Turning Frustration Into Positive Action



Frustrations are so annoying, aren’t they?

Seems like they always hit us when we’re not in the mood or when we don’t have time for them. The goal of this article is to give you some new insights into frustration so you’ll realize that staying frustrated about something is a choice within your control. We’ll review the causes, the costs, the surprising benefits and some alternatives to feeling unavoidably frustrated. Then I’ll offer some new ideas to try next time frustration knocks at your door and tries to ruin your day. [EXPERT]

An old tale: What’s the difference between a good and a bad day of fishing? It’s clearly NOT how many fish you catch or the weather. The difference is the attitude and intention of the one fishing. Catching a spare tire, three cans and a log can be very frustrating and ruin your day or the same set of circumstances can become a favorite “fish tale” for years to come. Once we realize we’re in charge of choosing how we’re going to feel about something, we can see that there are many different ways we can feel about an event or action or thought. It’s an eye-opener that we have more control over our feelings than we may think. [EXPERT]

Back in the 70’s, I watched Phil Donahue interview two daughters of an abusive and alcoholic father, one became an alcoholic and the other one had never had a drink. As they had taken two extremely different paths he asked them, “Why did you make the choice you did?” I found myself stunned for a moment when they answered the same way. “With an alcoholic father, what did you expect?”

Wow! That really hit me. They each thought they were making the only logical choice and yet they made two completely different choices under the exact same circumstances. That’s an example of the impact and the power of our choices. What we think and how we feel about what happens to us everyday shapes our lives. Becoming frustrated is part of being human. Staying frustrated is a choice. And that’s the good news about all human behavior. We can make new choices at any time. [EXPERT]

What is frustration?

The dictionary tells us it’s, “a state of mind or being when prevented from accomplishing a purpose, fulfilling a desire or solving a problem.” The intensity of frustration is often related to the degree of control we have to change things. This is why children and senior citizens often get so frustrated at situations where they have little or no control over what happens to them: the less control, the more frustration. [EXPERT]

Why do we STAY frustrated when things go wrong?

Upon reflection, some people find they’re kind of addicted to being frustrated. When people are addicted to something, they don’t continue doing whatever to feel good, they do it to stop from feeling something worse. When we’re frustrated it can distract us from our own feelings and we can justify making someone else responsible for our situation. Feelings of frustration can mask our own guilt about something we’d rather not face and help us legitimize non-action. In the business world, people prefer frustration because they think if they take action to solve a problem, someone might think they’re to blame. [EXPERT]

On the other hand, some folks seem to have perfected frustration to an art form. They’re actually good at it and seem to be comfortable in a state of frustration. Why do they do that? What are they getting out of being frustrated? What are the benefits of being frustrated?


The 7 Benefits (pay-offs) of Staying Frustrated:

  1. When you’re frustrated, you become an automatic member of the “Ain’t it Awful Club.” This is a very big group. They meet in coffee rooms and restaurants worldwide. Everyone gets lots of morale support and that feels good. Feeling good is a pay-off.
  2. You get to feel better about yourself by focusing on how bad or stupid something or someone else is. You know, the blame game and all that. Out of this comes a short-lived and false sense of improved self-esteem. It doesn’t last long but it can feel good in the moment.
  3. When you’re frustrated you get to compete in the, “I got it worse” competition. Remember that scene in the movie Jaws, in the hull of the ship, when the Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfus began to talk about their wounds? It was hysterical and a good example of how much fun people can have topping each other’s tales of misery. Fun is a pay-off.
  4. Expressing frustration can be a great way to generate sympathy and love from friends and family. “You poor thing” can feel real good after a long day. It doesn’t fix anything but it can feel good in the moment.
  5. Staying stuck in frustration is risk-free! Avoiding the risk of taking action feels very good to some.
  6. Frustration can be viewed as an image booster. “See how important I am to be so stressed out?” Society really supports the nobility of struggle.
  7. Frustration can foster self-pity. The distracting and numbing effects of feeling sorry for ourselves is often favored over taking action or responsibility for situations. [EXPERT]

The 7 Costs of Frustration

  1. Frustration is an energy zapper.
  2. Frustration robs us of our productivity and wastes time.
  3. When we’re frustrated, we give “power” to another person or situation. That can make us feel helpless and out of control. And that’s enraging.
  4. If frustrations are ignored or unrecognized they can ferment into depression, anxiety or boredom.
  5. Being frustrated can sour relationships. Venting our frustrations on those we care about most (because we assume they will forgive us) can have a sad and negative impact on everyone.
  6. Feeling frustrated lowers our self-esteem and self-respect, since a part of us knows we could change things if we took some action.
  7. Frustration taints our view of the world. It’s like looking through a muddy distorted lens. [EXPERT]


Some people handle frustrations better than others.

Why is that? They seem more focused and confident, less blaming and more committed to dealing with the sources of their