Back in the pit: Dealing with disappointment

by Shariann Tom, Master Cancer Coach; Founder & President

Photo by Keith Cuddeback –
We will feature one of Keith’s photos each month to share the beauty that surrounds us wherever you are.

Recently, on a bright sunny day in the Bay Area, I was buzzing with excitement about an upcoming fun adventure with a friend. I dreamt of all the possibilities that could happen that day.

But then she backed out. I was crushed! I felt let-down, hurt, alone and abandoned. I felt a deep sense of disappointment and sadness about having to let go of my vision of deep connection and bold adventure. I was emotionally invested.

I wanted to let the disappointment go and move on, but it wasn’t that easy. I couldn’t shake the feelings. I was no longer feeling safe. I was afraid to have a new vision or possibility because I didn’t want to get disappointed again. It felt easier to just not want anything.

As humans, we don’t like to feel uncomfortable emotions, so we create behaviors that will keep us “safe” and away from situations that will make us feel unhappy. What I see, with my clients, is that people will do almost anything to avoid feeling disappointed. They won’t even allow themselves to dream because they’re afraid of getting their hopes up and then being let down. Instead, they keep their dreams small in order to avoid disappointment. Their lives become a series of mediocre choices rather than big compelling goals and dreams. It may feel like a safeguard against feeling disappointed, but ultimately, it leads to a life of “just okay.”

Here’s the rub . . . whatever we resist will persist. The more energy we spend keeping sadness and hurt at bay, the more we’re actually holding it in place. On the other hand, if we allow ourselves to feel the disappointment, those feelings will move through us, shift and move out. Once the disappointment shifts, we can move into a different perspective and find the courage to dream again.

As a cancer coach, I tend to view my life experiences through the lens of the Cancer Journey Roadmap. This particular situation took me right into The Pit. This is a place I know well and, perhaps strangely, have to come to cherish. I knew I needed to reach for my allies. In this case, self-compassion was an ally. Nurturing those hurt feelings like I would a hurt child. Another ally was slowing down just enough so that I could feel my feelings, hear my inner voice, find myself again and not push too fast forward. Life is a series of ups and downs. Being able to maneuver through the downs (however slight) has made my ups so much richer. How about you?

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When my husband was diagnosed with cancer, he was clear. In order to avoid surgery, he was “going to go the natural alternative route.” For us, the natural route involved him temporarily moving from Northern to Southern California, 382 miles away, while I stayed home to work and raise our then 2-year old son. I’ll never forget the day, one day after his diagnosis, he packed everything he could fit into his Honda hatchback and drove away. My knees buckled. How would I do it without him? Continue reading

Strength for the Journey: Inspiration

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I remember the first time I attended church during my chemo treatment receiving compliments from friends on how great I looked, how I radiated! Of course, I glowed, I had chemicals racing through my veins killing everything in its way. Continue reading