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Frustration

Frustration

Frustration

Life is full of frustrations. From the minor irritations of losing something to the major problem of continued failure towards a desired goal.  Since many of the things we truly want require a degree of frustration, being able to manage frustration is required in order to allow us to remain happy and positive even in trying circumstances.

Understanding Frustration

Frustration is an emotion that occurs in situations where a person is blocked from reaching a desired outcome.  In general, whenever we reach one of our goals, we feel pleased and whenever we are prevented from reaching our goals, we may succumb to frustration and feel irritable, annoyed and angry. Typically, the more important the goal, the greater the frustration and resultant anger or loss of confidence.

Frustration is not necessarily bad since it can be a useful indicator of the problems in a person's life and, as a result, it can act as a motivator to change.  However, when it results in anger, irritability, stress, resentment, depression, or a spiral downward where we have a feeling of resignation or giving up, frustration can be destructive.

What Causes Frustration?

Frustration is experienced whenever the results (goals) you are expecting do not seem to fit the effort and action you are applying. Frustration will occur whenever your actions are producing less and fewer results than you think they should.

The frustration we experience can be seen as the result of two types of goal blockage, i.e. internal and external sources of frustration.

Internal sources of frustration usually involve the disappointment that get when we cannot have what we want as a result of personal real or imagined deficiencies such as a lack of confidence or fear of social situations.  Another type of internal frustration results when a person has competing goals that interfere with one another.

The second type of frustration results from external causes that involve conditions outside the person such as physical roadblocks we encounter in life including other people and things that get in the way of our goals.  One of the biggest sources of frustration in today's world is  the frustration caused by the perception of wasting time. When you're standing in line at a bank, or in traffic, or on the phone, watching your day go by when you have got so much to do, that's one big frustration.

External frustration may be unavoidable. We can try to do something about it, like finding a different route if we are stuck in traffic, or choosing a different restaurant if our first choice is closed, but sometimes there is just nothing we can do about it.  It is just the way life is.  Our goal in dealing with external sources of frustration is to recognize the wisdom of the the Serenity Prayer..."God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference."

One can learn that while the situation itself may be upsetting and frustrating, you do not have to be frustrated.  Accepting life is one of the secrets of avoiding frustration.

Responses to Frustration

Some of the "typical" responses to frustration include anger, quitting (burn out or giving up), loss of self-esteem and self-confidence, stress and depression.

ANGER: There is a saying "Frustration begets anger and anger begets aggression." Direct anger and aggression is expressed toward the object perceived as the cause of the frustration. If a machine does not work, you might hit it or kick it. If someone gets in your way, you could verbally threaten them or push them aside. If the source of the frustration is too powerful or threatening for direct aggression, displaced aggression is often used. The aggression is redirected toward a less threatening and more available object.

An angry person often acts without thinking.  The person has given in to the frustration and they have given up restraint. Anger can be a healthy response if it motivates us to positive action but all too often the actions we engage in when angry are destructive.  Indeed, if we could see a videotape of ourselves getting angry, the humiliation might well help cure us of anger. When you feel frustration building, you have to practice learned responses that lead to healthy actions instead of destructive ones.

GIVING UP: Giving up on a goal can be productive if the goal is truly out of reach.  However, more often giving up (quitting or being apathetic) is another form of giving in to frustration. When repeatedly frustrated, people can drop out of school, quit jobs, or move away. Apathy is giving up all of your goals, so you cannot be frustrated by trying to reach them.

We live in difficult time and we have to be persistent in order to accomplish.  Consider how many projects you began, and then gave up, because you became frustrated and lost patience. Make a list of things you started and quit because they seemed too difficult. Now calculate the disappointment and loss you suffered by not dealing with the frustration in a more healthy way.  Try to remember that quitters never win, and winners never quit. Losing your temper means you're a quitter.

LOSS OF CONFIDENCE: Loss of confidence is a terrible frequent side effect of giving up and not fulfilling your goal.  A loss of self-confidence and self-esteem means that If we quit once, then the next time we plan a goal, we may not be able to accurately assess our ability to carry it out and we stop trusting ourselves and our own abilities.  This became a self-fulfilling and self-destructive attitude.  You  need to be able to learn that when the going gets tough, you say to yourself  "It is worth it!" and by following through, it not only gets the job done, but it builds self-confidence.

