Two Kinds of Disappointment

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There are so many books and blogs written about how to be happy, how to get what you want, how thinking positive thoughts will cure you of all your ills. In some ways this is yet another one of those blogs—written in the hopes of helping people live fuller, richer, happier lives.

And for that very reason I’m compelled to write about disappointment—because disappointment happens to all of us, because it is part of the experience of being human and to leave this or any of the other states of being out on the sidewalk would be to miss being present for the whole of it.  I suppose, now that I consider it, this blog really isn’t about how to be happy, it’s about how to be real. It is intended to be company for those of us living our confusing, vulnerable, beautiful, tender, disappointing lives.

Most of us, most of the time, strive against disappointment. We’d rather be frustrated than disappointed because then we are still holding out for the possibility that if we just try a little more or kick a little harder we might get what we want.  Disappointment is that state in which we recognize what isn’t possible. This sounds more depressing than it is. Still, I probably won’t sell millions of copies of my new book: Face Reality: Life is a Disappointment.

What you may not hear so often is that recognizing disappointment, accepting (different from resigning oneself which is just suppressed frustration) and acknowledging that life isn’t going your way takes you a great leap toward discovering what is possible.  It’s not that then suddenly on the heels of acceptance all things fall perfectly into place. Disappointment brings understanding, not necessarily the understanding that you think you want, but the understanding of where you are and what is possible even if it isn’t what you originally thought you wanted. Leonard Cohen sings, “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”

I know two kinds of disappointment, they each seem to have there own flavor and at times come mixed one with the other. The first is the disappointment that we aren’t who we thought we were, or who we want to be—the reality that our identity is full of holes. Our fiction is falling apart. It wreaks havoc not only on how we view ourselves, but tends to turn all our beliefs upside down as well. The second disappointment is when our real human needs aren’t met. This is so, so sad and hard.

In the past handful of years I’ve predominantly experienced disappointment with my body not being able to be energetic and productive and strong (I thought I was a healthy, fit, busy person—disappointment #1) and a part of me, a cellular part of me wants to run, hike, work a full time job, dance all day (disappointment #2), and doesn’t like napping and resting so often (and then of course I am also listening to what my whole body needs which is often to rest and slow down). So what is one to do with this tender state of humanness besides eat a bucket of ice cream?


What would it be for any one of us to take disappointment on our lap and speak sweetly and lovingly to it, to notice the sensations that arise with disappointment, to find our feet and feel the weight of them, to hold our hearts and feel the openness of them?

Here we are breathing in and out, flowers on the table or growing up in the cracks of the sidewalk. At the same time that we explore and acknowledge what we want and need in the big vision of our lives, can we also come to rest in this moment and explore what is possible now (and what is not), what we can do to take care now, letting go of what we think this is supposed to look like?

This post is part of the series The Weeds of Listening and includes the post The Energy of Anger.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Marlene July 30, 2010 at 7:32 pm

Hi Jasmine-
it seems that disappointed is actually a subtle form of anger…things aren’t what i expected (what they “should” be) and i don’t like it. So maybe if we look at the conditioned ideas of what we think should be and ask “is this idea really true?” we are able to be in a place where there is no disappointment because there is no expectation in the first place. We become more interested in what is true and disappointment dissolves.


Jasmine July 30, 2010 at 10:10 pm

The question, “Is this idea really true?” has been transforming in my own unfolding and helped me to let go of holding and misunderstanding. And, maybe disappointment isn’t the word, but at times, even when deep acceptance has come forward, there is still some residue of letting go of the idea, some melancholy for me to be with, along with a sense of love for what is here.

And sometimes I seem stuck in the conditioned ideas, and can see that I’m hanging on and it isn’t really true, but also just need to be gentle and patient as my being unfolds at its own pace towards accepting the truth of this moment.

Does this ever happen for you?


Marlene July 31, 2010 at 1:22 pm

Yes! It happens like that for me all the time. I have spent the better part of this week witnessing and “battling” severe sinus congestion. Even though I knew that my body was expressing something interesting for me to become aware of, and I thought I was interested in learning the lesson(s) of this “dis-ease”, it took along time for me to step out of the way of my willful thinking and allow the meaning(s) of this physical experience to come to light. And it is so interesting to see what can be seen.! When the meaning is seen (the specific, individual, erroneous idea that is being expressed in the body or in experience) the symptoms will actually dissolve, so there is nothing to accept, or disappoint. There is peace and gratitude. Then we can see that everything is always already alright but our misunderstanding was shading us from the light of reality.

And then another idea is expressed in what seems like a problem……and we begin again, maybe a bit more enlightened this time, but still with more to learn. Eventually we can see dis-ease as a gift: the signal, a little alarm system that alerts us to the idea that something in consciousness is coming up to heal, and if we want to pay attention and sincerely and humbly understand, it will be revealed. (I was failing miserably in the humility department this week….).

I like how you asked the question-Does this ever happen for you?
Thank you for asking!!


Jasmine July 31, 2010 at 3:34 pm

Your welcome, Marlene.

I am again and again amazed to discover how our thoughts and sensations, body and mind are one unfolding expression. And the joy in discovering that we are not static beings, but emerging, unfolding, healing creatures. Yes, to listen to what the symptoms are saying! They are speaking to us with the language they know, be it feeling, pain, thoughts, or how our life circumstances are unfolding.

The richness of staying curious. I’m glad you are attending to and caring for your body as it brings forth its wisdom.



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