Frustration

Photo by Ryan Magsino on Unsplash

A lot of feelings will draw your attention elsewhere where your attention doesn’t do you any good. The feeling of frustration is this way. When you’re feeling frustrated, your attention is on the object of your frustration when it should be on yourself.

You’re trying to be on time for an appointment and two elderly drivers are traveling ten miles below the speed limit, side-by-side on the highway. If you’re feeling frustrated, your attention is on those two drivers because they’re in the way. It appears that you will feel better or worse depending on whether they let you by. Your feelings are in their hands. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. You can take control if you pay attention to what you’re doing instead of paying attention to them.

Let’s be clear about what frustration is. The feeling of frustration is what you get when you expect or try to do the impossible.

Not true, you say, it’s possible for one of these old guys to speed up, or one to slow down, pull over and let you pass.

Yes it is; for them. But not for you. It’s you who’s trying to do the impossible.

You left early. It’s not too far. You made it on time every other day. It ought to be possible to make your appointment on time.

Not today it’s not. Today, you’re trying to do the impossible. You didn’t know it when you left, but you should know now.

There ought to be a law, you say, that requires old people to hand over their license when they can’t drive the speed limit.

But there isn’t. If it were possible, then maybe there would be. If it was possible, they still wouldn’t be able to pass it and enforce it in time for you to make your appointment. You are expecting the impossible.

They should have put three lanes on this highway when they built it. Then I wouldn’t have to wait.

Maybe they should have, but they can’t right now. They can’t build a third lane in time for you to make your appointment. You are expecting the impossible.

Those old people ought to know that they’re holding you up.

Maybe, but they don’t, or they don’t care. You can’t communicate directly with them, so you can’t convince them. You can flash your lights, blow your horn, ride their tail, and make gestures with your hands, but you can’t make them speed up or pull over. It’s up to them. You’re trying to do the impossible.

Everyone else in this scenario is doing the possible, but you. You are trying to do the impossible. You didn’t know it was impossible when you left, but you can know it now. How do you know when you’re trying to do the impossible? When you’re frustrated that’s how. Frustration tells you when you have encountered the impossible. How can you stop being frustrated? Stop trying to do the impossible that’s how.

Maybe it’s possible to be on time if you go another way. Get off the highway and try a different route. If that’s a reasonable alternative, then you’re no longer trying to do the impossible and your frustration will begin to diminish. Your frustration taught you something. It taught you to find another way. All this time, frustration was just trying to help. Do you hate feeling frustrated? Then find a different way or stop trying to do the impossible.

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