In an imperfect world, life’s disappoint us on a daily basis.
Some people take the ups and downs of life as they come. Other people have more difficulty coping with the everyday inconveniences and disappointments.
Some of us make the mistake of taking a setback personally as if it were a reflection on our worth as a person, which it is not. Others perceive a disappointment as if it were a victimization, an assault upon our personhood by malignant forces that evidently hate us, and over which we have no control.
Many people are vulnerable to perceiving a disappointment as if it were a betrayal of our hopes and dreams. We feel that we were set up for a fall, and that our expectations of success were foolish from the start. We are angry at ourselves for having had them; we were “stupid” or “naive.” There are some who strive for control and take a disappointment as a failure to prevent this bad thing from happening. It is our “fault” that it happened.
Why is it a mistake to strive for security by preventing disappointment and making life predictable?
o It is a mistake to require ourselves to predict that something bad is going to happen. We are not fortune tellers.
o It is a mistake to require ourselves to know what we cannot know. It is a set up for a lifetime of frustration, anxiety and failure. We have created an unsolvable problem for ourselves. We cannot have a happy life in the present under these absurd circumstances.
o It is a mistake to exaggerate the importance of preventing bad things from happening, even if we could do so. What was excruciatingly painful and scary as a child is more tolerable now that we are adults. We are more competent to take life as it comes.
o It is a mistake to define security in terms of predicting the future. Our inability to do so only sets us up for inevitable failure and insecurity. This failure contributes to our pessimism and despair, and it confirms our feeling that we are inadequate.
o It is a mistake to spend our lives trying to control potential disasters. While we are on “guard duty,” it is impossible for us to enjoy the delights that life has to offer us. We cannot let our guard down for a moment. So life passes us by.
o Our desire to prevent bad things from happening is an illusion. We can take reasonable precautions, but beyond a certain point, our good intention to ‘prevent’ becomes counter-productive. It has nothing to do with the real problems of life; it only serves as a cloak to conceal our irrational fears.
A disappointment can be defined as a failed expectation. It is not a matter of guilt, failure or blame. We are not victims of fate, and we have not been let down by our own inability to foretell the future. These things happen in an imperfect world, and we learn from them what we can. We can even use a disappointment to remind ourselves that we are worthwhile human beings in spite of it.
How can we solve the problem of the unpredictability of life? How can we keep bad things from happening to us? How can we insulate ourself from disappointment?
o We do not really have to make life predictable before we can live our life.
o We can trust our judgment as good enough to solve problems as they unfold. We would prefer to predict the future accurately and prevent disaster. Of course, who wouldn’t. However, we are not guilty of failure when we are unable to forecast with 100% accuracy.
o We cannot control the future. We can only live in the present.
o We can choose to trust our judgment to tell us what is best based on what we know in a present situation. If we find out later that our judgment was mistaken, we can make another decision.
o We can catch ourselves trying to predict the future. Instead, we can choose to focus on the reality (not the potential) of the situation, and take life as it comes.
o We can trust our judgment to tell us which decisions must be resolved immediately, which can wait, and which do not need to be resolved at all.
o We can trust our judgment to tell ourself how much planning is too much and how much is enough.