What Are the Causes of Frustration?

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Everybody experiences frustration on occasion. It's that burning feeling in your gut when things aren't going your way. By identifying what causes frustration, however, a person is better equipped to deal with it before it turns to full blown anger. This article outlines the causes of frustration and offers a few simple ways to deal with it.

Textbook Definition

Frustration is the condition that occurs when an action, impulse or goal is thwarted by an external or internal force.

External Factors

You are driving to work and you are right on time. Suddenly, traffic comes to a halt. The minutes tick by as traffic creeps along at a snails pace. Finally, you start to move again, but just as your destination gets into view, the traffic freezes once again. You can see your desired destination; it's only a few blocks away, but you can't reach it. Now you are late for work. The perception of wasted time in particular is a big source of frustration in the contemporary United States.

This is an example of frustration caused by external factors. Your goal, to get to work on time, has been blocked by an external force. What makes it so frustrating is that the antagonist in this play is completely out of your control. There is nothing you can do to change the situation, so your emotions boil up inside as you are forced to grit your teeth and bear it.

Internal Factors

You have a family and you work very hard to support them. You want to give your family the best and sometimes this means working weekends. On one of these weekends is your child's championship soccer game.

This is an example of an internal factor that causes frustration. Internal frustration is when a person has competing goals that interfere with one another. In this case, you want to provide a good living for your family, but also want to be there with your family at the same time.

Another cause of internal frustration is the inability to reach a goal or act on an emotion due to either real or imagined deficiencies.

Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance is the feeling caused when you hold two contradictory ideas at the same time. This feeling also can be caused by holding a belief but acting in a contradictory manner. Both are causes of frustration--you must either adjust your actions to coincide with your ideas or adjust your ideas to coincide with your actions.

A Bit 'O' Buddhism

There are a variety of strategies available for coping with frustration, from counting down from 10 to physical exercise. But the Tibetan Buddhists have a saying:

"If you have a problem that can be fixed, then there is no use in worrying. If you have a problem that cannot be fixed, then there is no use in worrying."

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