I need those receipts.
My Friday Freakout started with a simple question—if there is such a thing as “a simple question” when spouses discuss money.
In the span of five short minutes, buttons were pushed. Anxiety levels soared. Doors slammed, literally and figuratively.
Leaving me at a pity party with a guest list of one and a single on the DJ’s playlist:
I need those receipts.
spend waste another hour ruminating over the injustices of my situation.
- “How am I supposed to …”
- “After all the work I put into …”
- “All I asked for was…”
Finally, boredom sets in. None of this is new, let alone entertaining. It’s the same old song and dance every time I over-react.
My current needs, wants, and feelings are all valid; but their intensity worries me.
Why am I this upset about those receipts?
I dig for understanding.
I assumed the receipts were going to be reimbursed.
Based on my assumptions, I was finally going to buy my new cell phone this weekend!
(A brand new cell phone that actually does exactly what I want, exactly when I want.)
This isn’t about those receipts.
I want that cell phone.
On the one hand, I’m embarrassed by my own entitlement.
There are starving children everywhere, and my current cell phone functions just fine.
On the other hand, I’ve earned it.
I’ve been saving up money from contract jobs, eagerly anticipating my reward.
A torrent of tears blindsides me.
Why am I this upset about that cell phone?
It’s just a gadget.
A nice new gadget. That works perfectly. Unlike the rest of my life.
This isn’t about that cell phone.
This is about something far, far deeper.
I want control.
Those receipts and that cell phone are simply symbols of my core craving.
I want to march into the store, hand over my credit card, and receive a slim gold package of control.
Put it in a shatter-proof case and carry it around in my purse.
Complete with an extended warranty.
This isn’t about those receipts or that cell phone.
This is me grasping for guarantees.
When Disappointment Hits Too Hard
A few years ago, I would have chalked up this whole incident to “letting my emotions run away with me.” Now, I see it as the inevitable consequence of not listening to my emotions earlier.
We ought to listen to our emotions before we start preaching to them. Let’s not tell the what to do before they tell us what they’re already doing.
Adam McHugh, The Listening Life
Here are three questions that, when asked early, can help us metabolize disappointment more effectively.
Question 1: What was I hoping to do?
This question helps us drill down to the core issue.
I stayed stuck on those receipts for far too long. Asking myself, “What was I hoping to do with the receipts?” would have led to, “And what was I hoping to do if I had enough money?” which would have led to, “And what was I hoping to do with a new cell phone?”
Processing disappointment starts with discovering what we were really hoping to do.
Question 2: What was I hoping to fix?
This question reveals the problem we’re trying to solve.
On the surface, I needed those receipts to calculate our available funds so I could get a cell phone that takes high-quality pictures and runs the latest apps. Completely rational, right?
But following the intensity of my disappointment led me straight to pain I was desperate to fix: my on-going grief … worries for those I love … uncertainty about the future. Since I couldn’t fix any of them, I was determined to fix what I could.
Processing disappointment includes figuring out what we were really hoping to fix.
Question 3: What was I hoping to feel?
This question reveals the emotional need we’re trying to meet.
Was I hoping to feel the accomplishment of balancing the checkbook? Sure. The thrill of posting high-definition photos to Facebook and finally being able to use Voxer? Yep.
But more than anything, I wanted to stop feeling helpless and start feeling strong. I was ready, once again, to buy in order to become. Which never ever works.
Processing disappointment comes down to finding what we were really hoping to feel.
When disappointment runs too deep, we can dig down to its roots by prayerfully asking:
- 1. What was I hoping to do?
- 2. What was I hoping to fix?
- 3. What was I hoping to feel?
The answers to these three questions can lead us out of the depths of disappointment and back onto level ground.
Where we can stop obsessing over those receipts and that cell phone.
Shut down the pity party.
Evaluate the options we still have.
And take the next most faithful step.
If you’re a fellow control-freaker, don’t miss Michele Cushatt‘s wisdom on the topic! We discussed control in yesterday’s Undone Life Together Conversation, and you can watch the video right here.