Referring Providers
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by Laura Harris, MS, LPC
Illustrations by Kristy Southivilay

In part one of this article, I shared the beginning of my allegorical story about disappointment. Here, I’ll finish the story and unpack it for readers.


Depressed’s bus only stops on three streets: Indulgence, Despair, and Hope. You and your Feelings give the remainder of your Energy to Depressed and get on the bus. The first stop is Indulgence St. You, Uncertain, and Entitled get off the bus and walk up the street. Unharmed but disheveled, Happy returns. She explains that when she was tossed out of the car she landed on Indulgence St., and that’s where she began making friends.

Indulgence street is amazing! Energy is everywhere! Happy shows you all the friends she’s made since she’s been gone. She takes you to one house owned by the Gluttons; they prepare all of your favorite foods. Happy also takes you to the Steroid’s, who don’t do much for you, but definitely help the Feelings get stronger.

“Is Peaceful here?” you ask Happy, who now appears confused.

“Peaceful is missing?” she asks.

Happy is one of your oldest Feelings, as well as the most self-absorbed. Uncertain wonders aloud if Peaceful might be at the next stop, Despair Street.

“Despair Street is crime central,” Happy explains. “The Disappointers built Despair Street for Disappointers who have nowhere else to go. No one has come back from Despair St. Let’s just stay here,” she pleads, hoping to discourage you.

“We need to find Peaceful,” Entitled declares.

“Well, I’m staying here,” Happy asserts to Entitled before turning to you. “I’ll meet up with you in Success, CA.”

And with that you and your Feelings, without Happy, get back on Depressed’s uncomfortable bus to Despair Street. Despair St feels hopeless. Sheriff Regret patrols the city pro bono, telling the Disappointers that the condition of their street is their own fault. Sheriff Regret rides through every 5 minutes, and through a megaphone declares that if they really want to get of Despair Street, they need to “work harder.” And they do, but it doesn’t help.

Despair Street is as bad as it sounds. The people on Despair Street rob you and your Feelings of the Energy you got from Indulgence St. You really can’t blame them. Nobody wants to live on Despair Street. You and your Feelings take off on foot through the city, looking for Peaceful. At the very end of the row of houses is a temple called the “Church of You.” You go inside, and see Peaceful sitting still. You and your Feelings overwhelm Peaceful with confusion, asking why she is here and expressing joy that she has been found. You encourage Peaceful to come with you, and she complies.

You, Entitled, Peaceful, and Uncertain get on Depressed’s bus and travel to your next stop: Hope St. Depressed opens the door, quickly counts to 3, shuts the door and speeds off. It’s not nearly enough time for you and your Feelings to get out. Entitled demands that the bus doors stay open longer, which is met by a chorus of boos from the passengers. Some even question if your Feelings should be on the bus. You ask Depressed to do something, but she just shrugs and says, ”I’m sorry. There’s nothing I can do.”

“What if we just jump off one at a time at Hope Street?” Entitled proposes to you.

“That means someone would have to ride Depressed’s route a bunch of times until we’re all on Hope Street!” Uncertain responds.

You, the leader of all this, determine that Hope Street sounds optimistic, and that you will ride in circles on Depressed’s bus until all your Feelings can get out. Entitled, again, volunteers to go first, Uncertain follows, then Peaceful. Finally, you arrive on Hope Street. The first house you visit belongs to Professor Experience.

Professor Experience is a tenured faculty member at the School of Life. Professor Experience knows exactly how to help you get on the road back to Success, CA, but she wants to make sure that you are better prepared for the trip. She takes you to her neighbor, Disappointment’s only ophthalmologist, Dr. Perspective.

Dr. Perspective tells you that you have poor vision. She says that may have contributed to your collision. She reassures you that she’s seen much worse. She performs surgery on your eyes and your vision improves. You are surprised, because it’s hard to tell your vision is poor until it is corrected.

Now with corrected vision, you and your Feelings are better able to find your car, Expectation.

Expectation is totaled. Professor Experience recommends that you get your car towed to the city’s best mechanic, Mr. Patience, which you do. Mr. Patience notifies you that he can repair your car, free of charge. He can’t, however, guarantee when it will be complete. You agree.

Professor Experience allows you and your feelings to stay in her home until Mr. Patience is finished with your car. You tell Professor Experience about the writings that you saw in Stress Forest. Professor Experience teaches you and your Feelings that Stress Forest has helpful and unhelpful parts. Professor Experience appears relieved that you got out when you saw the signs becoming scarier. She tells you that the spirit of Notenuf convinces people to stay in the Forest by telling them they can “have more.” She says that if you start to feel sick, you must leave the environment immediately. She tells you and your Feelings that many people have made the mistake of criticizing their own health in the midst of Stress Forest, rather than openly questioning the toxicity of the Forest itself.

A few more weeks in Disappointment City teaches you and your Feelings a couple things. For one, the Disappointers are pretty unreliable. When Entitled asks for directions, a couple of Disappointers say that they’ll help, and instead run away. When Peaceful asks for assistance, there’s generally a better response.

Travelers usually pass through Disappointment City without even knowing that they’re in it. That’s how small it is. If you Google “Disappointment,” the top search result is “how to get through it.” The Disappointers do not like that image of their city.

A few more weeks pass, and Mr. Patience has completely repaired your car. He suggests that you start driving on the back roads instead of the Interstate. Professor Experience leads you to a back road rarely traveled called Acceptance.

She assures you that if you stay on this road, you will get out of Disappointment City. Professor Experience reminds you that even while driving on Acceptance Road, you could still encounter Reality Trucks.

“You’ve got to focus on the road,” she encourages. “When you’re on Acceptance Road, Reality Trucks are much more likely to go with the flow.”

So off you and your Feelings go to Success, CA.


The psychological understanding of disappointment is still in its early stages of development. Disappointment has many definitions, such as “sadness or displeasure caused by the nonfulfillment of one’s hopes or expectations.” Most of us understand disappointment as a letdown.

In her Psychology Today article, “Expectation, Disappointment and Sadness,” Dr. Mary C. Lamia likens disappointment to an expression of sadness, stating that, “Disappointment accepts reality.”

Decision analysts say that disappointment and regret are the two primary emotions involved in decision making.

I view disappointment as a disagreement between intention and circumstance. I think the threat of disappointment is actually more powerful than disappointment itself.

You might recall me telling you that I am a Philadelphia 76er fan. Believe it or not, this is not the most disappointing year ever. Not even in the last five years. When the team reached historic lows, they hired an analyst named Sam Hinkie. Spoiler alert, he was fired. Reading his resignation letter, I find his take on  the threat or reality of disappointment to be comforting. I hope it’s helpful for you, too:

“In some decisions, the uncertainties are savage. You have to find a way to get comfortable with that range of outcomes. If you can’t, you’re forced to live with many fewer options to choose amongst, which leads over the long term to lesser and lesser outcomes.

“The illusion of control is an opiate, though. Nonetheless, it is annoyingly necessary to get comfortable with many grades of maybe.”



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