As defined by Loomes and Sugden (1986) disappointment is ” a psychological reaction to an outcome that does not match up against prior expectations” (Theory of Disappointment, Naplas and Chauveau, (2007)

What characterises much of our couples and psychosexual work? Underneath all the anger, resentment, fear and bewilderment are usually disappointments with dreams, hopes, or a particular future. When we sit with this and address it, sometimes it is palpable in the room. This may mirror the process between supervisor or supervisee. As clinical supervisors we hold some of the hopes and dreams of the supervisee, at times we are the ones who inhibit or challenge their work – the result: disappointment!

Students also need to be disappointed with their therapy training. Often, they focus on the deficits or get stuck in grumbles. At times students do not have the inner space to observe how they too have managed disappointment in their lives and how they will need to manage and work with it in the therapy room or within the training. We wonder where is the acceptance and grace to appreciate disappointment and the growth it entails?

How do we encourage those entering the profession to understand subjective truth, rejection and acceptance, and to build the muscle required to withstand disappointed clients?

Some time ago in Psychology Today, it was posited that four questions might need to be addressed. These were ‘how do you tame your inner critic?’, ‘ how do you avoid black and white thinking’, ‘can we accept ‘trade offs’?’ and finally can we ‘befriend the unknown?’ All important questions to ponder whichever chair we may happen to sit in, – therapist, trainee, supervisee, supervisor?

So, what do we do??? Disappointment can take us hostage, couples may think they have failed or lost. However, part of the work is about encouraging people to engage with their resilience, re-imagining what was hoped for and challenging or confronting the reasons for being in the relationship in the first place! It takes considerable courage to come back from that uncomfortable island called disappointment. Do we endure until we leave the shores of that island? The alternative might be the invitation to consider a new image, to continue, to work through the disappointment to perhaps another chapter of life’s journey.

The life of a psychosexual therapist has many joys and challenges but let’s not forget the ‘failures’ which occur and how they may the most important part of our learning. That in those spaces of disenchantment and distress the potential for growth is very high. Does anyone believe that there is one truth? Or is it as Abraham Maslow suggested is it the need to distinguish between ‘means and ends’?

Or as the poet Rumi said “what you are seeking is seeking you”

Judi Keshet-Orr
Founder & Course Director

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