When things don’t go our way…(part 2)

Well, things (or my own motivation) didn’t “go my way” last week and I am a bit late finishing up this 2nd part of my blog series on coping with disappointment. Life happens…to us all, right?  If you missed part one and are interested, you can find it here.

I hope we all took the opportunity to gently and with curiosity notice the times when things didn’t go as we wished during the past couple of weeks…there were likely lots of chances to do this as the world and others and even our own dear bodies don’t always (or even often) conform to our desires, whims and wishes. I hope we also took time to gently and non-judgmentally noticing our internal and external response during these times. And of course if you haven’t, good news, there is always time to begin pausing and noticing.

The habit of pausing and noticing can bear much. One gift often found in the practice of pausing and noticing is our increased awareness of how much of our suffering is at our own hand. Pain and hardships are a part of the human condition and there is much suffering in the world; we all know that. And yet for many of us it is in our habitual way of meeting difficulties that we pile more suffering on ourselves. So in pausing to notice these habits and patterns…and the associated suffering, we can increase intention to change patterns and cultivate equanimity. Equanimity is a mental calmness, composure and evenness of temper, especially in difficult situations. I’d like to cultivate a garden full of that. How about you?

Because we know that disappointment is defined as “someone or something that fails to satisfy our hopes or expectation.” A helpful and practical place to begin noticing is our internal chatter.  We can begin tuning in to what we are telling ourselves about what exactly we expect from our children, workmates, partner, self, others and the world at large.

For example, if I tell myself “There shouldn’t be all this traffic on the road at this time of day!”, I suffer more than necessary because I believe my own chatter (silly me!) and hold the underlying expectation of a smooth commute and therefore I feel a heightened disappointment and perhaps even persecution at my being delayed. And so I suffer more distress than I might otherwise on that particular day in that particular traffic difficulty.

I once had a colleague who would often quip “Expectations are premeditated resentments.”  I’m unsure of the origin of his favorite saying but I find it eloquent in both it’s simplicity and truth.

When listening for expectations in our internal chatter, lets tune our ears for the “should”s and “shouldn’t”s, as these words so often precede our trippy expectations. Sometimes when we hear these in our chatter, it’s helpful if we can replace the “should” with “I’d prefer.” Just this substitution can often lower the intensity of our emotional reactions and suffering.

Sometimes just noticing the internal “should”-statement and labeling it, without trying to change it, can unhook us from our strong emotional response.  My favorite way to do this is with humor. When I hear the internal “should” statement, I often say to myself “Oh Teresa, I see you’re “should-ing” on (insert name) again!” This often prompts a funny juvenile bathroom humor picture in my mind and makes me laugh, or at least smile.  And this often unhooks me from my losing battle against the “what is” of that very moment.

It’s my sincere and humorous intention not to “should” on myself or others.  

The ideas in this week’s blog are taken directly from mindfulness practices and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and next week I think it’d be interesting to look at ways of meeting disappointment, with equanimity, from a Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) perspective.

So let’s end with Mary Oliver…because, well, because I love her.

Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.  ~Mary Oliver

Today, may you breathe more deeply, smile more often and feel more at home in your own life…