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  • Writer's pictureAnnelisa MacBean

Disappointing Others

In most of our close relationships, we will inevitably disappoint the other and let them down.

This can be incredibly activating, if early conditioning in family relationships was to set aside our own needs, to deny that we even have needs. Out of circumstances where tending to the mother’s pain or the father’s fear was the primary way that we received love and attention, we then carry this conditioning forward into adult relationships, prioritizing the needs of others and striving not to disappoint.

Growing up in a field of narcissistic organization, where we are not seen as a subject in our own right, but as an object, a useful tool in the perceptual field of another, we learn to perform for the others who rely on our self-denial. Our sense of worth is derived by how well we are able to regulate and care for the emotional needs of the adults around us. This is an incredibly tenuous situation in which to be placed as a young child. As little ones, we will do just about anything to not disappoint, for to do so opens the doorway to myriad repercussions; possible shame, humiliation, abuse . . . feelings that are too big for us to feel and regulate without support when our nervous systems are so undeveloped.

What is it like for you to disappoint someone now, as an adult? To let them down? To fail at living up to their expectations, no matter how hard you try?

What are the core beliefs that arise during these times? Are you noticing that you will do just about anything to avoid the habitual behaviors you engage to avoid any direct confrontation with your own embodied vulnerability?

What do you imagine the consequences will be if you are not able to “make your partner or loved one happy,” or resolve their anxiety, emptiness, self-hatred, or the pain of their unlived life?

Will you be abandoned if you disappoint them? Or will you be the target of rage and attack? Will you be shamed? Unsafe? Should you just go ahead and try to make them feel better at all costs, even if detrimental to your own integrity?

To what degree have you come to organize your life around the unconscious belief that your role is to heal, fix or resolve the frustrations and suffering of the other when they are upset?

And for those of us who identify with being healers, therapists, or counselors of any kind, what does it mean about us if we are not healing, but instead, disappointing?

This is very rich territory to be investigated. Answering these questions is an act of mercy and compassion, for both ourselves and others, to take the time and explore and become responsible for this old conditioning, for these old and obsolete beliefs. The invitation, now, as adults, is to slow way down and bring curiosity, awareness, and kindness to the experience in our bodies. It is in these moments that we begin to encode new circuitry.

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