Abram Amsel’s Theory of Frustration

From the annals of history, from the creation of civilizations to the present day, human beings have been characterized above all by the aspiration for success, the achievement of the goals imposed on them and, consequently, the pursuit of new goals. to increase motivation.

Failure or failure to achieve this motivation is what leads us to frustration, to a depressive or negative state which, according to Abram Amsel, may have its origins in the biological realm of the human being. Below we will see what exactly is Abram Amsel’s theory of frustration and what it says about the way we behave.

    How do we define frustration?

    Frustration is defined as a strictly unpleasant feeling in which a person previously deposits all his physical, mental efforts, attitudes, skills and time to achieve a goal that had been set and the nullity of it. That is, what it usually feels like to have failed to achieve a goal.

    On the other hand, frustration can be seen as a totally subjective perception or feeling, of a personal nature and the interpretation depends on each individual. In other words, the phenomenon of frustration may or may not occur, depending on how the non-achievement of our goals is perceived.

    Abram Amsel and the theory of frustration

    Abram Amsel (1922-2006) was a distinguished researcher, theorist, teacher and writer in the field of human behavior and in the various branches of psychological knowledge of human behavior. He is also the author of the book “The Theory of Frustration”, published in 1992.

    In general, Abram Amsel devoted himself passionately to theories of human behavior by researching the mechanisms of reward, the psychological effects of non-reward and on the different psychological reactions both when the frustration is not accepted and when it is not accepted.

    The theory of frustration understands and discusses concepts such as secondary frustration, which is a type of response drawn from frustration itself; persistence (continuing to pursue the goal even without reward) and regression, which involves the emergence of a certain way of behaving at the start of the frustration phase.

      Motivation is part of frustration

      Motivation is a feeling inherent in people that arises as a result of achieving a goal, fulfilling a dream, or for to cover a certain personal need, Like studying. Being a doctor is what motivates a medical student to study.

      In this way, individuals build priorities which depend on personal needs, whether material, immaterial or emotional, as suggested by Abraham Maslow’s theory of “human motivation” (1943).

      For this reason, motivation turns out to be a frustration dependent variable. In other words, depending on the expectations that we create around us, the frustration will be less or more, and at the same time the degree of motivation can be transformed according to the situation.

        Frustrating processes

        Given Abram Amsel’s theory of frustration, there are several processes of emergence of frustration that we will see below.

        1. Approach avoidance

        This type of frustration is what refers to two types of situations, one with a positive charge and the other with a negative charge, which makes us vulnerable to make a decision out of fear of what we might lose.

        2. Incompatibility of positive objectives

        This situation arises when we pursue two goals that seem incompatible with each other. For example, we want to buy a luxury car but at the same time we want it at a cheap price.

        3. The wall or the barrier

        Frustration is conceived by the inability to accomplish something because an element in the form of a barrier or an obstacle (Physical or not) prevents us from doing so.


        Like all human behavior, frustration has consequences which in some cases become serious and which, if not treated by a professional specialist, can become very damaging.

        Some of the consequences of frustration they can lead to an aggressive attitude towards others or towards oneself, Coming to self-harm. Childhood behavior and regression are other common causes, although the most common complications are depression, sadness, and introversion.


        Abram Amsel’s Frustration Theory gives us cures and solutions to avoid frustration. Among these suggestions Abram Amsel recommends identifying the origin and its cause, Try to look for alternative goals that give us complete satisfaction and, above all, set yourself affordable and realistic goals.

        We live in a society in which the world of work, according to Amsel, Hull and Maslow, plays a major role in collective frustration, where the key to success is preconceived by standards of competence and the will to fame. Therefore, rethinking this framework of relationships is also necessary.

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