From Disappointed to Resilient

By Barbara Neiman, author of The Adopted Teen Workbook

How many times a day do you experience disappointment? It can be as simple as discovering Dunkin’ Donuts no longer carries your favorite toasted coconut donut to not getting a promotion. Maybe your child or spouse’s behavior has really let you down, or a serious health issue has been revealed in a friend or yourself. How long do you stay disappointed?

Do you find yourself spiraling into a deeper sense of loss and frustration? Or escalating into anger? How long does it take you to accept that things are not in your control? Disappointment can trigger a tantrum in a younger child who doesn’t have the emotional regulation or language to describe what they are feeling. For a teen that has experienced adoption or foster care, disappointment can trigger fears of abandonment and become immobilizing.

Recently, disappointment escalated for me. I invited friends to an event that I’d worked hard on getting the word out about. On the day of the event I received five texts from friends who couldn’t attend. I was really disappointed and took it personally.

My thoughts spiraled to “I wasn’t good enough.” It began triggering old scenarios of rejection when people let me down. With each text I berated myself, sinking into an abyss of negative thinking.

Finally, I sat down in my rocking chair, looked out the window, paused, and took some deep breaths. I had worked hard on this event and felt good about the program. I pulled myself together, put my low feelings aside, and set out to do whatever it took to have a meaningful evening. I questioned how having people show up for an event became tied to feeling good about myself. My evening was successful, and I received gratitude from the people who attended. I felt really happy.

Yet, the next day my disappointment that some people had let me down still lingered. It was only after I sat for meditation and my mind became still that I became aware I could let this all go. As an inner smile grew within me, I felt my body relax and joy cascaded through me. I came to the realization that I was fine. The fact that I had been triggered to feel all the disappointment of the past was real. I wasn’t repressing that truth. Trusting that everything was all right helped me to see that disappointment doesn’t define me. I am more than my disappointment.

The next time you’re feeling disappointed, here are some strategies to move from disappointment to resiliency:

  • Acknowledge the situation for what it is.
  • Face your feelings of sadness, abandonment, or deep hurt.
  • Allow yourself to self-soothe, with movement, writing, drawing, or nature.
  • Imagine a waterfall and the disappointing feelings falling away from you.
  • Pause and take stock of what is positive now in your life.
  • Roll your shoulders, releasing the tension in your neck and face muscles.
  • Accept the loss of what you had hoped would bring you joy.
  • Recommit to finding joy for yourself in your own way.
  • Be patient and give yourself time to process the loss.
  • Allow yourself to move forward at your own pace.

Young girl with a backpack on

Barbara Neiman is a pediatric occupational therapist of thirty-five years, yoga teacher, body-mind centering practitioner, and national speaker on trauma-informed yoga and mindfulness strategies for professionals and adoption. Barbara is author of Mindfulness and Yoga Skills for Children and Adolescents and the card deck, My Calm Place. She is an adoptive parent who accompanied her young adult on a birth search journey.

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