Column: Transforming Frustration

Health: Mental, Physical and Emotional

“Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning to do afterward.” -Kurt Vonnegut, American author

It is of general agreement that upon successfully accomplishing a goal, one feels pleased, and upon falling short of a goal, one experiences frustration.  Frustration is an emotion that occurs in situations where a person is blocked from reaching a desired outcome due to their efforts falling short of achieving a goal or someone else’s efforts failing to meet their needs.   Typically, the more significant the goal, the greater the frustration and consequential loss of confidence or feelings of disappointment, annoyance, irritation, or anger are in non-fulfillment.

Adults can not always change or control certain happenings.  Teenagers can not always satisfy the endless social, academic, and personal expectations they face.  Children do not always get their way.  Babies are incapable of effectively expressing their needs.  Every person in every stage of life can and does experience feelings of frustration. Despite being a commonly felt, natural and normal emotion, frustration can have a highly damaging impact on a person’s attitude, outlook, and quality of life.  It has the potential to transform a person who perceives everything with a positive mindset into a person who perceives everything as a problem.  

It is important to understand that you can neither control the world around you nor another person’s behavior, but you can manage your expectations of them and control your reaction.  If we convince ourselves that our endeavors are ineffective despite how much effort we put in, and if we choose to transfix ourselves on every issue we come across, then we will immobilize ourselves and reduce, rather than increase, our chances of success.  This negative behavior initiates a vicious cycle of disappointment and frustration and serves only to worsen the situation. View frustrating events not as failures, but as minor setbacks and obstacles that you will eventually find solutions to and overcome in your slightly-delayed path to success.  

The key to overcoming frustration is about recognizing the situations that trigger this feeling and using the proper techniques to develop a more mature and controlled emotional response. Before reacting immediately and acting out of frustration, pause and breathe deeply.  This relaxed, conscious, focused breathing changes the chemistry of the brain and can help you to avoid aggressive actions or rash words.  Think rationally, know that your concerns could always be expressed differently, and determine objectively whether your response is appropriate.

The most frustrating aspect about frustration is the fact that it can neither be eliminated nor avoided.  Human beings are both perfect inventions and imperfect creatures.  At the same time that we are capable of deep understanding, great knowledge, and awe-inspiring achievements, we are prone to being self-interested, unreasonable, unfair, and unreliable. Our world is and will always be filled with unpredictable, uncontrollable and inevitable events; our lives are and will always be filled with events that can evoke frustration, pain, and/or loss.  

Therefore, control the only aspect of your life that you are capable of controlling: yourself.  Change the way you let such events affect you, and never allow a frustrating event to affect your actions, mindset, or perception.  The all-possessing issues that currently plague your life will become insignificant with time.  A year from now, the problems that you are obsessing over will be irrelevant memories that you laugh at. You must practice the art of patience and embrace and accept these facts in order to move on and continue to progress towards a positive direction in your life.

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