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Protection from Disappointment?

I am becoming more aware of how to avoid disappointment… This involves carefully noticing how others behave in relation to invitations, offers of help and support… I have stopped expecting people to be as I am – if I say I’m going to do something I will (exceptions being drastic unforeseen circumstances). Instead I now notice in a mindful way how someone behaves without expectation, if my experience is you are unreliable, all talk and no action then I am likely to withdraw from the situation, preferring to protect myself from being upset when agreements or commitments are reneged upon. This has been really bothering me though, it feels like withdrawing confidence in another person’s capacity to follow through on their commitments deadens the potential in that friendship or intimate relationship.

I am pondering the impact of feeling disappointed and I would say, in my experience, lack of integrity** in others shifts my behaviour and investment away from openness and limitless possibilities towards a countdown to ending that friendship. Which then makes me question the notion of returning to love, mindfulness and conscious relationships. Is it socialisation that creates those very expectations of other people keeping to their word?

What if the other person is incapable of acting on their commitments, what if they blindly walk around causing havoc without being conscious of the negative impact on others who cross their paths. It doesn’t make it ok for me to have layers of disappointment without the friend acknowledging that they haven’t done what they said they would do. There seems to be this juxtaposition on the one hand LOVE and a true desire to be LOVE in the world leaning up against an angry wall of resentment built on a foundation of disappointment. How does one consolidate this? I really don’t know…

“Letting go doesn’t mean that you don’t care about someone anymore. It’s just realizing that the only person you really have control over is yourself.”
Deborah Reber, Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul

Disappointment and hope seem to be inextricably linked, if one has no HOPE then one cannot be disappointed. It is the presence of hope that enables humans to thrive and survive, Viktor Frankl used visualisation during his time in a concentration camp which enabled him to feel the love towards his wife, a strategy that may have produced endorphins and oxytocin through the power of thought. Evidence suggests that for long-term intimate relationships to last each partner must have positive illusions about the other whereby they perceive their partner to be much better than their partner sees themselves (Murray et al, 1996). Practising seeing the best in others might facilitate a self-fulfilling prophecy which counteracts the resistance generated through disappointment and holding back.

Another way is to withdraw from relationships/friendships that feel lacking, reserving oneself for complete all-rounder friendships, how would this be in life… What if I don’t meet the all-rounder criteria for others? Is acceptance the one true liberating factor in all of this, accepting people where they are at and noticing the impact on oneself, if it feels wrong bail out? What if the friendship grows through acceptance, shifting the paradigm from expectation to wherever you are at it is ok with me – I will mindfully notice you, love you and protect myself from harm.

Next year Urban Woot On the Couch Salons will be hosting a series on sex and relationships, kicking off with Sex as a Commodity with Dr Kate Hefferon and Ewa Davenport co-hosting the evening on the 29th January, later in February we will be exploring Positive Relationships and I hope that through these conversations we can explore protective factors in relationships and friendships and when to throw the towel in. Please do post your thoughts – it would be great to have a dialogue about disappointment and love.


**wow it struck me upon re-reading this that it is loaded with judgement, not full of love…

The self-fulfilling nature of positive illusions in romantic relationships: Love is not blind, but prescient.
Murray, Sandra L.; Holmes, John G.; Griffin, Dale W.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 71(6), Dec 1996, 1155-1180. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.71.6.1155

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