Disappointment is a difficult emotion. It comes from having an expectation of something, and that expectation not being met. Disappointment can feel intense, and it can lead you to pull back from whomever or whatever has triggered it. As you then distance yourself, feelings of disappointment can grow if the other does not come forwards to reduce the gap. And so on the cycle of continual disappointment goes on. .
Like any feeling, disappointment delivers an important message about both you, and your environment.. It’s a useful enquiry to sit with the feeling, and to gain an understanding of how much it belongs to the particular situation you found disappointment coming up in, and how much this is a familiar feeling for you that you have experienced many times before.
Any feeling that is repeated again and again points us towards a pattern or tendency in ourselves. When we are accustomed to feeling a particular way, we tend to interpret events such that the feeling once again arises, even without noticing we do this. This is projection, where we see and experience what we expect to, noticing information that fits with our ideas of how the world is, and perhaps missing contrasting messages that might let us know things are more complex and less simple.
If disappointment is a familiar feeling for you and it causes you to withdraw, I wonder when it next arises whether you can relate to it differently? I wonder how you might feel warmth for the part of you that has been wounded, how you might show some kindness to that element of your experience and soothe it? Can you say kind words to yourself? Reassure yourself? Give yourself a small treat - like going to the garden and enjoying the flowers, or having a comforting hot drink?
Once you have soothed your hurt, I wonder how you can then listen out for the limiting thoughts that pop up when disappointment is present. What are you making the situation mean? What are you saying about yourself? What are you saying about the other? What alternative explanations are there for what has happened? A useful question is to ask ‘what good and important reasons are there for a reasonable person to act in this way?’ and ask this for both yourself and the other.
The more options you generate, the more flexibility and choice you have in the meaning you make from a situation. Then, you can decide how to respond, from a grounded place, without habit running the show.
If disappointment and drawing closer then moving further away are familiar patterns for you in relationships, you may want to seek out psychotherapy to work this through. Support is available through video and telephone media currently, so don’t suffer alone.