Aware of Disappointment; Not Becoming Disappointment

Earlier this week I was speaking with a friend that I truly love. She was describing to me a disappointment that she was feeling. It was about another person, a family member.

It seemed to me that my first job was to listen. That’s what friends do, often. Listen to her words. Listen to her story. Listen to what is underneath the story.

I hoped that I would be a helpful friend in the moment. My friend was, in her words, grumpy. I saw that she was hurting. I think I was helpful. Because I was willing to listen, connect, and engage. Not because I needed to fix something for her or in her, even though a part of me wanted too.

My friend’s was the kind of disappointment that many of us might relate to, and, that I believe comes from an understandable place. A desire to be included. A desire to belong. A desire to be seen. A desire to be supported. All of these were unmet in some way for my friend.

As I searched for the story underneath, it occurred to me later that my friend was taken by her disappointment. In short, she was becoming her disappointment. It was becoming her. Rather than her being simply aware of her disappointment.

I recognize that these are subtle nuances. After all, perhaps for it to be genuine disappointment, you need to become it for a while. Lean in to it. Surrender to it. I don’t believe this was happening in this instance.

An alternative is awareness of disappointment. Awareness of the emotion that is present. Not, cold, emotionless robot-like observation. It’s much more compassionate than that. It is a bit like a temporary balcony seat to one’s own behavior, actions, and thoughts. It is the observer of self position. The awareness creates an understanding, and I believe, choice. My role as friend and listener becomes one of helping to hold the temporary container that enables this kind of seeing.

Becoming disappointment, as I watched it in my friend, reminds me of the image of a pin ball being bounced around in a pin ball machine. There is some predictability, but there is a lot of sudden, unpredictable movement. A zing fast to the right. A bumper to bumper speed derby to the left. It leaves most of us at the whimsical fate of the pin ball.

I don’t believe we are destined to such fate, however. Part of the maturing human life is improving the ability to see outside of self and further inside of self. To know that I feel disappointed (a thought and emotion) but that I am not the embodiment of disappointment (unwanted and unhelpful occupation).

Well, these are longings from my heart. In friendship. Of course, those point back to me also. There is much that I become aware of as I witness my friend.


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