by Laura Harris, MS, LPC
Illustrations by Kristy Southivilay
Disappointment is a feeling that doesn’t get enough respect. It’s the Jan Brady of feelings. Lately, I’ve found a community of disillusioned people, making a perfect sample to explore this feeling called “Disappointment.”
This year, my favorite sports team (the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers) lost their last game of the season thanks to an unbelievable shot from the Raptors’ Kawhi Leanoard. Maybe for you, disappointment came when the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes lost. Or maybe it was thanks to the series finale of Game of Thrones.
Those disappointments are small and easily identifiable. What about the bigger stuff?
Like most of us, I’ve had many disappointments in my life, ranging in scale and impact. I was disappointed when I was outbid on a house. I was disappointed when my partner and I were told that we weren’t going to be parents. I’ve been disappointed by jobs that didn’t match my expectations, and I’ve been disappointed by my body’s reaction to milk. Through my experience and research into these and other Disappointments, I’ve learned a couple things:
- Disappointment is uncomfortable for everyone involved
- Disappointment involves other feelings
- Most Disappointments can be avoided
I wrote an allegorical story about Disappointment because I wanted to better understand it. Similar to most storytellers, I’ve rebranded my exaggeration and over-simplification as “artistic liberty.” Unlike most readers, you have the opportunity to challenge the authenticity of the story I tell you through personal exploration.
You’re driving from Here, NC to Success, CA. In the car with you are your personified Feelings: Happy, Entitled, Peaceful, and Uncertain. Entitled has volunteered to drive, Uncertain is riding shotgun, and you’re in the back seat between Peaceful and Happy.
In the beautiful community of Success, CA, sits a newly renovated home, purchased for you by your dear ol’ Grandma Security. She gave it to you and your Feelings so that you would never have to drive through Disappointment City just to visit her. You and your Feelings are on your way to visit her in your beautiful car, Expectation, a 1970’s Black Classic Sedan.
Upon entry into Disappointment City, your car Expectation is struck by an 18-wheeler-truck owned by Reality, LLC, so hard that it goes airborne.
Upon landing, you see Happy and Peaceful get thrown through the window as you topple down a hill. When the car finally reaches its eventual stop, you and your remaining Feelings, Uncertain and Entitled, crawl out of the car unharmed. “Something always goes wrong for us!” Entitled yells. He isn’t wrong. A motorist might expect chipped paint or a blown tire in Disappointment City, but it isn’t unusual to get hit by Reality Trucks. Disappointment’s motto, If you’re here, something didn’t go according to plan, feels more true than ever.
The hill that Expectation toppled down intersects with a forest off the interstate called Stress Forest. Stress Forest has received national attention for its supernatural occurrences. The residents of the city, the Disappointers, say that Stress Forest is haunted; anyone who goes in never comes out the same…if they come out all. The Disappointers say that people go into Stress Forest all the time asking for Riches and Wealth, and come out possessed by the evil spirit Notenuf. Uncertain asks you if you think you will find Happy and Peaceful in Stress Forest. Before you can answer, Entitled declares that Happy and Peaceful are probably in the forest and charges in.
You chase Entitled deep into the Forest. You begin noticing inscriptions on some of the trees, each one increasingly ominous. “This isn’t so bad” becomes “Why can’t I handle this?”, which in turn becomes “This is too much”, and finally “I’m getting sick.” You and Entitled approach the sign that says “What’s the point?” Uncertain tells you that someone has stopped to ask for help.
His name is Anger. He isn’t a resident of Disappointment, but he saw the accident and says he can lead you to help. You agree because Anger seems trustworthy, and you really want to find Happy and Peaceful. Anger is a rich man. He tells you that he can’t help you find Happy or Peaceful, but he knows people who can. You believe him. Anger explains that in the city of Disappointment they use Energy as the primary form of currency; cash is useless. Anger is a man of his word. He takes you to important officials in the city of Disappointment: Attorney General Blame and Sheriff Regret. Anger explains that you’ll need to pay Sheriff Regret and AG Blame for them to be helpful. Anger gives you and your Feelings some Energy, and wishes you good luck.
Sheriff Regret is a cold person; you realize this immediately. Sheriff Regret is kind to you but treats your Feelings poorly. “Why would you let Entitled drive in Disappointment on a sunny day?” he hollers at Uncertain.
“That doesn’t even make sense!” Entitled defensively snaps back.
“What doesn’t make sense is why y’all would get in an old car! I hate to break it to you, but if you hadn’t driven Expectation, you would still have Happy and Peaceful,” Sheriff Regret barks back at Entitled.
“If we hadn’t driven into this letdown of a town, we’d be just fine!” Entitled retorts. Entitled is a Feeling that you’ve had for a while. Entitled is one of those Feelings that none of your friends or family like, but during moments like this he really earns his keep.
Attorney General Blame is a more sympathetic person. “Everyone calm down now,” he says, hoping to reassure you all. “We know who did this. We just need to nab Reality LLC and finally hold ‘em accountable for all of their wrong doings.” AG Blame spends time telling you and your Feelings about all of the crimes committed by Reality LLC—how they’ve evaded consequences every time. But not this time. He explains that Reality LLC has a fool-proof clause, “sometimes bad things happen,” that helps them evade conviction.
Attorney General Blame informs you that there is a Self-Care Driving Car that can get you out of the city if you have enough Energy. The AG also tells you that you could sue Reality Trucks LLC for enough Energy to replace Expectation, and pay people to find Happy and Peaceful.
Sheriff Regret informs you that you no longer have enough Energy to get on the Self-Care car out of the city. He says that since you spent so much time with him and AG Blame, you don’t have enough Energy to afford their services. Sheriff Regret drops you and your Feelings off at the city bus stop.
There are two main forms of public transportation in Disappointment; you can ride Anxious’s bus or Depressed’s bus. Both are packed; Depressed’s bus, however, seems calmer. Looks like you have your ride.
In part two of this article, I’ll finish telling my allegorical story, and will also unpack it and share my take-away advice on how to deal with disappointment. Stay tuned!