Expert Insight: The Purpose of Disappointment

“Although disappointment feels awful, it can provide you with a wealth of valuable information about yourself and your world. Its purpose is to keep you moving toward what’s beneficial and away from what’s going to come back and bite you. It’s meant to teach you how to make realistic, well-informed choices by recognizing the delicate balance between what you have power over and what you don’t. Examining disappointment with an open mind will help you distinguish between being foolhardy, childish or demanding, and courageous, generous and willing to take appropriate risks. In short, it’s there to help you get the good things you deserve.”

Karen R. Koenig, The Food & Feelings Workbook

“Examining disappointment with an open mind” is the phrase that jumps out at me in this quote. We’re often so busy trying to escape disappointment we don’t stop to think that it might have something to teach us.

Let’s take dieting, for example. When you’ve tried many different diets, you experience disappointment after disappointment. Rather than exploring your disappointment, you immediately blame yourself and then turn to food to detach from the emotional pain of yet another failure.

However, if you were to examine your disappointment with an open mind you might stop and think “I’ve tried so many diets but they always end up with me putting on the weight I’ve lost. I’m constantly disappointed. This just isn’t working”.

You might then wonder about the failure rate of diets, start exploring the large body of research into why they don’t work and, oh I don’t know, maybe follow a blog about having a peaceful relationship with food. 😊

You would then be able to see that expecting yourself to succeed at something that largely doesn’t work was always unrealistic.

Examining disappointment in recovery from your eating issues is vital. Disappointment can be a sign that your expectations are unrealistic here too. Have you assumed it would be easier than it is? Do you believe you should have cracked it by now? Do you think you can resolve your issues with food whilst bypassing your feelings and your relationship with yourself?

These are important questions to ask yourself – and the learning comes from your disappointment.

Rather than triggering hopelessness, disappointment can teach us so much if we allow it. We just need to understand its purpose and, as Karen Koenig says, learn to examine it with an open mind.


Gentle Reminder: Be Sensitive to Yourself

You’re walking back from the shops one day when, out of the corner of your eye, you sense movement in a nearby alleyway.

As you approach, you realise it’s a little child, about 4 years old.  As she turns her face towards you, you see that she’s crying.  Her expression is a mix of anguish and fear.  She’s alone, save for a small teddy which she’s clutching with both hands.

You bend down in front of her.

Then, you reach into your shopping bag and remove a tube of Pringles, a packet of 12 doughnuts, a family pack of chocolate bars and a large tub of ice-cream.

“Eat these until you feel sick”, you tell her.

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Why Do We Need To Let Other People Own Their Feelings?

You’re about to send an email and you’re re-reading it for the tenth time to make absolutely sure there’s nothing in it that could be misconstrued and cause offence.   Then you check it another ten times after you’ve sent it – just in case…

You bump into a friend in the street.  As you walk away, you replay the conversation over and over in your head trying to work out if you said anything “wrong”.  You’re still rerunning the conversation in your head as you lie in bed that night…

A work colleague seems a bit off with you.  You instantly rack your brain to recall your most recent interactions with them.  You spend the day desperately trying to work out what you did to upset them so you can apologise and make things right…

Sound familiar?

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Why Should We Make Friends with Our Feelings?

Feelings. Yuck. Murky things that make us feel really uncomfortable.

To people with overeating issues, feelings are about as welcome as a dog in a game of skittles.

Our natural inclination is to run from our emotions, to avoid them like the plague. They’re so ambiguous, unsettling and uncertain. And we don’t like uncertainty. We like to be in control and know what to expect.

Continue reading “Why Should We Make Friends with Our Feelings?”