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Managing Frustration


Managing Frustration

Let us face it.  Everyone gets frustrated, It occurs to us when we fail a test, in dealing with a disappointment in a relationship or competing with another person through a difficult game.  Frustration occurs to anyone who has a goal-directed outcome thwarted with a belief that the one’s ability to achieve the goal is within their effort to achieve.  Frustration often becomes more embedded when the intended goal was repeatedly obstructed against expectations.  It can even grow in intensity when other imagined goals for a successful outcome are also impeded, following close on the heels of a recent frustration.  After repeated failures occur when numerous efforts to succeed, the feelings of frustration begins to mount.  When we experience more frustration after already feeling frustrated, our frustrations tend to “piggyback” off each other. We can begin to feel as if we are Atlas, holding up a whole world of problems.


 This growing tension eventually ignites a fuse that evolves into feelings of anger and even rage.  Anger is evidenced by a sudden intense eruption of emotion out of proportion to a seemingly minor infraction.  Rage is similar to anger but with a few minor differences.   In regards to intensity, rage is most often more intense than anger.  Also, when anger is acted out it is often manifested on people or things related to the immediate frustration.  This is like slamming a phone down after a frustrating phone call.  Rage, however, tends to act out on people or things beyond the object of their frustration.  This like that same frustrating phone which results in broken dishes and holes in the wall.

 Unchecked Frustration eventually progresses to Rage


 Basis of Frustration


If you consider the diagram below you will see that Anxiety, Frustration, and Anger share common components.  In fact, when you consider the difference between both anxiety and frustration, the determinant that characterizes which emotion would be predominate is the amount of tension and energy (HyperA) invested into the expectation of influencing the desired outcome.  The component of ‘moving against’ (MOVag)  persons or things is not significantly different between anxiety and frustration.  A very interesting shift from frustration to anger is a reduction of tension in exchange for ‘moving against’ a target.  It is reasonable to consider that the ‘acting out’ in anger does reduce the internal tension which would be otherwise held.



 Expectation is a common variable when these emotions increase in energy. The target directed energy is not apparent in Anxiety but as internal tension and ‘target directed energy’ become more elevated, we move from Anxiety toward Anger.  Not having a clear expectation in the face of tension leaves us feeling anxious.  But having a certainty of controlling an outcome sets us up for Frustration and Anger.  This can be represented in a formula as a useful tool to apply.



Let us consider how Frustration is fueled.  It can occur when we have high Expectation of a given outcome without considering all the possible alternatives to our actions.  The Reality of outcomes occurs when we understand the many ways our plans can deviate from our activity.  For example, we may be frustrated when we turn on a light switch and the light does not come on.  But knowing the light bulb may be faulty or the lamp may not be plugged in will decrease our frustration.  In other words, knowing how other outcomes can occur despite our efforts will serve to diminish our frustrations.  When we are more familiar with the reality of the situation (aka. Knowing the conditions, which may not lead to our desired outcome), we experience less frustration. 


When we plug into the formula provided, there are two ways to diminish Frustration.

  • Decrease Expectations
  • Increase Reality


When we meet frustrations in our life, we can be equipped to deal with such situations more effectively.  Learn to ask yourself, “Am I expecting more than what the situation deems?” (Expectation) and “Am I considering what other factors may play into the outcome?”(Reality).  By accurately answering these questions, we stand a better chance to minimize our frustrations.  


Final Words on Frustration


Often when we feel we are frustrated which is growing into feelings of ‘Anger’, it is likely that we are experiencing a number of frustrations that is overwhelming for us. In such cases, it is important to dissect the frustrations into the different contributing issues which make us feel overwhelmed.   If you feel this overwhelming frustration, take some time out for yourself and list the issues on a sheet of paper. This will already provide a sense of regaining control. When we feel we are Atlas holding up a world of trouble, it is just only individual problems we are facing, which cause us to feel overwhelmed.  Try it and let me know if you gained some benefit from this post.  Here is to wishing you less frustrating days in life!



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