Hope springs eternal; Disappointment hurts

Liam keeps noticing that business results are not optimal. But he keeps hoping that they will turn around. So, he stays with it, gives it another try, another chance and invests some more, getting the company deeper into a hole. He doesn’t really think about it but at some level he knows that if he didn’t do this, then he would have to admit that things are bad, really bad. But that is just too hard to face. It feels so much better to keep focusing on the positive and on the possible. I am an optimist after all, he thinks to himself.

Maria rolls her eyes, again. If only Liam would get real and admit that their business is failing. She thinks, until we can admit it, we won’t be able to do anything about it!

It is in our nature to hope. It’s built in: hope has helped us survive in dark times past. Hope can provide a lifeline, doses of dopamine that keep us motivated and moving forward. It is powerful and life-giving.

But too much hope without a reality check can lead us into a world of denial and ignorance about what is truly going on. Our hope creates an alternative reality and we live there thinking it is real.

Then, sometimes, reality comes crashing into the dream and we are forced to realise we had it all wrong. We suffer shock and pain.

Anytime our hopes are dashed or our expectations are not met, we suffer disappointment which can be deeply painful. Disappointment hurts, quite literally. Pain centres in the brain fire up when we are disappointed, and we suffer a complete loss of our feel-good dopamine as it gets completely sucked out of our brain.

So, of course, we avoid that – disappointment hurts, we must admit we were wrong, and it feels dark and desolate. Better to live in a fantasy world than to admit that!

But we need to learn to deal with the let-down of disappointment. Otherwise, we will never dare to dream a second time.

What does it take to face disappointment?

It takes brainpower and brain-care. Here are some things that will help.

  • Build emotional strength and resilience. Practice mindfulness and the ability to notice thoughts and not be attached to them or take them personally.
  • Are to face reality while you keep your dream alive. Admit to yourself how much debt you have, the failures that are occurring, or how you have treated other people perhaps unfairly. Admitting this just feels bad; it won’t actually harm you. Learn to live with the discomfort.
  • Appreciate what you do have, for real – health, wealth, privileges, and your reputation. A focus on positivity will keep you going as you encounter bumps in the road.
  • Consider helping others and contributing, this can feel good and can replace some of the dopamine you lose to your own disappointment.