Have you ever had something turn out far different that you hoped it would and felt incredibly disappointed? Have you even been so let down by a person or situation that you thought you’d never get over it? Have you ever not lived up to your own standards and felt a sense of failure?
Then you have experienced an Expectation Hangover®.
And you know how painful and disorienting it is because disappointment makes us question ourselves, others, and the Universe. Life does not always go according to our plans and is full of surprises that aren’t always the kind we desire. What makes these unwanted surprises and disappointments even harder is our attachment to the way we expected things to go. This particular brand of discomfort – the kind fueled by a life drunk with expectations and the resulting crash from failing to meet them – is profoundly sobering and uncomfortable.
I know this because I am no stranger to Expectation Hangovers . . .from a career that was wildly successful on the outside not creating the feelings of fulfillment I expected on the inside, to facing a divorce during a time in my life when I expected to be having my first child. But what I have learned from each of my own Expectation Hangovers and those I have coached others through, is that they offer an opportunity to learn how to take better care of ourselves, to make more self-honoring choices, and to cut back on our expectation consumption. Expectation Hangovers vary in severity, but each one needs to be acknowledged and addressed internally first before we look to changing and/or creating things on the outside world in an attempt to cure them.
What is an Expectation Hangover?
Well you probably already have a good sense of what it is, but I will go ahead and be fancy and share my formal definition: “The myriad of undesirable feelings or thoughts present when one or a combination of the following things occurs:
- A desired outcome does not occur
- A desired outcome does occur but does not produce the feelings or results we expected
- Our personal and/or professional expectations are unmet by ourselves or another
- An undesired, unexpected event occurs that is in conflict with what we want or planned.
The symptoms are similar, but far more miserable and lasting, to those caused by a hangover from alcohol: lethargy, depression, lack of motivation, confusion, denial, anger, poor work performance, diminished creativity, strained relationships, social withdrawal, low self-esteem, regret and a disconnection from a Higher Power. When suffering from an Expectation Hangover, we are typically caught up in regretting the past or latching on to something we think will make us feel better. We’d do anything to end our suffering – the problem is we just don’t know what that is. (If you want to find out if you are having an Expectation Hangover and get a severity diagnosis and treatment plan, go here to take the Quiz).
Why do Expectation Hangovers happen?
When our expectations are met, we feel a sense of accomplishment and pride. Often risking little, we feel safe, in control and on-track. We don’t like the unknown and we cling to our plans like a road map instead of allowing our inner knowing and the Universe to lead us. Achieving our goals is intoxicating and we are compelled toward them. While striving for goals has value, holding expectations and attachment to the way life “should” go sets the stage for disappointment.
Disappointment. Uh oh. Most of don’t like it when the Universe seems to miss the memo on how we think things should be. But the truth is the Universe doesn’t miss anything. We are the ones who are missing out when we keep fighting for what we think we want, never slowing down enough to actually learn the lesson that our Expectation Hangover is attempting to teach.
The result? We continue to wake up with Expectation Hangovers: A career path that was planned and executed with precision becomes tainted with doubt and lackluster. A relationship with “the one” suddenly becomes the one thing we can’t get right. A salary or promotion that was counted on is not a reality. A home that was dreamt about still remains a fantasy. A pregnancy that is wished for isn’t happening. A parent who we could always lean on suddenly isn’t there anymore. A lover or spouse leaves. An illness interrupts our life. A job and the financial security that came with it is gone. And then there are Expectation Hangovers that are more spiritual in nature as we have checked off everything on our life checklist and still experience a lack of fulfillment. This is a pretty direct call from the Universe that it’s time to wake up.
How do you treat Expectation Hangovers?
Well, it takes a lot more than two aspirin, some greasy food and staying inside with the lights low. Because we don’t like not feeling good, we look for an external way to ease the discomfort. Rebound relationships, abrupt career changes, miscalculated risks, “over-ing” in the form of drinking, gambling, sex, drugs, work, or shopping so much so that it may create an addiction, and numbing oneself with something like television are common.
The first step to treating your Expectation Hangover is to get yourself out of any kind of victim thinking. Asking, “Why is this happening to me” is the wrong question to ask. Ask instead, “What am I learning? and “How is this happening for me?” That simple shift in questioning will rescue you from sinking into the quick sand of victimhood and hopelessness.
Next, keep your mind out of judgment, regret and shoulda/coulda/woulda thinking. Remember, you did the best you could. You didn’t do anything wrong. Your worth and value are not attached to anything or anyone external. Security from any outside source is an illusion – your ultimate “safety” is in Love. Surrender is much sweeter than being addicted to control. And again, you didn’t do anything wrong. Really, you didn’t and neither did anyone else.
Which brings us to the next step, which is to forgive. Forgiveness does not mean you condone or agree with what happened or didn’t happen. It does mean you are in acceptance and letting go of judgments you are holding toward yourself or anyone else.
One of the best pieces of advice I received when going through my divorce was, “Christine, milk this time for all it’s worth.” Meaning, do not try to go around it or cover it up. Dive in. Do the work. Feel the pain. Acknowledge what this current Expectation Hangover is triggering from your past and see the tremendous opportunity for healing. That is exactly what I did. I milked my latest Expectation Hangover of a marriage that was a perceived failure, letting go of financial security I projected on my husband, and having no children despite hearing the loud tick-tock of my biological clock. I’ve freed myself from suffering even when my life doesn’t look like I hoped it would, and how I consistently create miracles in my life. And I’m happier now than I’ve ever been before despite not having any of the external things I expected at this point in my life. Now, I get excited when people have an Expectation Hangover because I know they are on the brink of a huge transformation. But I also know that we need a comprehensive treatment plan in order to truly heal and leverage our disappointment, which is why I devoted my newest book to healing on the emotional, mental, behavioral and spiritual levels.
Your Expectation Hangovers are gifts.
Think about some of the most inspirational people you know. I guarantee you that part of what makes them so inspirational is how they leveraged their hangovers for growth, learning, and contribution.
Your expectation hangover is an opportunity to let go of something external that you have clung to for worth, safety or Love. If you learn how to respond to Expectation Hangovers from the perspective of a student rather than a victim, I guarantee you will walk through doorways of transformation that will lead you to more Love.
Often life has to throw us a curveball (or several) so that we look in a different direction. The Universe has a BETTER idea in store. But first you have to let go of the plan you have been attached to so that your Higher Self and the Universe can conspire for you. The cure to Expectation Hangovers is NOT to somehow figure out another way to get what we thought we wanted, but rather move out of our own way enough to see what we really need.
Christine Hassler has broken down the complex and overwhelming experience of recovering from disappointment into a step-by-step treatment plan in her new book Expectation Hangover. This book reveals the formula for how to process disappointment on the emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual levels to immediately ease suffering. Instead of wallowing in regret, self-recrimination, or anger, we can see these experiences as catalysts for profound transformation and doorways that open to possibility. You can find more info on her website, and follow her on Twitter and FB.