Jan 23, 2013

3 Simple Cures For Disappointment

By Sabina Giado


Have you ever been disappointed? Truly disappointed? Have you ever felt that shattering feeling, somewhere between rage and sadness? In that moment, did you let it take over your body, so that you became immobile, or worse, said or did something you regret? Did you let that disappointment take over your life – do you return to it often, hoping and praying to cure the wound but instead keeping it fresh and live?

Alhamdulillah, our beautiful Deen has an answer to this.

A definition of terms
Let us define the terms we are going to use insha Allah.

What is disappointment? Disappointment is what we feel when our expectations are not met. It can range from mild irritation to, as I described before, violent anger.

What are expectations? Expectations are what we have when we premonition the outcome of a situation. In other words, we imagine we can see the future.

Does that sound silly? It does. But when we realize how prevalent disappointment is, we realize that in fact, false expectations pervade every area of our life.

Some areas in which you might have expectations

It is understandable to have high expectations of your partner. Even if all our high standards are met before the marriage, in terms of Deen, character, looks, social status, wealth, etc., upon entering the marriage, we might find that wedded bliss is not as blissful as we had hoped. He might be too quiet; he might have difficulty expressing his feelings. He might not be very romantic. Even though he’s quite wealthy, he might actually be quite thrifty.

All these little things might grow from annoyances to full-blown arguments because our expectation of our lives after marriage did not jibe with reality.

We might work hard for years at college and enter the job market fully expecting to be hired at a top firm with an enviable salary.

Many of us did just that in the early to mid-2000s. However, the global economic downturn happened. Moreover, employment opportunities thereafter became few and far between. What was once a shining future became a desperate present.

We expected a great career; we instead got professional and financial struggles we were not prepared for.

It is easy to see how our families could disappoint our expectations. Our mothers and fathers might not shower us with the praise we think we deserve when we get that A or that promotion. Our siblings might talk behind our backs with our friends instead of defending us.

These incidents often surprise us and cause us to react in the moment in a way that is detrimental to our faith and to our relationships.

Last but not least we tend to have incredibly high expectations of ourselves. Women often expect to be good wives and mothers and to have a high-flying corporate career. That sounds like three jobs already, but to add to that community leader, volunteer worker and general world-saver and we have enough to do not just for Wonder-woman but for her entire planet of Amazonians.

In spite of this, we tend to beat ourselves up for our failures and continue to pile more and more onto our plate instead of reflecting on what is truly meaningful in our lives.

These are just a few of the areas we might have expectations in – others include family, society and friends. A lot of the time, our expectations are so deeply held that we do not even realize we have them until they are disappointed.

Insha Allah, I would like to suggest a few ways to deal with that painful feeling of disappointment in order to maximise the benefit and minimise, or even eliminate the harm.

Ways to deal with unmet expectations.

1. Do not stifle your feelings.
When you feel yourself getting that irritated or angry feeling, it is important to allow yourself to express your feelings in a non-destructive way. Do not stem their flow and do not make them wrong. Instead, shut off all distractions, sit quietly somewhere, perhaps with a pen and paper, a voice recorder, a video camera, etc., and allow yourself to simply feel.

It is especially essential to get rid of distraction. These feelings are not usually very pleasant and we often seek to drown them in YouTube videos, social media or other distractions of the dunya.

Once you allow yourself a little time to feel, you may feel insha Allah a little calmer. Then you are ready to dig deeper.

2. Ask yourself 2 questions.
i. Were my expectations a result of my dreams or my ambitions? Dreams are less formed than ambitions. They exist more in the realm of imagination and day-dreams than real action. They usually occur unconsciously to us and are generally the result of cultural and social myths.

Ambitions however are more grounded in reality. They are made of thoughts rather than dreams and occur while we are fully conscious. Their substance is grounded in reality. We might have expressed our ambition to the people around us, written it down as a goal, marshaled resources to march towards that ambition.

Ambition by its nature inspires action; dreams are more passive.

If we ascertain that our expectation is because of a dream you nurtured, we could then judge whether our current reality fits in with the values of that dream. Do we really want a groom on a white horse? Do we really want to be swept off our feet? Does that happen anymore? Or is the honest but shy religious and successful accountant our parents introduced us to worth considering?

What are we really after when we have these dreams? Romance, spontaneity, being treated like a queen? Are only knights in shining armour capable of that or could perhaps an accountant also be capable of such soaring love? Insha Allah, he definitely could.

What if your expectations were part of your ambitions? Allah subhaanahu wa ta'aala receives the right to withhold or grant success to our endeavours

“And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient,” (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:155)

This then is a test on the path to your goal and a great opportunity to practise and earn the reward for sabr (patience).  Sabr is linked to tawwakul, reliance on Allah for deliverance and a path to something better than that which disappointed us. This in fact is a promise, which Allah subhaanahu wa ta'aala makes to us in the Qur’an.

Indeed, with hardship [will be] ease. (Surah Ash-sharh 94:5)

But patience does not mean passivity. We are asked to be constant. If we have failed to memorize a dua or a Sur’ah, we should try again. If we did not get the grade we had hoped for in an exam, we should keep trying. If we did not manage to give the charity we had planned to do, do the community service we had planned to or fast the days we wanted to, we should wake up the next morning and keep trying. This is the true path to prosperity – patience and perseverance.

O you who have believed, persevere and endure and remain stationed and fear Allah that you may be successful. (Surah Al-Imran 3:200)

ii. Do you really want to achieve your expectations? This question has a series of sub-questions.
- Do you sincerely want to achieve your goal? Ask yourself how badly do you want to achieve your goal, whether there is any doubt in your mind whether this is a worthwhile investment of your time.
- Do you want to accomplish this for Allah subhaanahu wa ta'aala alone? If we chase the world, we will lose both this world and the Hereafter. If we seek Allah’s pleasure, even His creation will love us.
- Do you have the discipline to carry out this goal? Some goals require more time, energy and courage. Others do not. By clarifying the strength of your commitment, you can ascertain whether you have the discipline to follow through on your plan, to perhaps wake up early or stay up late, refuse social engagements, have difficult conversations with family etc.

3. Communicate your expectations to the world around you.
Last but certainly not least is garnering support. We need our family and friends on our side. We can pursue our goals more courageously with the support of those we love.

When it comes to dreams however, communicating them might actually bring us back down to earth – if in fact that is where we need to be.

The key to managing the expectations of the people around us i.e. external expectations, is to first clarify what our own internal expectations are.

The Productive Muslim has a great Friday Naseeha video on balancing internal and external expectations: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JPvU1USj3BU

A parting word
Human beings may not react the way you would like them to. This might make you miserable. You might not receive something for which you had greatly hoped. This might make you miserable.

But the truly miserable is the one whom Allah subhaanahu wa ta'aala’s pleasure is withheld from on the Day of Judgement. The truly pleased is the one with whom Allah subhaanahu wa ta'aala is pleased.

And Allah’s Mercy is more Merciful than anyone on the Earth and Allah is more Kind and Giving. Allah subhaanahu wa ta'aala’s attributes cannot be equated or compared to any human attribute. Therefore his Mercy and His blessed attention is not scattered like human beings would be. His expectations are not well above our abilities like our family’s, or even our own, might be.

He should always be the only One we are trying to please.

Any good in this article is from our Rabb, Allah subhaanahu wa ta'aala, and any evil is only from me.

I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please post in the comments section below! :)


mashallah really nice........

jazakAllah.very nice sister,

Walaikum salam wr wb sisters. Wa iyyakum for the comments :-)

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