college and worked intensely to get your degree and after graduation you’ve found there aren’t promises opportunities for work in the area your living. Maybe you thought your marriage would have turned better, after pouring your heart and soul into the relationship. Maybe your children haven’t turned out the way you expected as adults.
When life doesn’t turn out the way we expected, hoped, or planned, we feel tremendous disappointment and it hard not to start doubting everything, including ourselves.
Our disappointments might be the best thing that ever happened to us. It opens doors to opportunities for healing our past issues, by changing how we live now, and creates￼ a future based on who we are and not who we expected to be.
Our disappointments and other negative reactions we experience are called expectation hangovers by a life coach named Christine Hassler in her book. She says that most expectation hangovers fall into these categories:
Situational: something doesn’t turn out the way we wanted it to; or we do get the satisfaction we thought we would from a particular result.
Interpersonal: we are let down by someone else, or we’re unpleasantly surprised by their actions.
Self-Imposed: we didn’t live up to the standards or expectations we’ve set for ourselves.
These are symptoms just like a hangover but far more miserable and lasting. They include lack of motivation, lethargy, anxiety, anger, regret, depression, confusion, self- judgement, shame, denial, and faith crisis.
There are actually treatment plans with insights and exercises to help navigate disappointment and channel expectations into a meaningful life. They address 4 levels: emotional, mental, behavioral, and spiritual.
Here are three tips:
1. Give yourself permission to feel your feelings.
It’s important not to compare your experiences to anyone else’s. “You may think it silly to cry over being laid off when you someone just lost their child from cancer. Remember your experience is your experience.
You symptoms of a expectation hangover are tied to the feeling you weren’t willing to face in the past.
I refused to acknowledge my feelings i experienced as a child for many years. I would not accept there was a way out of what I was feeling, therefore I wasted 30 years of my life. But I’m trying to release all the regret that I lived with for years.
I urge you not to do do what I did, there are ways to get out of any situation. Don’t let disappointment from the past ruin your future.
There are exercises called “release writing” to process your emotions. Which includes writing a minimum of 10 minutes a day. (You can set a timer).
Before writing , put your hand on your heart to connect with your compassion and unconditional love. Then write whatever comes to mind.
Here are some prompts:
- I’m angry because…
- I’m sad because…
- I’m ashamed because…
- I’m scared because…
- I feel guilty because…
As you write, don’t edit yourself, or analyze. After your done writing, put your hand on your heart again, take a deep breath, and connect to the love you feel inside you. Acknowledging your courage in working this exercise.
Next, either tear up the paper into tiny pieces or burn it. This helps you fully release the energy of your emotions. Then wash your hands.
Finally, reflect on the experience in a journal.
2. Release guilt and regret
During an expectation hangover,we tend to dwell in regret (I’m a pro at this). We replay scenarios over and over in our head, thinking of all the things we could have done, or said, which is miserable. We ruminate about our decisions and berate ourselves for not picking a different choice, judging ourselves for so we did in the past after knowing all the information inter present.
We also may experience guilt, believing we made a mistake or did something wrong. This stops you from moving forward. If you drove a car by looking in the rear view mirror, you would never get to your destination,
To release guilt first think about what you feel guilty about. Then write it down, the details, your thoughts and beliefs about the experience. Focus on exploring your thoughts and experiences, but avoid judging yourself.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What did I learn about myself?
- What did I learn about someone else or a situation?
- How would I like to behave differently in the future?
Then, based on the lessons you’ve learned, think about the commitment you’d like to make to yourself in the future. Avoid absolutes such as “always and never” and focus on what feels encouraging. For example “I vow to tell the truth even if it scares me.”
When you have your commitments, write them down and sign the bottom of the page. Then go back and read these frequently.
3. Observe, and adjust your behavior
When we’ve disappoint ourselves we might find ourselves not doing anything at all or behaving in ways that don’t create healthy and meaningful changes.
Observe your own behavior for a week. Then answer these questions in your journal
- What am I doing or not doing that’s exacerbating the symptoms of my expectation hangover?
- What actions am I taking that are resulting in different outcomes than what I expect?
- What am I telling myself?
- How am I talking about myself and my life to others?
- How am I taking care of myself?
Next, based on your observations, formulate a hypothesis about what you think will help you create healthier and more meaningful habits. For example, “If I stop doing this…and start doing this…then I can start talking about… rather than…
Begin testing your hypothesis to determine what behaviors help you move out of your expectation hangover.
When we feel disappointed because something didn’t happen or because it did but we’re surprisingly dissatisfied, it helps to remember that disappointments are really opportunities to become a better you.
This article contains ideas from Christine Hassler’s book “Expectation Hangover: Overcoming Disappointment in work, love and life.
I will be doing these exercises also.