STRESS: Stress is the "wear and tear" our body and mind experiences as we adjust to the frustrations our continually changing environment.  Too frequently, extreme, or prolonged frustration and stress strains us and generates distress signals. Our body experiences distress signals in a variety of ways, often in the form of: irritability, anger, fatigue, anxiety, headaches, depression, stomachaches, hypertension, migraines, ulcers, heart attacks, or colitis.

DEPRESSION: Depression can affect almost every aspect of your life. It affects people of all ages, income, race, and cultures. Depression can affect the way you eat and sleep, the way you feel about yourself, the way one think about things, and the way you interact with others. While we all feel depression at various appropriate times in our lives, excess or inappropriate depression cannot be easily dismissed or wished away.

OTHER REACTIONS: Abuse of drugs or alcohol is self-destructive and usually futile attempt at dealing with frustration, as are many eating and weight problems and addictive behaviors.  Whenever the immediate effects of the addictive behavior wear off, users find themselves back in the same, or even worse, frustrating situation.

Learning To Deal With Frustration

It is unrealistic to believe you can rid yourself of frustration forever, but you can learn to do things to minimize your frustrations and to make sure you do not engage in unhealthy responses to frustration.

You will need to learn to distinguish between what you hope will happen, what will probably happen, and what actually happened.  Life inevitably has its ups and downs -- its moments of relaxation and times of tension. When you learn to truly accept this reality, you come one step closer to being able to deal with frustration in a healthy way.

There are several types of problems that we encounter in everyday living: those which you know can be solved, those which you are not sure if they can be solved or not, those you know are totally out of your control, and those you are so confused about that you do not even know what the problem is.  You need to be able to accurately assess your abilities to alter situations that prevent you from solving your problems and reaching your goal.  Then you will be able to assess which of the types of problems you have encountered, and you will then be able to develop a realistic plan.

Learning to take things in stride will also help you to be more content and happy which, in turn, will help you to more easily overcome anger and frustration. If you are upset, sad, anxious, or depressed you will have less patience and tolerance for everything and everybody.

Treatment of Frustration

Frustration and anger are fundamental emotions that everyone experiences from time to time. From a very early age, people learn to express frustration by copying the behavior they see modeled around them, and by expressing frustration and angry behavior and seeing what they can get away with.

We all suffer from frustration, and being able to effectively deal with frustration is a very important skill to develop. Each person needs to learn how to control frustration, so that it does not control them. The following is a brief overview of types of frustration management programs and resources that have proved helpful in understanding and controlling frustration and anger.

I have found several approaches to treatment that have been effective for my clients including:

Individual and Group Therapy for Anger Management

A therapist, who can observe and analyze your behavior from an impartial perspective, can help you with your reality testing.  An therapist knows many effective frustration and anger management strategies and will be able to help you develop a personalized set of strategies for changing both your thinking and behavior.  Depending on your needs, your therapist may work with you on breathing or meditation exercises to reduce frustration, safe and appropriate emotional and physical techniques to release frustration, communication skills, or cognitive restructuring (a method for disputing and changing the way you think).

Relaxation and exercise

Simple relaxation tools such as deep breathing and relaxing imagery can help calm down feelings of frustration and anger. Breathing deeply, from your diaphragm, will help while breathing from your chest won't relax you. While breathing, you can slowly repeat a calm word or phrase such as "relax," "calm down" or "take it easy." Non-strenuous exercise, like yoga, can relax your muscles and make you feel much calmer.  Strenuous and vigorous exercise can also help you to work off frustration and angry feelings.

Frustration can have a highly damaging impact on our frame of mind. It can turn a positive person into a person who sees nearly everything  as a problem. It can slow you down, inhibit your progress, and at times completely immobilize you. We can become so wound up with our frustration that we do not, and can not, think or act rationally.  Our frustration can often exacerbate a situation and create a vicious circle. If we are convinced that our actions are not working, no matter how hard we try, we are much more likely to reduce, rather than increase, our chances of success.

Remember, you can not eliminate frustration. In spite of all your efforts, things will happen that will cause you frustration and anger.  Life is filled with frustration, pain, loss, and the unpredictable actions of others. You can't change that; but you can change the way you let such events affect you.

If you feel that your degree of frustration is really out of control, if it is having an impact on your relationships and on important parts of your life, you might consider counseling to learn how to handle it better. Please contact me or another therapist.

Additional Information

For more information about frustration, anger, rage and other mental health problems, please click on the linked websites listed below.

 Anger management strategies
 Aish.com: Conquer Frustration

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