We have to stop letting ourselves down as a method of protection.
Before we give things a chance to go right, we predict they’ll go wrong. Relationships, job interviews, trips, dates, any and everything that we desire — we prepare for it to not go the way that we hope. Potential joy is sucked out of the situation before it even has an opportunity to unfold.
Preemptive disappointment is a defense mechanism. We evoke feelings of disappointment within ourselves early, to avoid more devastating, hurtful disappointment that we’re certain will come later. We let ourselves down before anyone else has the chance, in order to soften the blow.
Pain is most overwhelming when we don’t see it coming. When we are unprepared, vulnerable and not braced for impact is when we are ripe to be crushed. Trusting people, getting our hopes up and operating with a sense of optimism all put us in this position. So, we beat life to the punch.
We go on dates and search for every reason why it will never work with the person. Our minds run wild with undesirable outcomes, such as telling ourselves we’re not going to hear from them again, they’ll turn out to be a jerk or lose interest. We get into relationships believing that it won’t last. You’d think this would stop us from pursuing the union, but strangely, it does not. We continue on with a partner that we’ve convinced ourselves will lie to, cheat on or otherwise cause us inevitable heartache.
In our minds, the pursuance of career advancement or any other opportunity becomes a formality that precedes rejection. We tell ourselves that decision-makers aren’t going to like us because we’re too (insert adjective). We leave meetings feeling down on ourselves, or arrive lacking confidence. This of course leads to our predetermined outcome. We worry about things that may never happen — so much so that we often end up making them happen. Then we say, ‘I knew it,’ confirming our own suspicions.
If you’re unsure of yourself at a job interview, you’re not getting the job. If you treat a partner as though they’ve done things they haven’t, it’s only a matter of time before they do — Or they grow sick of it all and leave. If you accentuate the negative while on vacation, that’s not going to be an enjoyable trip. Our thought process won’t allow it. This is how we help bring unfavorable circumstances to fruition, by behaving as though they’ve already come to past.
There’s a very important detail that we overlook when we engage in preemptive disappointment. That is, sometimes things actually do work in our favor. Even if it feels like it, no one loses 100 percent of the time. The law of averages says that at some point, the tide has to turn. So, often we get ourselves all worked up, sad and frustrated for no reason. We cause ourselves unwarranted agony and the deprivation of available pleasures. Sometimes, things would actually work out the way we desire if we’d only surrender. Instead, we clear the path and lay the groundwork for the very result we hope to avoid.
It only takes being heavily disappointed one time to learn that we never want to experience it again. That’s why it’s so hard to let people in, and even more difficult to believe in them once we do. It’s hard to let ourselves get excited about possibility, and pursue opportunities with fervor. This way, at least when it all falls down or we don’t get what we want, we won’t feel slighted for having given the process our all.
I absolutely understand why we do it, but we have to learn to stop stealing our own joy. The thief of happiness is preemptive disappointment. We eliminate it by living in the now. Wait and let situations naturally evolve before deciding how to feel. Let people show us who they are instead of suffocating them with the weight of negative assumptions. We may find some to be worthy of our trust after all.
Protect your bliss. The fire of disappointment sustains itself just fine without us adding fuel.