How to Relieve the Pain of Disappointment

· July 19, 2016

We have all at least once trusted someone who ended up hurting us. After this event, we surely have said that we will never “fall for that again.” And when we said this, we were not only talking about romantic disappointments, but about any kind of disappointment.

Whatever the case, it is normal for a deep disappointment to also leave us a deep wound that will take a long while to heal. A wound that usually affects the trust a person places in others, one of the hardest things to restore.

Protect yourself from disappointment: the windbreaker effect

After suffering a disappointment, we usually close the doors to new experiences out of fear of getting hurt again. That’s why many people prefer or choose to not become attached to someone thinking that they are minimizing the risk of getting hurt again.

Psychologists call this choice the “windbreaker effect.” This can happen when we have given the best of ourselves to our partner and they have cheated on us with someone else; when we are completely honest with a friend and they stab us in the back; or when we suffer an abandonment by our parents or family members. Unfortunately, although it might not have been any of these three situations, you have surely experienced a similar sensation.

person walking into stormy sea

There’s a popular saying that goes “Once bitten, twice shy,” and something similar can be applied to this windbreaker effect. To compare the two, the bite would be a disappointment or deception, and you would be shy towards people like the one who hurt you. This means that although this person is not the same one who hurt you, that old bite would make us suffer and remember that hurtful incident.


So what exactly is this “windbreaker effect?” When we interact with someone, expectations start to form and increase. We start to make predictions about the behavior, thoughts and feelings this person might have in the future.

Our expectations can be partly based on what we already know, on information we’ve shared with the other person. And another part could be based on what we have heard about the other person. And yet another could be based simply on our idealization and our desires. The fact is that we mix our wishes with reality.

When our expectations are too high or when the person doesn’t meet their “implicit obligations,” then we feel disillusioned, frustrated, sad and even angry. This is totally normal. However, we have to try to not let these expectations hurt us, or we can try to adapt ourselves to what that person is actually offering us.

But the disappointments we experience aren’t always due to our idea of the “perfect” partner, friend or colleague. Disappointment can also occur when the other person treats us badly and does things that cause us suffering. In that case, other feelings can arise like resentment and rage, besides the ones we have already mentioned (frustration, sadness, disillusion and anger).

And what happens then? Even in the absence of rain, we put on a windbreaker, to keep from getting wet. This means that when a new person comes into our life, we’re afraid of suffering and don’t open up enough to let them in.

Some people could say that more than a windbreaker, they have put on armor, like the type knights used in the Middle Ages. It all depends on how much we have suffered, and how hard it has been for us to overcome that situation.

The dangers of the windbreaker effect

We feel safe within these covers, as if nothing bad could happen to us. However, we could be missing out on the possibility of experiencing other feelings. If we put on a windbreaker and it doesn’t rain, we also can’t enjoy the beams of the sun on our skin, for example.

By overprotecting ourselves with this impermeable jacket, we can’t grow as people. It’s true that when faced with a disappointment or betrayal, at first we don’t want to get to know new people or go out into the world, but it’s crucial that we gradually overcome this stage.

We won’t be achieving anything positive if we lock ourselves up within our inner worlds and don’t allow anyone to enter our “safe haven.”
girl with doll in cage
Another result of closing the doors and windows of our house (heart) with a lock and key is that the people around us will start to pull away from us. We will think that they have abandoned us or that they are all bad people. However, it will be our barrier that pushes the people who love and care for us miles away.

Nobody is saying that it’s simple to overcome a disappointment, especially the romantic kind. But it is crucial we take off that windbreaker when there is no storm in the sky, so that we may enjoy the breeze and sunlight on a sunny day.

We encourage you to sing in the rain and jump in the puddles!