Photo by Mick + Wout

The Disappointment Equation

Disappointment, by itself, is an emotion everyone feels, at some point of time or the other. If you were holding an ice-cream and ready to hog it down, and suddenly a ferocious dog comes out of nowhere and starts barking at you, leaving you terrified, and you drop your ice-cream, that would be disappointment. It bothers you for some time, but you forget about it in a few hours’ time. You don’t consciously think about it – until you get an ice-cream again, and the image of you dropping the ice-cream flashes before your eyes again. This is not disappointment, this is the hangover and carry over of disappointment.

The problem with disappointment is that it tends to repeat and multiply itself, unless checked. Because of a disappointment over something small, many times we fail to act on something big as well.

Many times, as a part of a creative process, we receive criticism or even rejection. This brings disappointment. The disappointment can get multiplied in the form of lack of motivation and low inspiration and multiplies exponentially when the person starts taking decisions just to avoid any possible disappointment – like not taking up a job which might involve criticism from peers or seniors, not doing anything creative for fear of people laughing at them, not collaborating with people because some people brought disappointment in the past, etc.

The question which almost everyone has, but not everyone voices, is “How to deal with disappointment?”

The solution lies in understanding disappointment at the point when it happens. It is in infusing awareness into the action(s) and moments that bring disappointment. We feel disappointed because we see the happening that causes disappointment very personally.

More often than not, we wonder, “Why does this happen to me?” The “me” makes the happening very personal and hurts us. If we can remove the “me”, half the problem will be solved.

The Zen Buddhist principle of tathata makes this shift very simple. It states, that “what happened, happened because it happened”. Applying this to the ice-cream example, it would be, “the ice-cream fell because it fell” or “the dog showed up because it showed up”.

In a very simple yet effective way, it silently removes the “me” from a happening.

This is a technique, which needs to be actively practiced. Every time some negative thought or question arises, the answer will always be, “it happened because it happened”. No further reasoning, logical answer or questioning is to be done.

When this technique is taken on as a sincere practice for every happening that we do not like, which we are not okey with, which de-motivate us, it can actually lead to thinking about the right questions, and finding the right answers, taking the right actions in the present moment, instead of chewing on questions like “Why did it happen to me?”


Photo by Flickr User MICK + WOUT


Buddhist Dictionary on tathata

What is tathata?



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