Life is meant to be a song of joy. Whenever we reach a goal, we feel elated; we feel in sync with the song of life. But whenever we are prevented from reaching our goals, we may succumb to frustration. We may feel annoyed and irritable. But since frustration negates happiness, it doesn’t make any sense to give in to it.
Frustration is an emotion that can spiral downward. Here’s what I mean. Larry graduated the university and got his first good job. Now he’s looking for a girlfriend. He visits clubs and dance parties in the hope of getting a date. He’s frustrated by his lack of success. The frustration he experiences drains his energy and puts him in a bad mood. The next time he goes to a club or dance, he lacks enthusiasm and is feeling negative even before he speaks. Not surprisingly, he meets with further rejection. Now he finds himself sinking into a downward spiral. Before long, he may find himself weighed down with anger, little confidence, and a sense of hopelessness.
If Larry experiences severe frustration, he may feel like a prisoner. The truth is, it is the ignorance of his own freedom that is holding him captive. What is the freedom that Larry is ignoring? The greatest freedom of all, which is the freedom of thought. Larry can change his thoughts. And if he does, it will result in a change in his feelings, behaviour, outcomes, and attitude.
Frustration has two meanings. One is the feeling of disappointment that some people get when they cannot have what they want. The second meaning is the obstruction of someone’s plans or efforts. Frustration in the second sense is unavoidable. That is, some of our plans are bound to be thwarted. There’s nothing we can do about that. It’s the nature of life. For example, the same snow that covers the ski slopes may make the roads to them impassable. So, your skiing trip may be frustrated, but YOU don’t have to be. You can just shrug your shoulders and say, “That’s life.” Accepting life is one of the secrets of avoiding frustration.
Let’s return to Larry. He’s still waiting for a date. How can we help him? Well, we can teach him the law of life that states: We have to give away what we wish to receive. What is it that Larry wishes to receive? He wants to be released from frustration. He wants a date! Everything will change for Larry when he stops thinking ME, ME, ME and starts thinking YOU orWE.
He has to turn his attention from inward to outward. Why doesn’t he use the pain of frustration and loneliness that he feels to empathize with the pain of others? The solution to his problem is pitifully simple. All he has to do is find the loneliest woman in the club or at the dance and ease her pain by inviting her to dance. Once he does so, the world changes:
1. Instead of spending another lonely night, he spends a pleasant evening with a lonely lady.
2. Whether it develops into a relationship or not, he boosts his and her confidence.
3. He makes a new friend.
4. He develops a more positive attitude and grows more appealing.
5. As long as he continues thinking of others, he will continue to make new friends, eventually finding the woman of his dreams.
Let’s see what we can learn from two more examples. Bob is speaking in a discussion group when he is suddenly interrupted. Bob says, “Excuse me, I get frustrated when someone interrupts me while I’m speaking.” “Why are you angry?” another member asks Bob. “I’m not angry; I’m frustrated,” Bob answers angrily. See how a little frustration can create tension?
I’m glad some people take assertiveness training. After all, no one wants to be manipulated or controlled by others. And once they learn how to defend themselves, they’ll be able to defend the rights of others. That’s the positive side of assertiveness training. But there can be better approaches. You see, assertiveness can reinforce one’s feelings of self-importance. For example, although Bob worded his statement properly (“I feel frustrated when others interrupt me while I’m speaking.”), the real meaning was, “Excuse me, what I have to say is more important than what you have to say, so please be quiet!”
But is anything I have to say more important than what you have to say? Even if what I have to say is worthwhile, it can’t be so earth-shattering that it must be said NOW. Can’t it wait for another moment? Even though it may not be proper etiquette to interrupt others, when viewed through the lens of compassion, disruptive behaviour may be seen as expressions of enthusiasm or a need for recognition.
So, when I’m interrupted, I can choose to grow frustrated or to grow. That is, I can choose to grow angry or accepting, impatient or understanding, and unsympathetic or compassionate. Why don’t I reserve my assertiveness for defending the rights of others? Isn’t that what Christ meant by meekness? He was meek when it came to defending Himself, but rigorous in defending others. When we take the meek approach, we not only help others, but we help ourselves, for in allowing them to speak, we give ourselves the opportunity to learn.
Let’s look at a second example of how someone handles frustration. Laura’s friend, Diana, called hoping to gain a sympathetic ear as she aired her problem. Laura was willing to help and listened as her friend poured out her feelings. Then along comes Timmy, Laura’s ten-year-old. “Mom! Mom! Mom!” he says, interrupting. As Laura strains to hear Diana through the shouts of Timmy, she feels frustrated, and an urge to scold her son rises within her. However, being compassionate, she STOPS. Meanwhile, as Diana continues venting, Laura analyzes Timmy’s situation.
Then, just as Diana ends a sentence, Laura says, “I understand how you feel. But Timmy is calling me now. Let me see what he wants; then, I’ll get back to you. Talk to you soon.” As Laura turns to face Timmy, she wonders why he interrupts her like that. That thought then triggers a possible explanation, for she thinks he may have learned that behaviour from her. So, rather than scolding Timmy and upsetting both, she does just the opposite.
