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Monday, July 15, 2013

The Disappointment-Free Life

In one of my favorite books, Ordinary People, a psychiatrist tells his grief-stricken patient, "If you can't feel pain, you can't feel much of anything else either." I've often thought how important a truth that is. I know when I used to be depressed, more often than not it was because I was numbing myself to pain or anger. Once the feelings emerged, the depression vanished, leaving in its place chaos and a mess to be cleaned up as the result of passionate, seemingly uncontrollable emotion. For me, emotional health requires that I embrace and experience all my emotions so I can decide how to behave.
Lately, I've been hearing a disturbing trend--people trying to avoid disappointment at all costs. Many of my clients seem to be searching for some kind of guarantee that they won't be hurt or won't fail to achieve their goals before they are willing to act. It's as if everyone is making a pact with the universe: promise me it'll be easy and I'll do it.
It doesn't work that way. If you choose to live a disappointment free life, all that happens is you miss out on most of what life has to offer because you are too busy protecting yourself. Life is about risk. It's about conquering fear and doubt so you can taste triumph. Sometimes it's about experiencing and moving through disappointment and sadness so you can reach a brighter future on the other side.
If your goal is to avoid disappointment, in some way you'll end up breaking your own heart. I encourage you to consider a different perspective. Ultimately, it isn't about whether you get the job or the promotion or the relationship. These things do matter, yes, but they aren't the ultimate goal. Whether you succeed at a particular thing or not, the point is that you need to know yourself, and you need to know that you are still a worthwhile human being. Self-esteem--the real kind, not the fake  crap we try to bolster ourselves up with sometimes--comes from that sense that no matter what, we still have ourselves and we're still good enough.
Will you risk disappointment and pain in exchange for increzsed self-confidence and self-esteem? Comment below.