Everyone has surely sometimes wondered why disappointment hurts so much. It may come as a surprise that disappointment significantly changes the balance of the brain neuron world so much that neurologists say the mechanisms of depression and disappointment include some of the same processes and structures.
From a neurochemical point of view, disappointment is almost the same thing as frustration. We experience these two feelings almost daily. They can be caused by a sudden computer hang, just when we need it badly. We may also be disappointed when someone we’re looking forward to meeting even wigs an appointment.
We feel frustrated when the car refuses to start or we don’t get an answer from the job we were looking for. Everyday life is full of frustration and disappointment, some of which are harmless and some of the great, those that leave their mark on us, as if important people betrayed our trust.
Neuroscientists recently discovered something revealing: every disappointment “shakes” neurons, causing serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins to drop abruptly, so all those molecules responsible for well-being leave the brain temporarily. Let’s take a closer look at this.
Why is disappointment so bad? Neuroscience provides the answer
Jean Paul-Sartre has said that every dreamer is doomed to go through a lot of disappointments. Sometimes we have high expectations. Who wouldn’t have placed too many dreams, ideals, and virtues on other people’s shoulders? People can deceive us, this is clear, but we ourselves are equally disappointing.
This psychic reality is a part of life, and our brains still don’t know how to deal with it properly. This is basically because this body, governed by social and emotional principles, is always looking for security. The brain “wants” to feel part of something or someone in a stable and predictable way. For example, if you have a good friend, you wish the friendship will last forever. If you are in a relationship, you want your partner to be loyal. You want to feel that there is no possibility of fraud and lies.
However, this ideal of security can collapse at any moment. Next, we’ll talk about the reasons given by neuroscience that make disappointment so much.
Habenula: a center of brain disappointment
Roberto Malinow, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego, conducted a study with his team to elucidate the complex mechanisms of disappointment. They were able to demonstrate the significant role of habenula in, for example, disappointment and depression.
When you are disappointed, glutamate and GABAA are immediately released into the habenula. If the brain sends a lot of these neurotransmitters, the feeling of disappointment is greater. In other words, your brain interprets the meaning of experience and regulates the intensity of mental pain.
This very small part of the brain also deals with the feeling of frustration or irritation caused by making mistakes or something that has not been achieved.
Why is disappointment so bad?
Most of us have been disappointed. It feels mentally and physically. We may notice fatigue, heaviness, numbness, and a feeling that the world is moving too fast as we try to deal with something we have just experienced.
Why is this happening? The information obtained from this is fascinating. We know that the body releases endorphins to relieve physical pain as much as possible, that is, when, for example, we get an attack, a wound, or a burn. The brain responds immediately to a message from the receptors about physical damage.
But the same is not true of psychic “wounds”. While the brain interprets disappointment as a blow to our mental balance, it does not respond by producing endorphins. Instead, a person often somatizes frustration as physical pain, migraines, and muscle tension.
How the brain handles disappointment
Neurologists show that the root reason why disappointment hurts so much is that it is handled in the limbic system. This is the most rudimentary structure of the brain, and it is related to emotions. Most often when we experience some setback or when someone deceives us, these experiences are dealt with through a purely emotional one.
One way to reduce the impact of these experiences is to steer them toward the cortex, that is, to try to rationalize them and focus on them from a more objective perspective. This, of course, is not easy, especially when we have been deceived and trust has been broken.
It still has to be done. This can be practiced by controlling negative thoughts and not looking for culprits. Do it by adjusting your expectations, being more realistic, and accepting what you can’t control. Disappointments are rarely forgotten, but they can always be overcome.
You can tolerate disappointment by accepting what happened and keeping in mind that nothing is more important than going forward. You still have a lot of great stories to write.
I hope you enjoyed this article! If you liked it, you might also like this one that deals with listening to instinct after disappointment.