UPDATED 1/22/2018 Are you angry, upset, and frustrated? Do you know why? There are many causes including disappointment and regret. Recognizing the causes of anger will help you manage it better.
What causes disappointment?
Disappointment and regret often cause us to be angry. They’re closely related to one another and feed into another primary emotion, sadness. Many of us will go to great lengths to avoid being sad. When, at its core, sadness helps us reflect on, and learn from, our loss. This dogged avoidance tactic is why so many of us stay angry rather than feel the reality of being disappointed.
It’s easier to be mad at a cheating spouse than deal with the disappointment of betrayal by someone you trust.
There’s considerably less pain in unleashing your rage on an innocent bystander than in confronting the disappointment you know awaits you at home, work, your parent’s house, college, etc.
Disappointment is directly linked to one’s expectations; when our expectations and the outcome do not match. The occasional disappointment doesn’t normally trigger anger. The unwillingness to accept the reality – that you didn’t get what you expected – is what triggers anger. Chronic disappointment leads to anger, even rage, depending on the specific situation and the frequency with which it occurs.
How to manage regret
Regret is longing to undo something we said or did.
Regret is a little more complicated in that it also encompasses another emotion – such as guilt, shame, embarrassment, grief, remorse – or an amalgam of all those emotions. Anger is triggered at the intersection of healthy regret and the inability to let go and move forward.
Replaying events non-stop, getting stuck in negativity like blame and shame, and chronic disappointment pushes you onto the path of self-loathing and rage.
Have you heard the sayings — live life without regret or what’s done is done? They sound good, but at the same time they set us up for anger and the fear of failure when we regret something.
Journalist and author, Kathryn Schulz, sends a different message. In a powerful TED Talk, she says don’t regret regret. She talks about a big regret in her own life — getting a tattoo. Can you relate? Is there something you’ve always regretted?
Schulz talks about the valuable lesson learned from living with that regret.
When you regret something you let your imagination run wild with other potential outcomes. You play the what if game with yourself.
Schulz uses the example of missing your flight. You might say what if I took a different route to the airport? What if I didn’t make that bathroom stop? What if I got up earlier in the morning? You let your imagination run wild with how the situation might be different if you made different decisions leading up to that moment of missing your flight.
As you let your imagination run wild anger starts to creep into your mind and before you know it you’re punishing yourself for making that decision. Instead, Schulz suggests coming to peace with your regret knowing it’s a natural part of life that we all experience.
That tattoo she regrets – well millions of others regret their too. Take comfort in the commonality of your regret. It may not be easy to do in the moment, but with time you’ll feel better about it.
If you like the lighter side of things, work toward finding a way to laugh at your regret and find the humor in the situation. At the end of the day, it may not be as ugly or as painful a decision as you think it is.
It’s all about your mindset and perspective. Focus on what you could’ve done better rather than what you did wrong. Think about the glass half full analogy you’ve heard before. Are you a half full or half empty person? The different perspective changes how you feel – whether you’re an optimistic and happy or a pessimist and possibly angry.
You may have noticed there’s a common denominator in disappointment and regret: expectations. With disappointment, we expected something different from reality. With regret, we expected something different from ourselves.
So, one of the best ways to handle disappointment and regret, and by extension curb chronic anger, is to confront your expectations – both internal and external.
Think about the last time you felt disappointed. Ask yourself, “What was my expectation? Why? Was that a realistic expectation?”
Reflecting on your regrets helps you avoid doing the same thing again. Take responsibility. Without regret, how would you know the kind of person you truly wanted to be?
We all make mistakes; they’re inevitable. But the choice to reflect on those mistakes is completely within our control. Choose wisdom. What can you learn from that experience? Reflect. Learn. Adjust. Move forward.
In “Expectation Hangover”, Christine Hassler helps you navigate life’s curveballs to overcome disappointment in work, love, and life. She uses guided meditations, inspiring true stories, and powerful exercises to transform your “expectation hangover” so you prevent further and future disappointment.
We’re not perfect people and there’s a beauty to that. It’s what makes life interesting. When you learn to love your flaws and your regrets, you’ll forgive yourself for making them and find a path toward happiness rather than anger.
(Personal Insight MD, LLC, PeopleTweaker, and Insight MD does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are feeling extreme anger with thoughts and actions harmful to yourself or others such as physical/verbal abuse or acts of violence, find yourself self-medicating with alcohol, illicit drugs, etc., expressing your anger in such a way that threaten relationships or your job, etc. seek professional help immediately and call 911 if necessary if you find yourself in an out-of-control situation or have the urge to hurt yourself or others.)