The Psychology and Physiology Behind Disappointment

Scientists have only begun looking into the psychology of disappointment, but already there is a definite link between physiological occurrences in the body and what happens in the brain when people experience the negative emotion of disappointment.

Just what is disappointment? When an outcome fails to meet an expectation, we experience an emotion known as disappointment. Often this feeling arises after we’ve taken some sort of risk and imagined we would be rewarded rather than punished. When we’re rewarded, the feeling we experience is known as elation. We can’t help but feel disappointed once in a while, as the emotion arises when things aren’t going perfectly – an unavoidable aspect of life, when we may also feel feelings of frustration and regret.

Feelings of disappointment are made worse when we’re let down by someone we know and trust and whom we expected to give us what we wanted. When we feel prolonged disappointment toward a loved one, these feelings can worsen and we can develop feelings of resentment, blame, and even rage.

There are several clinical theories as to what disappointment actually is. One is that disappointment is a psychological reaction to an outcome that does not match expectations – the more disparity between the two, the more we feel disappointed. Another holds that disappointment is the experience we feel when we consider what could have been compared to what actually is in our present reality. Another is that disappointment is the acceptance of reality; this feeling forces us to admit to ourselves that we haven’t gotten what we wanted. We feel disappointment because it’s easier to feel anger than admit sadness. The anger related to disappointment allows us to continue to idealize what could have been even as we consciously belittle the dream we’ve missed.

One study looked into sports fans’ feelings of disappointment and found that older baseball fans felt less disappointment when their team wasn’t doing so well. This seems to indicate that the more we’ve been disappointed, the better we can deal with the emotion that comes along with the experience.

Physiological reactions that can go along with feelings of disappointment include numbness, headaches, sweating, diarrhea, tingle, quickened heartbeat, tiredness, and a sense of vomiting.

Source: Best Psychology Degrees

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