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Working Through Disappointment

For many in the Bay Area, this past week has been heavy with disappointment. It seems we are one step closer to seeing the Athletics leave Oakland. True to disappointment’s definition, you may be feeling sadness or displeasure caused by the nonfulfillment of one’s hopes or expectations. We also learned that another major company, Westfield, is giving up on San Francisco Centre, and shortly after that announcement, Cinemark reported that it will shutter its theater within the complex. Fans and patrons on both sides of the Bay have expressed feelings of disbelief and loss.

Alameda Post - someone stands with their back to the camera and looks with seeming disappointment at the water

Adding to that sense of gloom, Governor Gavin Newsom’s deployment of the California Highway Patrol (CHP) to San Francisco resulted in the seizure of enough Fentanyl to potentially kill 2.1 million people. The anchors who reported the findings via the evening news showed obvious shock at the magnitude of how much has been taken off the streets in just six weeks. So much to process, how best to do so?

Why disappointment?

It was just a few years back that another pro sports franchise left Oakland, and now it seems probable that the Oakland A’s will be no more. Fans staged a reverse boycott this past Tuesday in hopes of influencing the powers that be that the team should stay in Oakland. Interestingly, the Spanish word for disappointment is decepcion. As the news reported that a barrier has been removed for the team to move, fans realized that things are not likely to go as they had hoped.  This major disappointment can bring on feelings of grief. As Mary C. Lamia, Ph.D., explained in a Psychology Today article, Why We Grieve Change, Endings, and Disappointments, “We grieve because we remember when things were different; when we perceive our former circumstances were better than they are now.”



Crime and neighborhood conditions in downtown San Francisco are worse than companies are willing to deal with. As businesses leave the area, those who patronized those establishments are left with a loss. A familiar constant, a presence that has always been available, suddenly isn’t. In its place is unanticipated loss.

On June 15, ABC7 News reported: “In the first six weeks since the California Highway Patrol began their crackdown in the Tenderloin, the agency says their officers have seized 4.2 kilos of fentanyl—enough to kill potentially 2.1 million people. That’s nearly three times the population of San Francisco.” Such shocking news can bring on anxiety.

In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, Dr Steven Stosny coined the term “Headline Stress Disorder,” writing in the Washington Post: “Depression and anxiety share two ugly heads; they engender a sense of powerlessness and undermine our ability to create value and meaning in our lives. To shield yourself from headline stress disorder, be sure to act in accordance with your deeper values.”

Learn and grow from disappointment

Take a breath. Disappointments in life are inevitable. Some are preventable but others are unavoidable. In both instances, there are opportunities to learn and grow. If the situation that resulted in disappointment was within your control, look back and examine what led up to the undesired outcome. It may have started with your outlook. If the situation was beyond your control as with the examples above, let’s look to advice from Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries, published August 22, 2018, in the Harvard Business Review article, Dealing with Disappointment.

Alameda Post - Woman with her arms wide in an accepting embrace in front of sunlit trees

“To deal with disappointment constructively, don’t let it deteriorate into apathy and depression,”  Kets de Vries wrote. “Sustained negative rumination is not a prescription for change. When we become preoccupied by bad news, we lose sight of what is right in our lives and in the world around us. We only internalize feelings of sadness and anger. Hanging on to these feelings can result in us unconsciously making them a part of our identity.”

So what should we do? “When we catch ourselves thinking negatively, we should redirect our energy and focus on positive solutions,” Kets de Vries continued. “Although from an unconscious perspective we may be reluctant to let go of a disappointing experience, in the long run it will be more detrimental to continue holding on. When we become too preoccupied with thinking about situations that have not met our expectations, we only create unnecessary stress.”

The disappointment, the experience, is an opportunity if we choose to see it that way.

If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.
— Henry David Thoreau

Contributing writer Denise Lum is a Health and Fitness Coach raising her family in Alameda. Contact her via [email protected] or FitnessByDsign.com. Her writing is collected at AlamedaPost.com/Denise-Lum.

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