"Hello frustration, we meet again" - Handling Your Unwanted Feelings

Frustration occurs for me approximately once every half an hour. It is usually accompanied by anger and hopelessness. Fear of failure and a negative internal dialogue creep in around this time too. Despite all this, I do feel I handle my feelings quite well.

 
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As a creative person, I find myself learning and practicing new approaches to my art on a regular basis. In most cases, the results I achieve are not in line with my expectations. In this circumstance, attachment to results is the root of the frustration. Ultimately, it is only because I have a precise expectation, that the outcome of a situation is able to fall short of this. Simply put, if I have no expectations, I won’t have any shortcomings. If I have no shortcomings, I am less likely to be frustrated. 

It’s that simple! Destroy all of your expectations, and your unwanted feelings will vanish.

Alas, such a mindset is quite challenging to acquire as a human that regularly enjoys thinking about, planning and imagining the future. So then, how do we approach dealing with unwanted feelings like frustration in a more feasible manner?

It’s not that we’re trying to eradicate frustration from our lives. It serves a purpose and encourages the cultivation of patience and self love, amongst other healthy attributes.

And so when frustration pops up, I like to acknowledge that it’s there; “Hello again frustration, it’s been 10 whole minutes since our last meeting!”. A spectator hearing you say it aloud might think you’ve gone mad… let them! The purpose of doing this is that it allows you to distance yourself from the feeling. The moment you speak about the feeling as something outside of yourself, it’s impact is reduced almost instantly. A lot of the time we believe that when a feeling arises, we become that feeling; “I am frustrated” or “I am angry”.  The feeling is there, but it doesn’t mean that you are the feeling, or that it needs to control you.

From my experience, most of the pain that comes from frustration is actually associated with the struggle against the feeling itself. Frustration doesn’t actually do anything to upset me, but I’ve somehow come up with this idea that whenever it’s present that life is awful. Most often we go about our day desperately fumbling to remove unwanted feelings from our lives, which is very cumbersome work. In other words, we are reacting to the feelings being there. In this context, to react means to unconsciously act, allowing the feeling to control you

An example of a reaction would be throwing a tantrum when something doesn’t go your way. If you had clarity of the situation, that typically is not a way in which your authentic self would strive to act. However, frustration was driving your action, not you. The result is a huge energy drain and you’re probably (definitely) going to feel worse after! This is a demonstration of a feeling controlling you

Conversely, to respond to an unwanted feeling involves first acknowledging the distance between yourself and the feeling, and maintaining clarity in your actions despite the feeling being present. You are not identifying with the feeling. For example when something hasn’t gone according to plan, you might feel frustrated but you calmly choose to come up with a new approach to the problem.

Victory over our feelings is not necessary in order to thrive. It’s more so about shifting the way in which you relate to the feeling that will liberate you. How our feelings effect us is very much in our own hands, and it ultimately comes down to whether we are prepared to respond or react. There is no quick fix. It’s certainly slow work, but over time and with practice you’ll notice enhanced clarity as a result of re-engineering how you relate to all of your feelings, not just frustration!

David Boland