Coping with disappointment

Given the narrow margin of victory in many of yesterday’s elections, at least half of all Americans are experiencing disappointment today. No one likes to lose. It is human nature to emphasize our opponent’s weakness and over-estimate our team’s strengths. We want to win. When we lose, we might experience negative emotions and begin to distort reality to fit our emotional intensity. There are many ways we can lie to ourselves in order to make the “facts” fit our emotional responses.

All-or-nothing thinking
We focus on the extremes and fail to notice the infinite number of alternatives between our preferred (“wonderful”) option and the one we’d like to avoid (“horrible”)

We can simplify issues so much that they lose their meaning, fostering apathy and the tendency to assign value to “categories” rather than seeking to understand the infinite variations.

Mental filter
Seeing only one perspective; refusing to consider other alternatives robs us of opportunities to learn new things.

Disqualifying the positive
Nearly every situation has positive and negative aspects. When tend to minimize or ignore the positives and focus on the negative

Mind-reading / Fortune telling
We make the mistake of thinking that we know what others are thinking or feeling and assign value to the person, thing or idea based our own interpretation of their motives without checking for accuracy.

This is a form of All-or-Nothing Thinking in which we extrapolate the worst possible outcome for an event. Often when we stop and reflect on “worst case” scenarios, our current situation becomes less of a crisis and more an inconvenience.

Emotional reasoning
This happens when we believe our emotions even when logic and reason oppose it. We start making decisions based on emotion while ignoring facts.

Shoulds and Oughts
Thinking that life “should” be a certain way, with little room for change, flexibility, or compassion. We can turn this in as self-criticism or out in judgement of others.

By assigning labels to people or situations, we minimize humanity and limit opportunities for growth.

Sometimes an event is just an event. It isn’t always a reflection on your character or worth. Yet for some reason, there are situations that “hook” into our emotions and vulnerabilities. We take things personally that have nothing to do with us.

When faced with disappointment, take a quick inventory. Are you engaging in distorted thinking that is transforming your sense of defeat into despair, depression, or anger? If so, now might be a good time to gently challenge yourself to overcome these distortions.