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About Frustration

Posted by on in General Ideas

What is frustration? There are quite a few definitions around, but I may go back to the Latin word 'frustra', meaning, ' in vain, useless, for nothing, with no success'. The words alone give rise to feelings we don't like to have. We know, how it feels to be frustrated. 

Simply said, frustration is a blockade that stifles our progress, or pursuit in something we want.

In the "terrible two's" we throw a tantrum when we don't get what we want. Hopefully we learn then that tantrums do not get us anywhere because learning it as an adult is so much harder. Well, we may never learn and just continue to have a problem. Mind you, this adds to any new problem with not getting what we want. It is accumulative, leading to more frustration and spills over to other areas of our life. Eventually people feel miserable and don’t not know what the hell is wrong with them.

Unfortunately, dealing with frustration is an individual process. Despite some general applicable strategies they do not in itself mean successful resolution. There is no one size fits all.

Observing nature, let us look at the flow of water. Most of us would enjoy to watch a river as it rolls on comfortably in its well treaded path, or a stream, that swirls and splashes along as if there was no tomorrow, or a spring that may have just gained enough momentum to make it joyfully glide over the pebbles and around the stones, rushing away towards bigger things to come. It evokes feelings in us of strength, pleasure, joy. So let us be this river, stream, or spring.

Any of them, at any time may get thwarted. It sure depends on the size of the obstacle relative to their own size and volume if the flow forward can continue or not. It does not matter how strong the current is. There is always something that can be bigger and cannot be simply just swept away.

So what does the water do when its flow gets blocked? Obviously certain factors will influence the reaction. If the blockage is a sudden event, the water will clash with the obstacle. There would be a lot of splashing and hissing and turmoil, not unlike head butting the wall. Eventually that will subside if the wall does not give. The water will simply seek another way or start to flow backwards if no other way can be found. If the backlog is extensive, big rivers may become lakes, streams become ponds, and springs may form pools or just disappear into the earth and appear elsewhere or create swamps. 

None of that is actually awful. It is a transformation to something equally beautiful, impressive or useful. How much pleasure can be found lakeside, how much peace can a pond convey, how much life can develop in swamps, where nature is left to its own!

Needless to say, if the hindrance is rather a slow process of buildup, there is less or even no head banging, there may be time for adjustments. It may still be frustrating.

The rivers may not feel frustrated, though they have been frustrated all the same. It literally means, it is the human experience that attaches feelings to events. And they are considered negative when circumstances dictate a direction we don't agree with.  We don't want to be held up or held back, we don't want to be changed, we don't want to change. Even if the change is necessary or offers just something different without losing value, we want it our way, no matter what.

So we get angry, aggressive, violent, or we get sad, depressed, and self-destructive. We may become stubborn, bitter, and resentful or we may cry, withdraw and resign to hopelessness. We may eat too much or loose appetite, we may not be able to sleep or can't get out of bed. To calm ourselves we take pills, alcohol, drugs. We blame everybody, and everything, because it is true, we have no power to make the obstacle disappear. We have no power to change others who stand in our way. We have no power to change anyone or anything the way we want it to be or the way we think it should be. Does that mean it is the end of the road? Of course not! There really is no end. Nature shows us, there are only solutions. And if we change, that’s the power we have, it will lead to feelings of victory all the way.    

It is not wrong to make the effort to get something we want or to get it our way. But we sure should consider if it is worth our while. A hindrance helps to reconsider but if our goal is essential to us, we can continue one way or another. 

The flow of water is a quality that will not change, its velocity does and that is not a bad thing. Water will find a way to flow on. It may be able to actually flow over the hurdle when it has built up enough volume or strength, or it may find a way around, left or right or even divide into different arms. It may push through, eventually at least, carving out a channel and eating the obstacle up from the inside out. Water will seek the way of less resistance and the most promising to resolve the problem before it resigns to transformation. In the meantime its “muscle” gets stronger.

It is our choice of what we do or not do with our frustrations. Each of our choices depends on what options we see and how much we want to invest in them. So we have firstly to assess the situation. We may allow ourselves, initially, to get carried away with emotions, but never let us drown in them. That only shows that you have chosen to do nothing but indulge in the state of helplessness. Well, as long as you enjoy the ride, so be it. But don't expect that others come to the rescue when you don't try to keep your head above. There is nothing they can do.

Next step is to make a plan of action when we have chosen and carry straight on with the same determination and pleasure, to achieve what we have set out to achieve in the first place. Incorporating the obstacle, ignoring it, making it a historical landmark or leaving it as a cul de sac are just some of the things we can do to bring us peace of mind again. As the saying goes, "there is no point to keep crying over spilt milk." However, always remember, that not making a choice, doing nothing, is also a choice. That may sometimes be as good a choice as any other, as long as you keep in mind that decisions will be made without you and you may not like the outcome. But do delay decision making when you are riding high on emotions. Give it some time to let the choppy waves settle, and they will, because that is in the ‘nature of the beast’ that nothing will ever stay the same.   

If there are no feasible options it is indeed time for a radical approach, like surgery or surrender. It will transform you if you like it or not. Both have their advantages and disadvantages and you still have choices regarding how you want your transformation to be. And as nature shows us, it may be for something as beautiful or even more so if we allow it to be. That’s what a Sozieterna would do.

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