Frustration: we define the concept and explain how to avoid falling into its clutches.
It feels good day to day in the media. “The coach ended up being frustrated at not being able to return to the game.” “He was overwhelmed by a strong sense of frustration that he couldn’t get this job,” and so on.
But, What exactly is frustration and what implications does it have for our success in the workplace and personally?
Frustration: defining the concept
The concept of frustration is defined as the feeling that is generated in an individual when he cannot satisfy a high desire. When faced with such situations, the person usually reacts emotionally with expressions of anger, anxiety or dysphoria, mainly.
Considering as an aspect inherent in human life the fact of assuming the impossibility of achieving everything that we desire and when we aspire, the key point lies in the ability to manage and accept this gap between the ideal and the real. Thus, the origin of the problem does not lie in the external situations themselves, but in the way in which the individual deals with them. From this perspective, it is understood that frustration is made up of both an actual situation that has occurred and the emotionally developed experience from that situation.
How to successfully deal with the feeling of frustration?
Good frustration management becomes an attitude and as such can work and grow; frustration is a transient state and therefore reversible. In this way, good frustration management involves training the individual to accept both the external event – what happened – and their internal emotional experience.
Frustration can be categorized as a primary or instinctive response. It is a reaction that naturally shows an emotionally unpleasant state when interference occurs in the pursuit of a proposed goal.
This is the approach proposed by authors such as Dollard, Miler, Mower and Sears in 1938, giving rise to a new field of research on this subject little explored before. The intensity of the frustration reaction can vary considerably, to the point of causing impairments even at the cognitive level in very serious situations, such as the appearance of impairments in memory, attention or perception.
What is a low tolerance for frustration?
People who generally react by expressing frustration are assigned a so-called functional characteristic. low frustration tolerance. This style seems to be more prevalent in Western society today, where most of the phenomena that make it up are based on immediacy and the inability to wait.
People who exhibit this way of doing things are also characterized by rigid and inflexible reasoning, with a poor ability to adapt to unforeseen changes. On another side, they often have a series of distorted cognitions that do not correspond to reality, Because of which they interpret as unbearable the duty to face more unpleasant emotions such as anger or sadness and lead them, on the other hand, to elaborate a series of previous expectations far from being rational, disproportionate and extremely demanding.
Studies Linking Frustration to Violent Behavior
The study of Barker, Dembo and Lewin in 1941 test the link between frustration and aggression and highlighted the determinant of the expectations generated by the individual before the potentially frustrating situation.
Later, Berkowitz qualified these initial findings and included other modulating aspects in the aggression-frustration relationship, namely the subject’s motivations, the subject’s attitude to the problem, their past experiences, and the cognitive-emotional interpretation. realized on their own reaction.
How do people who are not tolerant of frustration behave?
In general and in summary form, people whose function is based on a low tolerance for frustration have the following characteristics:
1. They have trouble controlling their emotions.
2. They are more impulsive, impatient and demanding.
3. They seek to meet their needs immediately, so that when faced with the expectation or postponement of these, they may react explosively with extreme attacks of anger or withdrawal and sadness.
4. They may more easily than other people develop images of anxiety or depression in the face of conflict or great difficulty.
5. They believe that everything revolves around them and that they deserve whatever they ask for, so they feel that any limit is as unfair as it is against their will. They find it hard to understand why they are not given everything they want.
6. They have low capacity for flexibility and adaptability.
7. They show a tendency to think radically: something is white or black, there is no middle ground.
8. They are easily demotivated in the face of any difficulty.
9. They blackmail emotionally if what they want doesn’t come true immediately, manipulating the other person with poignant messages.
What factors can be the cause?
Between factors that may predispose and / or precipitate the onset of low tolerance frustration disorder the following elements are distinguished:
- temperament: The most internal, biological and genetic dispositions such as temperament distinguish individuals in their innate abilities, which may include tolerance for frustration.
- Social conditions: Depending on the social and cultural environment in which the person is circumscribed, significantly influences personal and interpersonal functioning. Studies show that in Western society the occurrence of this type of problem is significantly higher than in other different cultures.
- Certain difficulties in emotional expression: Restricted vocabulary, deficit in the ability to identify and recognize experienced emotions, and a misconception that showing unpleasant emotions is harmful and should be avoided, positively correlated with the persistent functioning of low tolerance to frustration
- Some models that exhibit self-control deficits: in the case of minors, they learn much of their behavioral repertoire from what has been observed in their benchmarks. Parent role models poorly qualified in dealing with frustration pass on this same incompetence to their children.
