Did you know that chronic disappointment is damaging to your Sympathetic Parasympathetic Nervous System?
Neither did I until I felt disappointed in the way I was treating myself and other especially when I made promises and couldn't keep them. I felt like I let my oldest down because she asked for money to help get an apartment. Her first apartment by a college, and I didn't have what I laid aside due to this pandemic.
What is Disappointment?
As an emotion, researchers describe disappointment as a form of sadness — a feeling of loss, an uncomfortable space (or a painful gap) between our expectations and reality.
The pain in your brain after a disappointment is real. Our brain processes such experiences as events that undermine our balance and well-being. Hence, the pain appears and the levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin or dopamine decrease.
From a neurochemical point of view, disappointment is almost the same as frustration. We also know that these two are possibly the emotional realities we experience almost on a day-to-day basis. You feel them when your computer suddenly freezes, just when you need it most. For example, you’re disappointed when someone you’re looking forward to meeting cancels an appointment.
You get frustrated when your car refuses to start and when you don’t receive an answer to that job you applied to. Your daily life is full of frustrations and disappointments. Although some are innocuous and others severe, they all make an impact on you. Just like those from meaningful people who fail you at any given time.
Nevertheless, neuroscientists discovered something obvious recently. That a neuronal “jolt” happens before every disappointment. There’s a sudden decrease in serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins. So, all those molecules responsible for your well-being momentarily leave your brain.
Next, we’ll explain the reasons why a disappointment hurts so much, according to neuroscience.
Roberto Malinow, a neuroscientist at the University of California in San Diego, conducted a study with his team to discover the complex mechanism of disappointment. Something they were able to demonstrate is the great involvement of the habenula in processes such as disappointment and depression.
Thus, when you’re disappointed, glutamate and GABA are immediately released into the habenula. If the brain sends a high amount of these neurotransmitters, the feeling of disappointment will be greater. That is, your brain interprets the impact of the experience and modulates the intensity of your emotional pain.
Also, the feeling of frustration or annoyance for not achieving something or for making mistakes is also processed in this tiny and ancient region of the brain of the epithalamic nucleus.
Even though your brain interprets disappointment as an impact against emotional balance, it doesn’t respond with endorphins. Instead, on many occasions, you end up somatizing the frustration as physical pain, migraines, and muscular tension.
Neurologists point out that the basic reason why a disappointment hurts so much is that it processes in the limbic system. This structure of your brain is the most primitive and linked to your emotions. Most of the times, when you suffer a setback or when someone fails you, you’re disappointed by it. You filter those experiences in a purely emotional way.
The Limbic System Its structures include the hypothalamus, thalamus, amygdala, and hippocampus. The hypothalamus plays a role in the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which is a part of any emotional reaction. ... The hippocampus integrates emotional experience with cognition. (see my post on stress and the brain)
The Parasympathetic Nervous System
The parasympathetic nervous system is one of three divisions of the autonomic nervous system. Sometimes called the rest and digest system, the parasympathetic system conserves energy as it slows the heart rate, increases intestinal and gland activity, and relaxes sphincter muscles in the gastrointestinal tract.
Disappointment is an emotion that stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. A chemical response is triggered which results in melancholy, inertia, and a feeling of hopelessness.
The study of disappointment and how it changes us is a new study and is just now being understood in our times.
What does the Bible Say About Disappointment?
Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Isaiah 40:28-31 ESV
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 61:7 ESV
Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot; therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion; they shall have everlasting joy.
1 Thessalonians 5:18
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
For More Information on Your Brain
This Link Contains information on how to over come disappointment written in the form of a testimony
This Link Contains a Slide Presentation of the events that take place during disappointment in the parasympathetic nervous system