Welcome to Sanctuary Counseling Group
Sanctuary (n): from the Latin sanctus or holy; 1) a sacred or holy place; 2) a place of refuge or safety, a haven; 3) shelter from danger, hardship, or threat.
Sanctuary Counseling Group—formerly known as Methodist Counseling and Consultation Services—has provided mental health counseling and pastoral counseling in the greater Charlotte area and in satellite offices in cities and towns around the western piedmont of North Carolina for over 50 years. To learn more about us and the kinds of services we provide, or to find out how to make an appointment with a therapist in your geographical area, feel free to contact us. We would love to hear from you.
Dealing With Disappointment in the New Year
It's not unusual to find oneself entering January with a vague and somewhat surprising sense of disappointment. The holidays are over, the lights are packed away, the world is dark again, and maybe we didn't hear any angels singing after all.
How do you handle disappointment?
When things don't go our way or when expectations are unmet, we naturally feel disappointed. That's normal. We had hoped for more; we had expected something good; we had our minds wrapped around those exciting future possibilities. Only what we expected didn't happen, and now we find ourselves struggling with the emotional burden of our disappointment.
The most common approach to dealing with disappointment generally involves a large dose of wallowing followed by a concerted effort to move on—"build a bridge and get over it," as a friend of mine says. While this usually works okay, there is a potentially healthier way to deal with our disappointment, one that involves mindfulness or paying attention nonjudgmentally to what we're experiencing.
Let me suggest a brief mindfulness exercise:
The first step is to sit still and calmly experience the emotion of disappointment as it arises. Give yourself permission to feel it. Don't worry; you won't be harmed by it. What do you notice? A touch of anger? Some frustration? Sadness or depression? Maybe even grief? Allow yourself to simply sit with the emotion and observe it, as lovingly as possible.
Second, after you've allowed yourself to feel the emotion, take a mental step back and simply look at it in a curious bystander sort of way. For starters, scan your body. How does disappointment feel physically? Does it settle somewhere in particular? Scan your body for discomfort or tightness, heaviness or tiredness. Notice how your forehead feels, or your brow, or jaw, or neck, or shoulders, or back, or chest. What does disappointment feel like physically?
Third, notice your thoughts. Don't follow them or buy into them, simply note them. What kinds of thoughts does the feeling of disappointment elicit? Self-blame or regret? Memories of previous disappointments? The prospect of a bleak future? Watch your thoughts go by as though you were watching a parade. No need to jump on any particular thought-float as it passes. You're not a participant now, you're a spectator. Simply watch.
As we mindfully attend to what we're feeling, quite often the emotions themselves will run their course. Emotions are not static things; rather, they're dynamic processes that often need to be allowed to grow and pass.
Gentle acceptance and mindfulness of what we're feeling can go a long way in allowing emotions to run their course. When we either cling to them by wallowing in them or push them away by telling ourselves to "get over it," we deny ourselves a valuable opportunity to learn and grow. We also run the risk of freezing our emotions in place. Who knows, perhaps depression can be thought of as frozen disappointment.
When uncomfortable emotions like disappointment or anger or sadness arise, settle into mindful watching—of your body, your thoughts, the world around you. It's an opportunity to move and grow beyond either unhealthy wallowing or frantic denying.
Jonathan Golden, Ph.D.
Resources for Pastors
Sanctuary Counseling Group recognizes the unique needs and stressors of pastors working within the pastorate as well as the needs of the pastoral family. To this end we offer a number of resources specifically for clergy
Check out the clergy resources page, including educational and workshop opportunities, counseling and consultation, vocational assessment, and helpful readings. Feel free to contact an SCG therapist in your geographical area for further information. As persons trained in both theology and mental health counseling—and with a high standard of confidentiality—SCG therapists are in a unique position to serve the needs of parish clergy and their families.
"Self-care is never a selfish act—it is simply
good stewardship of the only gift I have,
the gift I was put on earth to offer to others."