January 2, 2016

Frustration: the cause is not what you think

Okay, deep breath…

frustrationYou might think that frustration can’t be prevented. After all, things go wrong. People disappoint you. Cars break down. Computers run slowly. Websites crash. Someone’s online process makes you fill in several pages of information and then loses the lot, so you have to start again…

We tend to think that the cause of is outside of us.  Frustration is provoked by other people and by things over which we have no control.

But think about it. You know people who are calm in a crisis. People who, faced with situations you would find hugely frustrating, just roll with it. So what makes a person especially prone to frustration?  And is there anything you can do, if you’re easily frustrated?

Frustration Reactivity

The amount of frustration a person can tolerate will depend upon the amount they have already experienced.  Not just today, in the last hour (although that will definitely affect your reactivity), but the amount of frustration experienced in their lifetime.  If you become frustrated very easily, then you probably had the kind of childhood where a lot of things happened that you didn’t like, and the adults around you didn’t take your feelings into account.

Childhood experiences of feeling angry and frustrated (and powerless to do anything about the conditions of your life) create habits of negative thought.   These habits of thought become beliefs: beliefs which will run your reactions on automatic for the rest of your days unless you do something about them.

Stress management experts have identified 14 core beliefs which make a person more prone to stress, and one of these is explained under the headline ‘frustration reactivity’.   This belief can be expressed as:

Things, or people, are not as I’d like them to be.

This one was a huge one for me. The truth of this statement for me was 10/10.  Not all things, and not all people, but enough things and people for me to say “Yup, no kidding”. No wonder frustration was my number one trigger for feeling stressed.

(And no wonder, as a person easily triggered by frustration, that I met with it so often… but that’s another story.)

Camel, Meet Straw

last strawIf you get frustrated easily, chances are you have had a gutful of experiences that drove you crazy but you couldn’t do anything about. In my case it was my stepfather: a kidult thrust upon me and my siblings without our consent, who not only dominated my mother’s time and attention from the moment they moved in together, but who was unable to hide the fact that he hated us. Unfairnesses multiplied quickly. Objections were silenced. Was I frustrated as a child? You bet!

As a result of my parents’ divorce and remarriage, things, and people, not being the way I wanted (I’d go so far as to say needed) them to be (because children really do need to feel loved and cared for) became everyday reality… and 100 per cent TRUE.

When I moved out of the family home and into an adult existence, ‘Things, or people, are not as I’d like them to be‘ was a habit of thought so firmly cemented into place that I couldn’t have left it behind with my old toys even if I’d realised that was possible.  And I didn’t. I knew I had a low frustration tolerance, and that I easily stressed, but like most people coming out of a dysfunctional childhood, I just thought it was part of my personality: something which caused me pain, but something I couldn’t change.

So this is where you get to let yourself off the hook for being a ‘stressy’ person. Because if you react badly to frustration, you are already carrying a lot of unresolved frustration, from years back, and every little thing that happens is potentially ‘the last straw’.

So what can you do about it?

Lightening the Load

If you want to be a person who can handle frustrating situations without getting stressed, then you need to lighten your load. I don’t mean take on less work or go on holiday, although those things will lighten that part of your load that you’ve added most recently, and be a good temporary fix.

The most effective part of your load to dump is the stuff you’ve been carrying around since childhood: the emotional baggage underpinning the belief ‘Things, or people, are not as I’d like them to be‘.   Unseat that belief, and you’ll be able to handle many more potentially frustrating situations without being triggered into a negative (stressed) reaction.

Beliefs formed in childhood are notoriously difficult to reprogram, but recently developed techniques have made belief-change possible.  One of the most effective is the PSTEC belief eraser – a downloadable audio track developed by one of the UK’s top hypnotherapists, Tim Phizackerly.  Try the basic PSTEC audio tracks for free here.  And, if you want to know how you can use PSTEC to make your life hugely better in just ten minutes a day, download this free e-book.