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Mistrust: Dealing with Disappointment

By: Shaila Anjum

When we think trust issues, we think romantic relationships and cheating. Trust takes a long time to build and an instance to break.

One of the main causes of mistrust comes from a build up of disappointments. Isn’t it nice to see a smile on your sweetheart's face? We may make promises or half-mindedly say we will do something but do not actually do it. While it may seem small and harmless at first, like saying you'll fold the laundry without following through, these instances add up! When someone says they will do something, we get happy. Then when they fail to do it, we feel some level of disappointment - even if followed up with understanding and forgiveness. When actions don't match what you say, trust breaks! This translates to not believing your significant other when they make promises. It’s a defence mechanism trying to protect you from disappointment, ensuring we do not get our hopes up at the words of someone that has left us high and dry in the past helps avoid disappointment--or so we think.

To avoid disappointment, we may keep a guard up and remind ourselves that just because someone says they will do something, it doesn’t actually mean they will. Keeping this in mind, the individual has now begun to slowly lose respect for you and things you say you will do, because they have experienced that you do not follow through. In the beginning stages of a relationship, if your sweetheart offers to wake you up and be your alarm, doesn’t that feel so nice and sweet? But what happens when they forget to wake you up?

A study conducted in California reveals that disappointment causes two neurotransmitters to fire simultaneously, one is an excitatory neurotransmitter (glutamate) and the other is an inhibitory neurotransmitter (GABA) (Wanjek, 2014). The ratio of the two neurotransmitters determines whether the disappointment experienced is high or low (Wajnek, 2014). Disappointment is one of the few moods in which two neurotransmitters fire simultaneously (Wajnek, 2014). With the experience of disappointment, we may also experience anger and sadness. While the two neurotransmitters (glutamate and GABA) are firing off, dopamine (your pleasure neurotransmitter) is inhibited and cortisol (stress hormone) levels rise (Dold, 2016).

Long Term Impact of Disappointment

Experiencing low, stressful, disappointing emotions often can cause depressive symptoms (Wanjek, 2014). High frequency of these depressive symptoms means frequent alteration of hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain. This messes with the homeostasis in the brain, which is the balance of your neurochemistry. Over time this alteration can lead to depression (Wanjek, 2014).

Even without referring back to the science, I am sure we have all dealt with disappointment at least once in our lifetime. Maybe it began with our parents promising us a trip to the ice cream store if we cleaned up and then not having enough time to take us there, or from our friend making plans to go out with us and then not being able to all of a sudden, or our significant other promising they will make dinner but maybe getting caught up in something and therefore no dinner was prepared. All these are some basic disappointments that many of us experience over our lifetime. How does it feel when these disappointments reoccur from the same person over and over again?

Dealing with Disappointment

The following is a combination of coping strategies from Edberg and Raeeka:


Accepting the fact that you have experienced disappointment and trying to work your way through what had occurred is important. Why are you disappointed? What was your expectation? Why wasn’t your expectation met? What circumstances could have prevented from your expectation from being met?

These are important questions to ask when trying to accept the situation and set your first foot into overcoming it. By answering the above questions you can begin to see your own thought processes and your relationship with the person or people that may have been a part of the disappointment.

Remember: Sometimes our expectations are unrealistic, other times the people around us may not be self-aware of their actions, or they may have had no intention of causing any damage to you whatsoever. Yet, there are instances where damage is intentional. If that is the case, you need to decide what's best for you.

Plan of Action

Now that you have attempted to better understand your situation and all the factors that may have been at play, you can begin to put together a plan of action. A plan of action can include doing nothing. Sometimes acceptance and understanding of the situation is enough to feel better. For example, in situations where there was no intention to cause damage or you realize your expectation was unrealistic can be enough to sidestep a more elaborate plan of action.

Other times, you may come to the realization that the disappointment was caused many times by someone you consider close enough to you that they should have had your best interest in mind. If that’s the case, your plan of action might be to talk to them about it. In which case effective communication is important where you are using factual and feeling statements as opposed to blaming statements. I will be writing a blog post on effective communication in relationships next- stay tuned!

If doing nothing and letting go or communication is not the plan of action for you, the plan of action may be to block someone toxic from your life. This may involve a communication first or you may decide this person has deliberately hurt you and therefore are not worthy of anymore of your time. This is something for you to decide.

Talk to Someone

Disappointment is a tricky emotion and can be difficult to deal with alone sometimes. This is where that support system comes into play. Talk to those close to you that you trust and tell them something bothered you. It’s important to feel support and sometimes our loved ones can shed a new perspective we did not consider ourselves.

Self-Care and Healing

Positive self-talk is important. Often times we may feel horrible about ourselves for either feeling this way or for letting someone else make us feel this way. This is where that self-care and healing come into play.

Self-Care can be spending time with yourself and doing things you like that you do not find to be stressful. This can be gardening, face-masks, going to the gym, knitting, reading and more.

Healing can include breathing exercises, positive self-talk - letting yourself know you are only human and humans like to love and trust and feel affection and sometimes this may lead us into unmet expectations that later disappoint but there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. You are strong, worthy and capable! Healing can be meditation and affirmations too.

Stay strong and keep moving on fighters!


Dold, K. (2016). What disappointing news does to your body. Retrieved from

Wanjek, C. (2014). Feeling bummed? How disappointment works in the brain. Retrieved from

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