This month, we’ll be talking about two more common causes of anger, disappointment and regret, closely related to one another, and both 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. After all, it’s easier to be mad at a cheating spouse than deal with the disappointment of betrayal by someone 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.
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.
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 were 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.
Remember, you were doing the best you could with what you had at that moment.
Take Time to Ponder:
- “If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.” – Henry David Thoreau
- Don’t regret regret – Kathryn Schulz (TED Talk)
- Expectation Hangover by Christine Hassler
(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.)