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What is frustration and how does it affect our lives?

What is frustration and how does it affect our lives?

May 10, 2021

Frustration: we define the concept and explain how to avoid falling into its clutches.

You hear a lot in the day to day, in the media. "The coach ended up frustrated when he could not overcome the match", "He felt a strong sense of frustration at not being able to achieve that position", etc.

But, What exactly is the frustration and what implications does it have for our success in the labor and personal field?

Frustration: defining the concept

The concept of frustration is defined as the feeling that is generated in an individual when he can not satisfy a desire raised . Faced with this type of situation, the person usually reacts emotionally with expressions of anger, anxiety or dysphoria, mainly.


Considering as an inherent aspect of human life the fact of assuming the impossibility of achieving everything that one desires and at the moment in which one yearns, The key point lies in the ability to manage and accept this discrepancy between the ideal and the real . Thus, the origin of the problem is not found in external situations in themselves, but in the way in which the individual confronts them. It is understood, from this perspective, that the frustration is composed of both a real situation that occurred as well as the emotional experience developed from that situation.

How to deal successfully with the feeling of frustration?

Proper management of frustration becomes an attitude and, as such, it can be worked and developed; frustration is a transitory state and, therefore, reversible . In this way, an adequate management of frustration consists in training the individual in the acceptance of both the external event -what has happened- and the internal -the emotional experience of it-.


  • Related article: "Intolerance to frustration: 5 tricks and strategies to combat it"

Frustration can be categorized as a primary or instinctive response . It is a reaction that naturally shows an emotionally unpleasant state when the occurrence of interference occurs in the pursuit of a proposed objective.

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 previously little explored subject. The intensity of the frustration reaction can vary substantially, to the point of causing impairments even at a cognitive level in situations of high severity, such as the appearance of alterations in memory capacity, attention or perception.

What is low tolerance to frustration?

People who usually react by expressing frustration are attributed a functional feature called Low tolerance to frustration . This style seems to be more prevalent in the current western society, where most of the phenomena that compose it are based on immediacy and inability to wait.


Individuals who present this way of doing are also characterized by having a rigid and inflexible reasoning, with little ability to adapt to unscheduled changes. On the other hand, often have a series of distorted cognitions that do not fit the reality , due to which they interpret as unbearable the duty to deal with more unpleasant emotions such as anger or sadness and leads them, on the other hand, to elaborate a series of previous expectations far from rational, disproportionate and extremely demanding.

Studies that link frustration with violent behavior

The study conducted by Barker, Dembo and Lewin in 1941 proved the link between frustration and aggression and it showed how determining the expectations generated by the individual are prior to the potentially frustrating situation.

Subsequently, Berkowitz qualified these initial findings and included other modulating aspects in the aggression-frustration relationship, namely, the motivations of the subject, the attitude of this person facing the problem, his past experiences and the cognitive-emotional interpretation carried out on his own reaction.

How do people with low frustration tolerance behave?

Generally and in a synthesized way, people who have an operation based on a low tolerance to frustration have the following characteristics :

1. They have difficulty controlling emotions.

2. They are more impulsive, impatient and demanding.

3. They seek to meet their needs immediately, so that when they have to face the wait or the postponement of these can react explosively with attacks of anger or extreme withdrawal and sadness.

4. They can develop pictures of anxiety or depression more easily than other individuals in the face of conflicts or great difficulties.

5.They believe that everything revolves around them and that they deserve everything they demand, so that they feel any limit as unfair since it goes against their wishes. They find it hard to understand why they are not given everything they want.

6. They have a low capacity for flexibility and adaptability.

7. They manifest a tendency to think in a radical way: a thing is white or black, there is no middle point.

8. They are easily demotivated in the face of any difficulty.

9. They make emotional blackmail if they do not fulfill what they want immediately, manipulating the other person with hurtful messages.

What factors can cause it?

From among the factors that can predispose and / or precipitate the appearance of a disturbance of low tolerance to frustration The following are distinguished:

  • The temperament : the most internal, biological and genetic dispositions such as temperament distinguish individuals in their innate abilities, among which tolerance to frustration may be included.
  • Social conditions : depending on the social and cultural environment in which it is circumscribed, the person 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 cultures.
  • Certain difficulties in emotional expression : a restricted vocabulary, a deficit in the ability to identify and recognize experienced emotions and a mistaken belief that the manifestation of unpleasant emotions is harmful and should be avoided, correlate positively with a persistent operation of low tolerance to frustration.
  • Some models that show deficits in self-control: in the case of minors, they learn a large part of their behavioral repertoire based on what is observed in their referent figures. Parental models scarcely skilled in the management of frustration transmit their children that same incompetence.
  • A misinterpretation of the signals : the subject can assess the frustrating situation as intensely threatening and dangerous, making an adequate coping more complex.
  • The reward for delayed action : Every attempt on the part of the individual to carry out a self-controlled and delayed response must be reinforced in order that this behavior may acquire strength and increase its frequency.

