Frustration consumes us over a low flame. It condemns us to dissatisfaction because, by preventing us from thinking clearly, we join in an unhealthy loop from which we can not get out.
We feel frustrated when reality does not correspond to our expectations, something that happens very often. We can feel frustrated by small daily setbacks or by major obstacles that we had not foreseen and ruin our life plans.
Frustration is a perfectly normal reaction to setbacks and adversities. We should not feel bad about it. But if we do not learn to overcome it, if we do not learn to manage frustration, we run the risk that becomes one of the main emotions of our life.
And that means that we give our power to all those people or situations that cross our way. To regain control of our lives, we need to manage frustration. Not with tolerance but with appreciation.
When looking for a solution to frustration, always appears the word tolerance. “You have to learn to tolerate frustration”, they tell us. However, the word “tolerate” comes from the Latin tolerare, which means to endure, to bear.
Enduring frustration is not the same as managing frustration. When we support something we assume a passive role, we resign ourselves. When we manage something we assume an active role, we take the reins and decide which is the best way.
A key step in managing frustration is appreciation. In fact, appreciation is a highly effective antidote to frustration.
Do not let frustration blind you
Being frustrated is like wearing blinders. Suddenly our field of vision narrows considerably because we only see that obstacle or setback. It is a tunnel vision that makes everything around us, all the good things, disappear, so we only see the bad thing that has happened to us.
Tolerating frustration means getting used to that tunnel vision. The problem is that by dint of setbacks and adversities, that perspective will become increasingly narrow, until we become bitter and pessimistic people.
With the appreciation, on the contrary, we open that vision. By remembering all the good and positive things in our lives, we unlock fullness and automatically expand our field of vision.
That does not mean that the problem or the obstacle will disappear. They will still be there. But they are likely to become just a small spot on the horizon. By expanding our perspective, the obstacle that once seemed immense to us is reduced. So we can see it in its proper dimension, we subtract from it a part of its emotional impact and it will be easier for us to surpass it.
Gratitude is a decision we must make every day
Gratitude turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order and confusion into clarity. It brings us peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.
However, gratitude does not come alone, it is a decision that we must make consciously every day. Although it is one of the simplest things in life, it requires effort and intentionality, especially in a world that is designed to feed our dissatisfactions and frustrations because that makes us perfect consumers and manipulable citizens.
Appreciation and gratitude, on the contrary, give us back our power. The power to decide about our emotional states, about how we will react and even to decide if that obstacle is really a problem or an opportunity.
Gratitude is a powerful tool. Studies conducted at the universities of George Mason and Michigan revealed that gratitude protects us from post-traumatic stress after having experienced a particularly difficult adverse situation and allows us to respond in a resilient manner.
Appreciating what we have not only increases our mental strength, but is one of our best weapons of “resistance” to an uncertain world where obstacles await us when we turn every corner.
After all, “We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures”, according to novelist Thornton Wilder.
Kashdan, T. B. et. Al. (2006) Gratitude and hedonic and eudaimonic well-being in Vietnam war veterans. Behav Res Ther; 44(2): 177-199.
Fredrickson, B. L. et. Al. (2003) What good are positive emotions in crisis? A prospective study of resilience and emotions following the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11th, 2001. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; 84(2): 365-376.