Who hasn’t experienced that knot in the stomach when feeling that a person we trusted has let us down? Why do so many people end up shutting themselves away and not believing in people? Is it true that you can’t trust anyone?

For a disappointment to happen, we must have built up an expectation beforehand. “I didn’t expect this from you,” “I thought you’d do this for me,” etc.

We value people’s behaviour to the extent that it fits in with our beliefs about how someone should behave within that role: our mother has to be loving and understanding, our father protective and strong, our partner can only have eyes for us and our friends always have to “be there”. If such behaviour goes beyond what we consider appropriate we become angry, disappointed, sad and even feel that we do not know the person in front of us.

Why? Because we don’t relate to people as they are, but as we think they are , or worse, as we want them to be. We idealize, project, devalue and therefore do not relate in a real way, but in a fantasy way. However, there are useful strategies to overcome disappointments in the best possible way.

Managing expectations

The first step to protect ourselves from the unpleasant feeling of being disappointed is not to raise too many expectations about the people we interact with. Not expecting too much from people has nothing to do with the pessimistic idea that “everyone will fail us”, but with trying to see the person as they are and not as we want them to be, and accepting that certain decisions or behaviors they adopt as the free person they are, may not be to our liking.

Secondly we must avoid projections and over-generalizations regarding our past experiences . The disappointments and breaks in trust that we have suffered in the past have nothing to do with our present reality, and putting up a wall as a defensive mechanism in the face of future disappointments will only serve to distance us from society and consequently make us feel alone and live through fear.

Even so, it is likely that throughout our lives we will suffer from betrayal, lies, or harm done by a loved one or someone we thought we could trust. What to do if we find ourselves in this situation?

1. Regulate the emotions that arise from disappointment

In the face of disappointment, emotions related to sadness, fear, anger or frustration appear. It is important to learn to identify them, experience them, and regulate them in a healthy way so that they do not become chronic or turn against us. It is also necessary to give us our space to cry and release the anger that has been produced in the face of the unexpected situation.

2. Talking about our feelings

We should also verbalize our feelings before a trusted person , and if necessary, with the person who has performed the “offense” so that he or she understands our emotions.

We have to assess and weigh whether we want that person to continue to be part of our life, or whether we prefer to go our own way without him. In both options it is important to work on forgiveness so that the emotion does not derive in a rancor that only poisons us.

3. Beginning to see disappointment as learning

Once the whirlwind of emotions that we have felt due to the disappointment has passed, it is important that we carry out a self-examination or introspection in order to watch if the image we had built of that person was distorted , and if we have a tendency to idealize our interpersonal relationships.

Disappointment also reminds us that relationships are constantly changing and that we have to accept the uncontrollability of these relationships, as well as the behavior of those around us.

4. Re-trusting people

There are disappointments that are so painful to us that we feel we can never trust anyone again, and as protection we risk becoming inaccessible, distrustful, paranoid or unfair to the people around us .

No one can assure us that our loved ones will not “fail” us, but accepting the possibility and enjoying the relationship in the present is the smartest option.

“We need people in our lives with whom we can be as honest as possible. Having real conversations with people seems such a simple and obvious proposition, but it takes courage and risk” Thomas Moore.