Learning frustration tolerance (and the REPT model)

Tolerance to frustration is a learning that must be consolidated already during early stages of child development .

Very young children do not yet have the capacity to wait or to understand that not everything can happen immediately. Thus, the procedure that usually operates when a low frustration tolerance operation is applied starts at the moment when the child can not dispose of what he wants and manifests a reaction of exaggerated catastrophism for that reason.

Then, given his interpretation of this situation as something unbearable, he begins to generate a series of self-directed internal verbalizations of rejection ("I do not want to do / wait ..."), punitive (blaming others), catastrophic valuations of the situation ("it is unbearable "), Demands (" it's not fair that ... "), self-deprecation (" I hate myself ").

After this phase, emerge responses at behavioral level in the form of tantrums, cries, complaints, oppositional behavior or other similar manifestations. In this way, it is understood that there is a bidirectional relationship between the feeling of frustration and the negative interpretation of the situation where both elements reciprocally feed each other.

From childhood to adolescence and adulthood

All this, can be perpetuated until adulthood if the person has not been instructed in learning about modifying cognitive schemes and emotional interpretations that facilitate the adoption of a more tolerant and flexible style.

Among the main measures that are usually part of the training to promote an adequate tolerance to frustration are components such as relaxation techniques, learning in the identification of emotions, indication of specific instructions on when the child should ask for help in a given situation , conducting controlled behavioral trials in which potential scenarios are simulated, positive reinforcement of the achievements made by the child and acquisition of alternative behaviors incompatible with the reaction of frustration.

Therapies and psychological strategies to combat it

On the techniques and psychological strategies that are used as a resource to consolidate this type of learning in the parental-filial field, an adaptation of the Rational Emotive Therapy of 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 purpose they have and how they relate to the cognitions and interpretations that are generated after an experienced situation.It becomes a guide to apply in relation to children's problems as well as a self-application for adults.

More specifically, the objectives of the REPT are to provide parents with relevant information about the model that explains emotional regulation so that they can transmit this knowledge to their children and serve as a guide to use in potentially destabilizing situations, achieving an adequate management of the emotions aroused. On the other hand, is an instrument that offers a set of information that enables them to detect erroneous applied educational guidelines , as well as a greater understanding of the motivations that underlie the child's behavior. Finally, this proposal aims to facilitate the internalization of a more active operation in relation to coping and solving problems more efficiently.

The main contents included in this novel and effective model are the components: parental psychoeducation in the proper management of one's emotions that facilitate a correct educational practice and in the self-acceptance that moves them away from stigmatizing situations, training in alternative responses to frustration centered in a state of calm where the reasons for why children's demand can not be met are reasonably explained, the exercise of empathic capacity by both parties facilitates the understanding of the other and the application of the principles of Behavior Modification theories (positive / negative reinforcement and positive / negative punishment), fundamentally.

In conclusion

In conclusion, it has been observed 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 the set of aspects to integrate during the child development, since they are at the base of a non-active functioning in the resolution of problems and potentially complex situations in later stages; of a general attitude of loss of motivation that can hinder the attainment of diverse life goals; and of a tendency to manifest unrealistic cognitive schemes and close to the catastrophization of experienced situations.

For all these reasons, it seems essential to carry out a joint family work from early times that prevents the appearance of this behavioral style so little adaptive.

Bibliographic references:

  • Barker, R., Dembo, T., and Lewin, K. (1941). Frustration and Regression: An Experiment with Young Children. (University of Iowa Studies in Child Welfare, XVIII, No. 1.).
  • Dollard, J., Miller, N.E., Doob, L.W., Mowrer, O. H. and Sears, R. R. (1939). Frustration and aggression. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
  • Ellis, A. Bernard, M. E. (2006). "Rational Emotive Behavioral approaches to childhood disorder". Springer Science and Business Media, Inc.
  • GarcĂ­a Castro, J.L. (s.f.). Children with low tolerance for frustration.

Is Life Freaking You Out? The Reason People Lose Their Balance - Sadhguru (May 2021).


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