One definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” This applies to most facets of life. Disappointment Loops are the re-occurring dysfunctional realities of our conditioned life and are in fact a form of insanity. The adage goes: “We reap what we sow”.
How often are you disappointed in your life? Do you understand the role you play in your own disappointment or is the blame squarely put on the other party? It’s not until we become aware of our conditioned behaviors that we have a chance to break these disappointment loops.
From an early age, I learned to be a people pleaser. I was a well-conditioned people pleaser too. I learned if you never pissed anybody off then you never had to deal with conflict. Conversely, I learned if you never said anything about how you felt when others pissed you off, you didn’t have to deal with conflict. What I failed to understand along the way is that first, no one is ever going to respect you. Second, you almost never get what you expect. I had this belief and expectation that if I made people happy, they would reciprocate “in-kind” and would want to make me happy. It made sense to me and “no conflict was necessary”. I tried to BE a nice guy. Instead of receiving happiness from others I received a constant, perpetual stream of disappointment.
In addition, after years of stuffing my feelings, I got emotionally numb. I didn’t feel anything. I had shut off the pain and with it, I shut off the joy and every emotion in between too. I was basically a robot who learned to laugh at funny things and react to anything that violated my perceived values. I had relegated myself to the emotions of anger and apathy. I built up an awesome persona fueled by intellect and a volatile ego.
I am a perfectionist. I hate criticism. I need admiration and validation in everything I do. I need you to see how hard I work and respect me for that. My pride shows up to protect me and mask my lack of worthiness. Asking for help is an admission of failure.
I am a controller, able to set up every scene in my life to project what I want you to see because this is safe for me. I hate uncertainty. I do not like for the rules to change at the last minute. I was called “Stoic” and somehow learned to embrace this as a positive trait. I believed I was adaptable to any environment, later to learn that my co-dependent emotional behavior perpetuated my disappointment loops. If you pulled my “conditioned” triggers, you got blasted by my sarcasm, arrogance or holier than though belittlement. I attempted to condition the outside world to not challenge me, else you threaten my perfection. First physically, with explosive anger and intimidation. Then I developed a more sophisticated, intellectual approach and would tear you down verbally.
When the feelings surfaced, I found ways to push them back down. I developed dependencies on work; keeping busy; drugs; alcohol; mindless hours of television; working out and playing sports. These were all attempts to keep the feelings repressed. Regardless of what I did, the disappointments continued. I was so blind to how I interacted with the world and I was so complacent in my pretend life.
In looking back, I now realize that how I saw the world was so absurd. I operated on fear-based thinking. I had been disappointed by the people around me so often, that I developed a “why try” attitude. I couldn’t let the world know how bad it was, that would be embarrassing and too vulnerable. I just went on with my pretend life. I had abandoned myself. I built this wall and mote around myself, so isolated, so lonely, and somehow so proud. Along with it, I built stories to support and justify my existence. For example: “Working out was a way of de-stressing”, when in reality I had made it a form of self -punishment. The truth was I wasn’t dealing with my emotions and workouts became an addiction or a transference of anger and lack of self-worth. “Integrity was my core value, the foundation I was built on”, when in reality it became the prison I had locked myself into. I stood so strongly behind my false belief about integrity that I stayed in a terrible relationship much longer than I should have. I told myself, “I needed to decompress when I get home from work because it was so stressful” when in reality, I had spent the day being someone other than my authentic self. I was Isolated from the world. I was lonely. I was complacent.
Yes, I am a People Pleaser, a Perfectionist and a Controller. I know these facts about myself and it provides me an advantage. It gave me the opportunity to start examining how I showed up in the world.
I didn’t like who I was and that made me ask the question, “who do I want to BE”? I decided I wanted to BE myself, just a better version of myself. I established a mantra ” I will BE who I am by being who I want to BE”.
I made a plan to re-tool my life. I set the intention of becoming aware of my co-dependent behaviors. Awareness is the foundation of consciousness. Without it, we are slaves to the ego. We must become aware in order to be our authentic selves. Otherwise, in every relationship we will continue to play roles that fit the story we are telling ourselves. I spent a lot of time evaluating what was important in my life, understanding my strengths, examining my values, identifying my passion, learning about vulnerability. I set up new rules about how I would allow others to treat me and how I would treat others. This included how I would treat myself. First, I forgave myself. Second, I reminded myself regularly that I am enough, just as I am. I established and enforced boundaries that supported my values and ethics. If I did something and it wasn’t bringing me joy, I questioned why I was doing it and whether I would continue doing it? Likewise, I started looking at where I was foreboding joy and slowly started building new vitality in my life. I joined a church that aligned to my values and beliefs, I joined a men’s group that allowed me to safely test my developing vulnerabilities. I joined a golf league, I explored my passions and became certified as a Personal Trainer, I became certified as a Life Coach, I reconnected with old friends and started meeting up regularly. I showed up as my authentic self, mindful of my old conditioned self and was amazed at the positive response from the people in my life. I stopped doing the things that no longer served me. I cut ties with the caustic people in my life.
Understanding our truths is not an easy process. Our lives don’t get wrecked overnight and they don’t get fixed overnight. Some call it an “awakening”, some a “mid-life crisis.” I call it honoring yourself. I call it the fulfillment of Life, Love and Wisdom. I call it having the courage to change before situations become insufferable or you’re provoked to do so. I call it allowing myself to be loved. I call it stop resisting the call to authenticity. It requires a conscious commitment and some determination. It requires the humility to recognize you are not “what” or “where” you want to be in life. Once I understood what it meant to live with real integrity, embrace responsibility, establish healthy relationships, foster self-care and build my resources was I finally able to get what I wanted. It was only then, that I was able to break the disappointment loop. I still wrestle with my blind spots and I continue to work on these daily. Along the way, I have learned to own my half of the relationship. I learned I can only control what I think and do. I learned that I cannot love others if I don’t love myself. I learned I am not responsible for others feelings. I learned I can practice forgiveness, compassion and empathy without any repercussions. I learned to be gentle with myself. I learned that I need to feel the pain in order to feel the joy. I learned how rich and meaningful relationships can become when I am vulnerable. I learned happiness and Joy are mine to fulfill. I learned I don’t have to live with disappointment.
Have you examined how disappointment shows up in your life? Contact me If it’s a regular occurrence and you want to do something about it.