“Timmy,” she says, “I think every time you want to speak to me, I interrupt you. I may be busy or thinking of something important, but that’s no excuse for me to ignore you. You must feel frustrated. I want to change, but I need your help because habits are difficult to break. So, every time I interrupt you, raise your palm, like this, to signal that I need to STOP and listen. Will you do that for me, honey? Now, what did you want to tell me?”
Laura’s change of tactics and change of attitude led to a change of outcome. Instead of Laura and Timmy growing upset, they are growing closer together. And she taught him how to behave, without preaching or scolding. If Timmy does interrupt her in the future at an inappropriate time, all she has to do is hold up her palm as a signal, and he will understand.
Now let’s shift our focus from a general discussion of frustration to considering steps we can take to reduce or eliminate it from our lives.
II. Overcoming Frustration
Frustration is wanting something and not getting it. At some point in our lives we all experience it in one form or another. Perhaps we were hurt when we didn’t get that job promotion or new car. We may be frustrated by our unsuccessful attempts to stop smoking, lose weight, or get along with our coworkers. It may be disobedient children, the lack of a sweetheart or spouse, or not understanding our purpose in life that is getting us down.
Regardless of what is troubling us, we should resolve it. After all, unresolved frustration can lead to anger, envy, and jealousy. All of which make us unpleasant to be around, resulting in alienating others; the consequence of which is loneliness. Add to that stress, illness,and the feeling that we are stuck where we are, unable to make any progress. You can see how frustration can escalate to hopelessness and depression. So, there are good reasons to resolve frustration, rather than give in to it. So, where do we begin?
Frustration has two components: a) wanting something and b) not getting it. So, the quickest way to resolve it is by: a) stop wanting something or b) getting what we want. Now, let’s consider the details.
1. Stop Wanting Something.
Most of what we want in the way of possessions is not necessary. We simply want more because of an insatiable appetite. But wanting more prevents us from enjoying what we already have. So the secret to not wanting more is to change our focus from what we lack to what we already have. When we appreciate what we have, we will take advantage of it, putting it to good use and improving our lives. Wanting more puts our life on hold.
But what if what we want is not more possessions, but better circumstances? When we feel frustrated because things don’t go the way we want them to, it is not the circumstances that cause our pain, but our unrealistic expectations and the demands we make. It is time to grow up and realize that the world isn’t here to serve us; rather, we are here to serve it. Those who have discovered this have also discovered happiness and their life purpose. As soon as we learn to stop clinging onto unrealistic expectations and accept life on its own terms, we’ll begin to make progress.
2. Steps You Can Take to GetWhatYouWant.
a) If you need what you want and can’t seem to get it now, rather than feeling sorry for yourself, use this moment to become a problem solver and a winner. That is, rise to the challenge that life is offering you and look for solutions. Rather than asking yourself why this is happening, try asking what is it that I can and will do to get what I need.
Blaming God, the world, the government, the community, or others for our problems doesn’t help. It isn’t until we accept responsibility and awaken to the fact that the only thing that can change ourlives for the better is ourselves. Our life is in our own hands. Remember this mantra: If it is to be, it is up to me!
b) Nothing worthwhile is free. We have to be willing to work for success. If we’re not willing to do what’s necessary, we have no right to complain.
c) Accept that there will be ‘obstacles’ and persist. Persistence is an essential ingredient because seldom do we succeed at the first time. Also remember that there is no such thing as failure, just a learning experience. ‘Failure’ teaches us what doesn’t work and persistence enables us to continue trying until we succeed. Consider this, too, there are no such things as ‘obstacles’, just opportunities and challenges (which are necessary to become a winner).
d) Sometimes the time is not ripe, and because of circumstances outside our control we cannot get what we want. And sometimes we don’t get what we want because life has better plans for us. So, learn to accept the inevitable; mainly, we cannot always get what we want. But balance is called for. That is, to persist when it is impossible to succeed is folly, but to give up too early, may very well be walking away from success.
e) Read good articles. Here is one: How to Overcome Frustration: A Psychological Perspective
f) Read a good book. Here is an excellent free eBook that comes from the Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) Network: How to Conquer Your Frustrations. But don’t waste your time downloading it if you’re not willing to apply yourself. The information in the book will not be transformed into knowledge, wisdom, and power unless you conscientiously apply the material. Self-help books don’t work, only people do. Unless you are willing to apply the wisdom in self-help books, they are worthless.
g) Review additional tips on overcoming frustration that are found on the Internet. Here is a good example: 33 Ways to Overcome Frustration
In conclusion, the best defense to avoid frustration is to remain proactive by following these three steps:
1. Make it your goal to enjoy what life gives you, rather than making demands. Remember, life knows better than you what’s best for you.
2. Usefrustration to inspire you to look for a solution, rather than acquiescing to self-pity and hopelessness.
3. Accept that we can’t have everything we want. But balance acceptance of what we cannot change with persistence in the face of challenges.