Suggestions for Dealing With Frustration

Feeling frustrated is a normal part of human existence. Frustration is defined as “The state of being thwarted”, which is inevitable in life. Intermittent episodes of being hindered or obfuscated in our quest for need fulfillment should be expected.  We commonly react to life’s hindrances with frustration, blame or self-reproach and may react with excessive anger or even resort to emotional or physical violence. How can we learn to deal with frustrations in a less harmful way towards others and ourselves?

The expression of frustration begins very early in life and is an effective survival mechanism. Infants cry, shriek or tantrum when their basic needs for food, warmth, companionship, attention or love are not immediately satisfied. When their needs are met, these methods for need fulfillment are reinforced and routinely practiced. Later this behavior gets generalized to other needs and wants that are not crucial to our survival.

As children mature they expect to receive kudos for their academic, athletic, or creative skills as well as gain social popularity and connectedness to others. When these hopes are not met, it may evoke feelings of insecurity or inferiority.  Some individuals’ personal frustrations lead to angry, belligerent and aggressive interactions with others, while other people internalize these unmet needs by experiencing self-shame and social withdrawal.

This quest for instant gratification stays with us throughout life. As adults we may become angered not only by others whose behavior hinders us but also by our own errors or failures or even by our technological gadgets, appliances or instruments when their inconsistent performance inconveniences us.

Vocationally, we may become troubled by others’ ineffective work or poor performance that interferes with ease of executing our own tasks well. When the world around us is not promptly responsive to our needs as our healthy parents were, we may become impatient or frustrated by others who negatively impact our effective functioning and emotional balance.

Dr. Hans Selye, “The Father of Stress Research” defined humans’ reaction to life stresses as “The General Adaptation Syndrome that is produced by Diverse Nocuous Agents.” His studies documented that “a casual relationship could exist between psychological stress and major illnesses such as heart disease, stroke and arthritis.” In “The Stress of Life” and “Stress Without Distress”, Dr. Selye proposed a remedy for dealing with life’s challenges by adopting the “philosophy of altruistic egoism” that helps us protect ourselves from the harmful effects of emotional and physical stress by devoting our lives to “worthwhile goals that enhance our welfare and that of our fellow creatures.”

To manage your frustration:

  • Accept that instant gratification of all your needs is an unrealistic, immature expectation.
  • View your frustrations as an opportunity for devising creative ways for need fulfillment.
  • Abstain from concluding that barriers to your satisfaction are assaults against you or proof of your ineptness.
  • Welcome frustrations as avenues for learning and creative problem solving.
  • Help others to enrich their lives. It will reduce your frustrations and improve your health and wellbeing.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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