Disappointment – Who hasn’t experienced it? The job we wanted that went to someone else? The creative urge that faded before it reached it’s apex. The family member who lets us down. Life is full of disappointments, large and small; all preparing us for the big one – death.
Ageing moves us in gradually. First the outward signs, the sagging muscles, or broadening midriff, the wrinkles, the aches and pains. Retirement from work of whatever sort, children moving out, heralding the end of the intensity of that role of parent. The increasing number of medical conditions that need to be managed. The loss of friends or family or pets to death. And then we’re looking at it in the face – the possibility of our own demise.
Depressing or what?
With the possibility of so many disappointments staring us in the face, it would be easy not to bother at all. Why try, when it is so painful to fall on our faces. We could fail, so by not trying we avoid that possibility completely. We avoid making relationships, or trying new things. We avoid stepping outside our front doors for fear of what’s out there. Only to find, when the pearly gates are in sight, that in avoiding what might hurt us, we have also managed to avoid what might have helped us to grow and develop, or what might have nourished us, or what might have given us joy, or excited us.
Or we could say, yeah, some of this is going to go pear shaped. But the value in trying is not just about the end product, it’s not just about getting what we want, although that’s important. It’s also about what we learn on the way, and the experience of the journey itself. Going for a walk is not just about getting to our destination, it’s about the fresh air, the exercise, the sights and the smells, and who you meet on the way.
In relationships, losses, hurts and disappointments unacknowledged and unhealed can lead us to take protective action, often without our realising it. We can avoid situations where we might suffer another hurt or loss. We can avoid relationships all together, or we can hold back part of ourselves from the others in our lives, holding our wounds close, and building a protective shell where no one can hurt us again. And it makes sense in a way. If you’ve been burnt, it teaches you to keep your hand out of the fire.
However, our hurts can have as much to do with our past experiences, our perceptions and our expectations as they have to do with the facts of the current situation. If my trust has been damaged in the past, I may find it hard to trust in the present, and may for example interpret an innocent comment by a loved one as a threat. If I have lost a loved one in the past, I may pull away from the others in my life, fearing that I will lose them too.
While these solutions may be useful in the short term, to give us room to heal, in the long term they may be more harmful to us than our original wounding.
We can’t avoid hurt and disappointment, but we can avoid hurting ourselves further. Sometimes we need to take action to protect ourselves, but sometimes that protection may cause us more hurt than it prevents. Think about it.