How to Avoid Disappointment

I have a problem that I am working to overcome. I have a very hard time allowing other people to be there for me. I struggle with needing other people. It’s a control issue and it is one that I’m learning how to change. I wish that I came to this realization on my own, but life has put me in a position where I have to depend on other people. Life is funny that way.

“What you resist, persists”- Carl Jung

I know exactly how this control issue was born. As a child, disappointment was painful to me and the easiest way to avoid it was to do everything for myself. I learned how to only depend on me because other people weren’t as reliable. There is nothing wrong with being self-reliant. I accomplished a great deal that way, but it is a lonely life to live. I learned that when you make your life so that no one else is necessary that you usually end up with no one else in your life. People want to feel needed and the people who love you want to be needed by you. People are just funny that way.

The funniest part about the whole thing is that it was an illusion to me that I didn’t need anyone and that I wasn’t depending on anyone. I was and have been depending on the people I care about.  I convinced myself that I wasn’t depending on them  by discounting their contributions to my life. I wouldn’t let myself to get used to allowing anyone to be there for me. I kept everyone at arm’s length and I gave them a sliver of need, so if I faced disappointment that I would only face of sliver of disappointment. Or I wouldn’t voice my need and then I told myself that I was slighted because they hadn’t read my mind to figure out my needs. I would pretend that I didn’t need anything and mentally punish them for not knowing that I needed something. All of this is just a way of creating suffering and distance.

Now, I have learned something interesting about disappointment. Your level of disappointment is not proportional to the action of another person, instead its proportional to the size of your expectations. If you place huge expectations on people, then you will be hugely disappointed if they don’t come through. You can’t control whether they will do what they say they are going to do. You can only control your expectations. So, how do you do that?

It would seem like our expectations come from our feelings and that if we really need something that we can’t control how we feel about it. This may actually be true. You can’t always control your feelings about what you need. What you can control is who you assign it to. This requires you to get very real on who your friends and family are. You have to erase the word, “should”, where it applies to them. You have to assign your needs to the people who can handle it and stop assigning them to the people who you know can’t handle it. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. Assign your needs based on the strengths of the person instead of expecting them to magically overcome their weakness to show up for you.

I will give you an example. You need someone to pick you up from the airport. Normally, you would ask Cousin Boo Boo to pick you up, but he always arrives too late, has to make ten different stops or completely forgets. Don’t ask Cousin Boo Boo. Your best friend is madly anal about being on-time and knows all the back streets to get to the airport. Ask your friend to pick you up instead. Now, you know that there is going to be a welcome party when you arrive. Ask Cousin Boo Boo to pick up some stuff that might run out after awhile. Cousin Boo Boo is going to arrive late anyway. He walks in just as you are running out of drinks and cups.

Instead of looking at people as a constant stream of disappointment or determining that they are flawed, love them where they are. Put their strengths and weaknesses to use in your life instead of placing high expectations on them. Know who is the person that will hold your hand through it versus the person that won’t show up. Choose for yourself the better person to depend on. It doesn’t mean that you can’t tell that person that you can’t depend on them. As you stop asking them to do things, they will realize their place in your life. But, this is about you alleviating your own frustrations and fears. It will also let you see people for who they are and create more acceptance. The truth is that it’s not that you can’t depend on anyone. If you can  match your expectations to their abilities, it will reduce your disappointment.

“Disappointment is the nurse of wisdom”- Bayle Roche