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Archive for September, 2014

Expectation is the mother of all frustration.

Antonio Banderas

Frustration attacks us, overpowers us. It makes us respond inhumanely at times, angrily or mean, short-tempered and sometimes just spiteful. Frustration rears its ugly head when we are “in situations where a person is blocked from reaching a desired outcome,” (Berger). While this emotion is overwhelming and elicits our worst behaviors, it also is an indicator that something is not working, thus we should be motivated to fix the problems through changing some facet of our lives or just the issue at hand.

Often, frustration surfaces when we have put so much time and effort and energy into something, and the result we want just isn’t coming. We have internal expectations or wants and desires, either realistic or otherwise, which cannot be met. Or perhaps it is a reaction to wasting time stuck in traffic or losing money by not getting the highest amount at your latest garage sale. External influences can often be unavoidable- we cannot change traffic patterns or force patrons to pay full retail for that used lamp without a cord. But we can find ways to deal with frustration, both internal and external, to better create a positive environment.

Try first some meditative chant, such as the Serenity Prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” Remember that we cannot change the external world around us, but we can change the way we react to the world. However, such a phrase may not be enough to deal with the emotional surge responding to said situations. It takes time and practice to deal with the most common emotional responses to frustration, such as: giving up, losing confidence, stress, depression, or using unhealthy coping mechanisms like overeating or alcohol.

For me, anger is the response that I most express in frustrating situations. As a teacher, frustration (especially with the freshmen boys I teach) becomes overwhelming and personalized. I worked for an hour putting together a twenty-minute assignment that for some reason they cannot understand. A couple students talk over me when I give directions, and then as repeatedly how to do the assignment. Students make inappropriate comments that they do not understand are inappropriate. If I were to watch myself when consumed with anger, I’m sure that both I would be embarrassed, but also the phrase “Frustration begets anger and anger begets aggression” would be on my t-shirt.

Frustration, and the subsequent anger, also arises for me when I cannot complete a task, generally out of fear. Climbing is the most prevalent example. I rock climb…a lot. I love the challenge of going where, in theory, I really shouldn’t be able to, finding a solution to what to many is an invisible problem. What most keeps me from success, though, is fear or not understanding how to complete the problem. “I can’t do it,” I often yell to my patient boyfriend belaying me from below. He merely sighs and yells up at me, “You can do it.” Each time, I use “I can’t do it” in frustrated and near tears shaking voice, I’m actually saying that I am scared or that I am frustrated because I cannot accomplish what I want. I begin to shut down, I get short tempered, and while I should be addressing why I am responding as I am, instead I am ending up going with my emotional expression, not a logical interpretation of it.

So how do we, or more specifically I, deal with anger associated with frustration? How do I keep my boyfriend from rolling his eyes at my responses to not being able to do what I need to do? How do I keep my temper when Johnny Freshman asks me the same question for the fourth time? It is my intention that this week, especially tomorrow, I will focus on being a better human by focusing on expressing or identifying my frustrations.

First is the hardest: the identifying. Hindsight offers a vantage point of each incident of nasty comment or near crying and what prompted the behavior. However, how often can we see in the moment? Emotional responses for me are often volatile, so quickly running without controls. Instead, this week my first goal is to be more present in each moment and each emotion as it arises. If this means possibly saying aloud, to no one but myself, “I’m starting to feel upset,” then this may lead to future quicker and more apt understanding of my conflicted inner self.

Second is then acting upon the identification of the frustration. Taking a moment to breathe, to consider the context, to remove myself from the situation is key. For example, my freshmen often find that one nerve to pick at. Removing myself from the situation means not taking their actions personally- and consider their true psychological motivations. They aren’t necessarily specifically attacking me; any number of reasons could be to blame. Hormones, boredom, a lack of understanding the material all might lead to their behaviors. Perhaps something terrible has happened to them at home, like a family member dying or having to move because of a divorce. Remembering that other’s motivations are not inherently an attack on you is optimal in avoiding anger.

Also, I must be forgiving of myself, and my students, too. What most often causes my frustration is the expectations that I have for myself or for others. Perhaps I had a partially unrealistic perception of myself finishing a climbing route without any major difficulty. Or that I would have lost five pounds doing a new workout, yet instead gaining three. Or that my young and immature students would act like seniors. Allowing for “human error” or merely to remember that we are all fallible will allow opportunity to see the problem, and fix it, rather than just become angry about it.

This week, as I deepen my understanding of frustration and being human, I plan to improve my volatile emotional responses by connecting to my chakras, specifically my third eye chakra. Moodiness and volatility are developed when the chakra is out of alignment. Once balanced, you feel “clear and focused,” able to see the “big picture.” Healing and balancing this chakra includes meditative and relaxing yoga poses such as Child’s Pose. During this position, repeating positive affirmations, can help focus the power of your positive self. Luckily, it is also recommended that foods to heal this chakra are blueberries, dark chocolate, and omega-3 rich foods (like nuts and fish). Surround yourself with the color indigo and scent your world with lavender. All these suggestions are meant to focus on the self, the third eye, and to visualizing the world around us.

Yoga and meditation, breathing into the moment, and detaching myself from self-blame will be my focus this week as I become less frustrated, less angry, and more open to the universe. The more I embrace frustration as an indicator for change, and act on that change, the closer to becoming a better human I will be.

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