How to respond to failure and disappointment


Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT)

We may not like it, but failure and disappointment are common experiences and happen to every single one of us. Failure and disappointment can trigger strong negative emotions that can impact life and focus.

Disappointment and failure can be experienced in so many different areas of life. For example, business, relationship, exams. Your feelings of disappointment can be intense and you may feel depressed, angry, guilty, hurt or ashamed among others.

It is not uncommon for new businesses and ventures to fail in the first two years. The figures are surprising. Between 15%–20% last beyond the second year. Yet despite the fact that failure and disappointment happen, even more surprisingly, they are not often discussed, as if mentioning failure and disappointment is unacceptable. Some schools have even banished competitive sports and discouraged healthy competition because it is perceived that a) competitiveness is bad and b) children will fail – meaning that they will fail and then perceive themselves as failures. Children are then deprived of the opportunity to understand that they can deal with failure in a constructive way and learn something valuable that will serve them later on in adulthood. Instead, they receive the opposite message. The message given is that failure ‘causes’ psychological problems i.e. it has nothing to do with how we respond to it psychologically.

failure-success

There is, however, a positive side to failure and disappointment. In many ways, they hold the key to your success.

Failure, or the challenge of failure and disappointment, can be seen as either a reason for despair or as an aid to personal development and emotional growth, learning or even spiritual development.

Any risk you undertake in life brings with it the possibility of failure or disappointment. This happens whenever you wish to make any change. Dealing with failure and disappointment can be difficult but there are many avenues open to help you learn how to handle it.

Accepting failure is about accepting your fallibility as a human being. No one is perfect. Perfection is something that does not exist. What does exist is excellence and striving for excellence. If you believe that you have reached your own level of perfection, this is the opposite of awfulising (when you believe that nothing worse can exist). Neither of these concepts is consistent with reality.

In the traditions of the Navaho tribe, rugs and blankets are woven with a knot in them as a reminder that humankind is not perfect. By weaving in a knot, they believe they are ensuring that the Gods are not angered by humans thinking that they are like Gods. Human fallibility, making mistakes or failing is represented by the knot, a visible reminder that shows how imperfection might be reflected upon and accepted.

REBT is one of the main CBT models. It’s based on acceptance or acknowledgement of the past, present and the future. This is done by strengthening one’s heathy beliefs and weakening the old habitual unhealthy ones to effect long term change and a focus on one’s goals. Research has demonstrated REBT’s effectiveness and efficacy for clinical, subclinical and non-clinical conditions.

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