- Misinterpretation of signals: Subject may characterize the frustrating situation as intensely threatening and dangerous, making it more difficult to adapt appropriately.
- The reward for delayed actionAny attempt by the individual to perform a self-controlled and delayed response must be reinforced for this behavior to gain strength and frequency.
Learn Frustration Tolerance (and the REPT Model)
Frustration tolerance is a learning that must be nurtured during the early stages of a child’s development..
Very young children do not yet have the ability to wait or understand that not everything can happen immediately. Thus, the procedure which usually operates when a low tolerance operation is applied to frustration begins when the little one cannot have what he desires and manifests an overreacting catastrophic reaction for this reason.
Then, given his interpretation of this situation as unbearable, he begins to generate a series of self-directed internal verbalizations of rejection (“I don’t want to do / wait …”), punitive (blaming others), catastrophic evaluations. of the situation (“it’s unbearable”), the demands (“it’s not fair that …”), self-hatred (“I am hated”).
After this phase, behavioral responses emerge in the form of reprimands, yelling, complaints, opposing behaviors or other similar manifestations. In this way, it is understood that there is a bidirectional relation between the feeling of frustration and the negative interpretation of the situation where the two elements refer to each other.
From childhood to adolescence and adulthood
All that, can continue into adulthood if the person has not been educated to learn to modify cognitive patterns and emotional interpretations that make it easier to adopt a more tolerant and flexible style.
Some of the main measures that are usually part of training to promote adequate frustration tolerance include such things as relaxation techniques, learning to identify emotions, giving specific instructions on when to the child should seek help in a given situation, performing controlled behavioral tests. in which potential scenarios are simulated, positive reinforcement of the successes achieved by the child and the acquisition of alternative behaviors incompatible with the frustration reaction.
Psychological therapies and strategies to combat it
On the psychological techniques and strategies used as a resource to consolidate this type of learning in the parent-child framework, an adaptation of Rational Emotional Therapy by Albert Ellis has been proposed: the “Rational Emotive Parental Training” (REPT) ”model. .
The REPT is a useful tool that helps parents better understand how emotions work, What is their purpose and how do they relate to the cognitions and interpretations that are generated after a lived situation. It becomes a guide to apply in relation to children’s issues, as self-application for adults can also be beneficial.
Specifically, the objectives of the REPT are to provide parents with relevant information on the model that explains emotional regulation so that they can pass this knowledge on to their children and serve as a guide for use in potentially destabilizing situations by achieving good management of the emotions aroused. On another side, it is an instrument that offers a set of information allowing them to detect poorly applied pedagogical directives, As well as a better understanding of the motivations behind the child’s behavior. Finally, this proposal aims to facilitate the internalization of a more active operation in relation to confronting and solving problems more effectively.
The main contents included in this new and effective model are the components: parental psychoeducation in the good management of his emotions which facilitates a correct educational practice and in the self-acceptance which moves them away from stigmatizing situations, training in alternative responses to frustration driven a state of calm where the causes for which the children’s demand cannot be met, the exercise of the capacity of empathy by both parties to facilitate understanding of the other and the application of the principles of theories can be reasonably explained from the behavior modification (positive / negative reinforcement and positive / negative punishment), basically.
In conclusion, it was possible to observe how the phenomenon of frustration becomes a set of learned reactions that can be modified with the establishment of new alternative cognitive-behavioral repertoires.
These learnings are a very important part of all the aspects to be integrated during the development of the child as a they are the basis of inactive operation in problem solving and potentially complex situations in later stages; a general attitude of loss of motivation which can make it difficult to achieve various vital goals; and a tendency to show unrealistic cognitive patterns and alongside the catastrophization of lived situations.
For all this, it seems essential to carry out family work together from an early age which prevents the emergence of this style of behavior which is so little adaptable.
- Barker, R., Dembo, T. and Lewin, K. (1941). Frustration and regression: an experience with young children. (University of Iowa Studies in Child Welfare, XVIII, No. 1.).
- Dollard, J., Miller, NE, Doob, LW, Mowrer, OH and Sears, RR (1939). Frustration and aggression. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
- Ellis, A. Bernard, ME (2006). “Rational and Emotional Behavioral Approaches to Childhood Disorders”. Springer Science and Business Media, Inc.
- García Castro, JL (sf). Children with a low tolerance for frustration.