When people let you down it can be painful. When friends disappoint you or there is a family disappointment it can leave us feeling as if there is a lack of empathy and care towards ourselves. We will learn in this article about what we can and cannot control and why this matters for our happiness and well-being. We will also learn to empathise with others and to look through a healthier lens without immediate judgement on other peoples actions.
“We are disturbed not by events, but by the views which we take of them.”Epictetus
Why being let down feels so terrible
Many studies are now exploring and showing that positive social relationships and the quality of our connections are the strongest source of our happiness. It is not surprising that if the channel to such a strong source of happiness is some how blocked off or damaged it would cause us suffering. For many of us it is difficult to open our hearts and deeply connect to another person. If someone lets us down or disrupts that trust then it can hurt.
According to Guy Winch, Ph.D;
“We all have a fundamental need to belong to a group. When we get rejected, this need becomes destabilized and the disconnection we feel adds to our emotional pain.”
It can also be our appraisal of being let down that can cause our suffering to deepen or be triggered in the first place. Has that person let us down? Yes, it is quite possible they have, but we should explore our lens and view of the world too with calm, compassion and mindfulness.
The affects of being let down
Being let down in early childhood can have a particular impact on how we view others, how we feel about ourselves and can impact future behavioral patterns. Rejection and being let down have an overlapping dynamic but can depend on our appraisal of the situation.
Social Psychology Area Director at Florida State University Dr Roy Baumeister states;
“Let’s now consider the large behavioural effects of rejection. Our first major project showed that rejected people became more aggressive toward others. Child psychologists have long observed that aggressive, violent kids are often outcasts, but they mainly concluded that aggressiveness leads to rejection. Our findings indicate that the causal arrow can point strongly in the opposite direction too: rejection does cause an increase in aggression.”
Furthermore a rejection can influence our future behavior and actions on how we respond to others.
Further more says Dr Roy Baumesiter;
“Yes, social exclusion contributes to a broad range of maladaptive, pathological and antisocial patterns. But if the rejection experience is followed by an apparent opportunity to make a new friend, then rejected people seem extra willing to exert themselves to respond positively. We have found that under promising circumstances, previously excluded people are more likely than others to choose to work with someone, to allocate praise and cash rewards to a new partner, to self-regulate, and to view others as potentially friendly and accepting.”
Our actions after being let down can significantly influence how we view other people and hence how we move forward with our lives. If we feel upset and begin a mistrust for others then we may miss out on beautiful new friendships, future romances and job opportunities. If our minds become closed and our senses for positive things in our environment become blurred then we subconsciously are choosing to remain in a negative state. Imagine being let down by someone then going to a coffee shop and not engaging in conversation. We may meet our future life partner in the coffee shop, we may help out a fellow human being and this could lead to a business partnership or other exciting opportunities. These things happen everyday and kindness, connections and opportunities are all around us.
How to cope when someone lets you down
Stoicism can be a wonderful way to practice living in harmony with others. Stoicism is based around the thoughts of certain key philosophical thinkers notably Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus and Seneca to name a few. How can we use Stoicism when people let you down?
- Wisdom: Take the time to pause and assess what controllability you have in situations. You cannot control other people but you can control your responses to others and to the environment around you. Emotions may creep up on us but we can choose to take mature paths with such emotions. If we are angry we can choose to take a breath and time out, and from this channel our anger instead of reacting with aggression. If we are stuck in traffic we can choose to accept this, listen to a positive podcast or sing aloud to the radio rather than become angry at others. We cannot control peoples opinions but we can respond in a mature and healthy manner and we can lead by example which in turn can influence others.
- Temperance: Find a balance of comfort and safety without over indulgence. We can enjoy a healthy financial income and we can enjoy a nice meal. We do not need to be aggressive and take from others and nor do we need to over indulge in life. Our ego can get in the way of our happiness and lead us to wanting more, more and more. Through this process we can become frustrated as we want so much and we place expectations on others to help us get there. By practicing temperance, gratitude, and appreciating what we have we can learn to relax more in life and not have expectations on others.
- Courage: When we are disappointed in people we can find the courage and develop the maturity to accept what is and actively choose to base our future actions on kindness, compassion and good. If you have explored Meaningful Paths you may have seen many conversations about finding your own meaningful path and mindfully enjoying those meaningful moments subjective to you. Courage comes from thinking of others and acting in alignment with altruism and compassion no matter how difficult the situation may be. Begin today with courage and become the strong brother or sister in your family, become a role model to your friends and focus on compassion with others.
- Justice: Following on from Courage comes Justice which entails focusing on the bigger picture and other human beings (not to be confused with ‘justice as revenge or self-interest’). When friends disappoint you or their is a family disappointment it is very natural to focus inwards and focus on ourselves. This is a process that we may need to go through and it does not in anyway mean that we are being selfish as someone may have deeply wronged us. When we find the courage to step back from this inward focus and look at the broader picture of humanity and our planet and beyond, we can begin to focus our efforts and align our actions with values that focus on kindness and empathy and compassion.
How do we react appropriately when people let you down?
- Focus your thoughts through a positive lens. It is often our appraisal of events that lead us to think of them as negative or positive and then from this at a later date our memory of such an event will be recalled from our initial appraisal and further thought patterns on this event. Assess options on what may have happened and why this happened.
- Practice mindfulness and not reacting to your initial thoughts and emotions. Our mindfulness worksheets are a great start to help you with this.
- Choose not to be the victim. If someone has wronged you then this is bad and wrong of them and shame on them. You are strong and you will act with courage and the stoic virtues above.
Always consider the other persons circumstances
Focusing on compassion daily helps us to look at life, situations and people in general with a clear mind. We are all human and we all have some form of baggage and things going on in our lives. We don’t know what people are going through behind closed doors and what prelude and context happened to this person before they let us down. It is possible someone lets us down with little reasoning and it is possible someone is very self induced.
Perhaps a rude waiter had an argument with a loved one before their shift?
Perhaps a cancelled date had some upsetting news from home?
Choosing to act in alignment with the Stoic Virtues above not only helps us be healthier and happier through a more constructive appraisal but it will also aid us in becoming a better human being and growing as a person. Such maturity and compassion may lead to future opportunities with this induvial which may be good for you. If the individual was genuinely rude with little excuse, then place your hand on your heart and wish them future human growth and walk away; they do not deserve your time and energy today.
A conclusion of thoughts
Being let down by others certainly hurts and it is no wonder that such an event has consequences on us. If we have a particularly deep connection with someone and they let us down then this can hurt even more. A rejection by a stranger can also hurt as it can make us question our qualities and who we are. Often our suffering comes from our appraisal of the situation. If we focus on what we can control, accept what we cannot change, focus our daily lives on compassion and empathy, and aspire to be a good role model for others then we can not only survive a rejection or being let down, we can actually move past this situation quickly, smoothly and with compassion.
Thanks for listening.
Friends Nourish the Body and Soul – Blue Zones
10 Surprising Facts About Rejection | Psychology Today United Kingdom
How to Feel Good Enough | Psychreg
The Highest Good: An Introduction To The 4 Stoic Virtues (dailystoic.com)
Is Social Connection the Best Path to Happiness? (berkeley.edu)
What to Do When You Feel Let Down by Someone | Psychology Today United Kingdom
Rejected and alone | The Psychologist (bps.org.uk)