We all know what it is like to feel disappointed. It is a feeling of being let down. That means that we had reason to expect something other than the result that we received. So disappointment does not just occur out of the blue. It is not a feeling that arrives without a reason.
So, there is a strong relationship between expectation and disappointment.
Where do these expectations come from? Expectations are an interesting and complex subject and can come from many sources.
When we are young, we have all sorts of expectations of others and the world. It is a lovely all-in attitude of embracing the life that we bring to the world, which will result in disappointment when we discover that the reality of life is not as rosy as we pictured it to be.
We may also receive messages of being a disappointment from others. Girls in a family that prefers boys get that message. Unfairness and prejudice of all kinds can bring disappointment.
We may be considered a disappointment if we do not uphold certain social norms, social practices, and cultural rituals and events. The ties that bind in a society, familial, community, or nation come from ideas, ideals, ideologies, norms, practices, and social bonding events like celebratory festivals and other holiday rituals. We may enjoy some but not necessarily all of them.
One of the reasons that sidestepping these social and cultural practices is challenging is that there are identities, stories, and judgments attached to them. They may affect us in negative ways. These identities, stories, and judgments are not necessarily the truth of things, which is one reason that cultures have social problems. So disappointment can be created through cultural norms, especially if we do not agree with or cannot support those norms.
All of these inherited ideas about social roles and social responsibilities, whether right or appropriate or not, contribute to a world where people are frequently bullied for being themselves. The minute you step outside what is expected, you may receive a backlash which you can think of as disappointment bullying.
Authoritarian Disappointment Bullying
This issue is complicated by the role of patriarchal and authoritarian hierarchies, which demand our compliance, obedience, and, in the more severe situations, our total submission.
All around the world, people are risking themselves to become and be more of who they are. All over the world, we see a serious backlash, whether about female attire in Iran and other countries or LGBTQ” relationships in others. What is considered normal and right is being challenged. What is rarely asked is what makes sense, what contributes to a healthy, thriving world. Authoritarians are very threatened by those who think for themselves, are themselves, are creative, and even humanitarian because these qualities are all outside the authoritarian playbook.
One of the big challenges we have is to ask ourselves and each other what is really a disappointment or not, what do we really have a right to demand or expect of others, and when is change of greater value than maintaining the older ways of living and being?
These questions are not really allowed in authoritarian cultural systems, and those who raise these important and practical questions will often or usually be treated as a failure or worse with the disappointment bullying that accompanies it.
So it is important to question and give thought to what is a disappointment. When is something a disappointment, and when is it just showing up in life, meeting reality and the moment? As social norms and expectations are right now, we do not have clarity about these questions, and we do not seem to have our feet on the ground. So what can we do? The good news is that a joy practice can help immensely.
How A Joy Practice Helps Us
Social norms and family and cultural expectations have a life of their own. They are practices and stories that provide a social glue that helps people feel like they have something in common. That common ground, though, comes from these social models which may or may not be helpful in the present.
A joy practice puts all of that aside. It seeks to be constructive and caring and serve the common good in the present. So, if social norms, cultural practices, and expectations do not serve that commitment and intention, they are not really relevant in the present. A joy practice is grounded in the present and in reality. When the cultural stuff is not, guess what has to give way. It is not the present, and it is not reality.
With a joy practice, we do not pretend there is no climate change because that interferes with the cultural story. You do not demand that someone be what they are not because that is what is convenient for others. A joy practice welcomes the real good that each person brings to the table, so there is no need to fight about identity.
As a result, there is no need to engage in disappointment bullying to get people, reality, and life to be what it is not.
A joy practice removes a lot of stress, conflict, and pain from the world by being focused on creating quality of life in the present and future, built on the contributions of the past without being tied to or hogtied by the past. A joy practice is both free and grounded. If we want to get beyond a lot of the conflict and bullying that takes up so much of our social space, it is worth a try. I hope you will consider it and enjoy the goodness it brings to your life.