Has a loved one let you down big time? Did you major in a field of study, only to find out that the career path wasn’t fulfilling? Have you believed in an institution that didn’t follow through on their promises? If so, you could be dealing with the crushing effects of feeling disillusioned.

What Does it Mean to Feel Disillusioned?

The definition of “disillusioned” is the sense of disappointment that occurs when one discovers that something did not turn out to be as good as one hoped or believed it would be. The degree of disappointment is directly related to the original level of expectations.

Regular disappointment is just part of life. You may feel disappointed if it rains when you planned an outdoor party. A concert that you were looking forward to attending is canceled because the lead singer got sick. You miss your daughter’s recital because you were stuck on the interstate due to a multi-vehicle pileup. These are examples that everyone may experience due to factors beyond our control.

But feeling disillusioned is a bigger problem since it is related to inflated expectations. If you understand the meaning of disillusionment, you can deal with your current feelings of being disillusioned, plus avoid it in the future.

Inflated Expectations

When you have inflated expectations, you set yourself up for feeling disillusioned. Learning to set realistic expectations can guard you against future disappointment.

Let’s look at several examples of inflated expectations versus realistic expectations.

Example 1

You married young and made your husband your whole world. Now that you’re 20 years into the marriage, you feel utterly alone since your children are almost out of the nest. You didn’t make the time to develop friends or outside interests, which is hurting you now. Your husband feels like a stranger to you since he’s buried in his work.

Inflated expectation: 

My husband will meet all my needs. Not only will he provide for me, but he’ll be my romantic partner, best friend, and emotional support. I don’t need anyone else. He’s my Prince Charming.

Reasonable expectation: 

My marriage is the most important relationship in my life, besides my relationship with God. But it is just one important part of my life. I can build relationships with my children, extended family members, female friends, and other church members for a more interesting and fulfilling lifestyle. In fact, when I rely on others for my emotional needs, I won’t be taxing my husband too much. Our relationship can be even better!

Example 2

You are a retired professional athlete. Your son shows great athletic ability even as a little guy. You encourage his talent by enrolling him in elite sports programs. Yet now, as a high school sophomore being scouted by big-name schools, he’s telling you that he wants to study business instead. You feel crushed with disappointment.

Inflated expectation: 

My son will follow in my footsteps. He has all my talents, plus some. He will go even further than I will. I can’t wait to see him as a pro! That’s the day I’m living for.

Reasonable expectation: 

My son shows impressive talent. But his life belongs to God. God has already chosen him for a specific purpose. If that’s sports, great. But I’ll support him even if he chooses something else. He doesn’t have to be just like me.

Example 3

You studied to be a minister, to follow in the steps of several generations of your family. However, two years into the ministry, you feel frustrated, angry, confused and hurt. Nothing is going the way you hoped it would go. You’re thinking about quitting.

Inflated expectation: 

Ministry is in my blood. The local congregations supported my father and grandfather’s ministries, so this congregation is sure to appreciate and support me. I’ll be doing what I was born to do, and doing God’s will at the same time.

Reasonable expectation: 

My career as a minister will come with the highs and lows of any job. It will require a lot from me, perhaps more than I anticipated. As long as I can stay emotionally healthy, I’m committed to serving with God’s help and my family’s support.

How a Christian Counselor Can Help You Adjust Your Expectations

If you feel stuck in disillusionment, there is hope for you as you learn to adjust your expectations. This is much like the grieving process, which will cause temporary discomfort.

A counselor can help you process any feelings of disillusionment and adjust your expectations by using the following:

Discuss Your Past

Look at clues in your past that set you up for inflated expectations. When you can identify the pattern that causes you to build up expectations, you can learn your triggers. This will help break the pattern so you will experience less disillusionment moving forward.

Delve Into Your Personality

Some personalities are more prone to experiencing disappointment and disillusionment than others. Your counselor can help you discover your unique strengths and weaknesses. With greater self-awareness, you can avoid the pitfalls that lead you toward too-high of expectations.

Help You Grieve

The grieving process has several stages. You may shift back and forth between denial, bargaining, anger, and sadness before reaching the acceptance stage. Your counselor will lead you through this journey so you can reach healing.

Give You New Tools

To keep you from falling into the same traps again, your counselor will give you new tools to move in a new direction. You’ll learn about setting limits, respecting others, and viewing situations from more than one angle. You’ll also learn how to search the Bible for what God says about your situation, so you are better equipped to follow his will.

Bible Verses to Fight Disillusionment

God’s Word can encourage you to stay on track in your journey toward emotional health. God knows your past, personality, weaknesses, and strengths. He knows your griefs and your capabilities. God wants you to be healthy and whole, and he can help you set reasonable expectations.

Consider meditating on these verses from Proverbs to help you fight the temptation to feel disillusioned.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. – Proverbs 3:5-6

When you put your full trust in God, he will show you the right understanding of a situation. He’ll lay out the path you should take, which will keep you from veering off into disillusionment. You can trust God’s understanding more than your own.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. – Proverbs 4:23

If you have a personality that tends toward setting high expectations, this verse will help you. When you guard your heart’s desires, the rest of your emotional health will be set straight. God is willing to guard your heart and guide it toward wise choices in the future.

Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe. – Proverbs 28:26

If you have a history of disillusionment, trusting in your own ability to set expectations may feel new and scary. Your counselor can help you set reasonable expectations and point you toward God’s wisdom in your situation. With assistance, you can learn to avoid the heartache you’ve experienced in the past.

Overcoming Disillusionment

Disillusionment can be difficult to overcome on your own. We all have blind spots that can be better addressed by an objective third party. A compassionate Christian counselor can help you recognize your tendency to set unrealistically high expectations and help you to overcome feelings of disillusionment.

“Dumped Birthday Cake”, Courtesy of Roseanna Smith, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Game Over”, Courtesy of Chris Yang, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Track Switch”, Courtesy of Christopher Beddies, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Reading Proverbs”, Courtesy of Joel Muniz, Unsplash.com, CC0 License


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