Frustration is my sensei

We all have experienced frustration in our lives. Maybe in the form of repetitive thoughts, we can’t control. Maybe in the form of anger towards ourselves for “not knowing better”. Maybe in the form of a disappointment for failing “yet again”. In this article, I’m going to attempt to convince you that no matter what form of frustration one has experienced one is always better off treating it as a very expensive and sought after teacher than any form of oppressive force.

Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation

Victor Frankl — Holocaust survivor and author of Man’s Search for Meaning

Anyone who has meditated for longer than 30 seconds knows a simple basic truth. The mind wanders and it’s almost impossible to stop it from doing that but just by the simple fact of noticing that wandering and not judging it one can easily bring their focus back to their breath, mantra, sensations, etc…

It’s the same with all feelings we feel throughout our lives especially true for negative feelings like frustration. We feel them, sometimes they help us, sometimes they impair us but one thing is obvious if you try for a while: No one can stop themselves from feeling.

One less obvious thing is the constant feedback mechanism that functions between our emotions and our thoughts. Once we get into a certain mood, our thoughts shift to sustain and deepen that mood, and that deeper, stronger mood or state then triggers even more thoughts in a loop.

Most of the time we “consume” that emotional energy and we move on with our lives none the wiser. But every once in a while we get stuck, sometimes for minutes, sometimes for hours, days or if you’re like me maybe even months. We hold the emotion in our bodies for as long as we can, putting more and more pressure on our systems until we eventually give up and then wait for the next time we get stuck.

A few months ago, after a failed negotiation with a former business partner, all of the stored negative feelings that were between us bubbled up to the surface, and all of a sudden I found myself wanting to make him suffer, to get retribution. I felt morally right and convinced myself that he deserved whatever was coming from me and started to act out my revenge plan. After a couple of days, with the feeling of frustration still dominating my awareness I realized that the feeling should have gone away by then.

After doing some inner probing to see what I was missing from the story I then realized that my frustration was with myself. What he was doing to me now he did to almost all his former business associates before me. So “how could I have been so stupid” and think that he wouldn’t use the same tactics with me. And this thought kept coming up again, and again, and again, and again. I felt powerless to do anything to stop my thoughts and my thoughts were pushing me to take revenge on him.

The only way to effectively use your emotions is to understand that they all serve you. You must learn from your emotions and use them to create the results you want for a greater quality of life. The emotions you once thought of as negative are merely a call to action. In fact, instead of calling them negative emotions, from now on in this chapter, let’s call them Action Signals. Once you’re familiar with each signal and its message, your emotions become not your enemy but your ally. They become your friend, your mentor, your coach; they guide you through life’s most soaring highs and its most demoralizing lows.

Tony Robbins — Awaken The Giant Within

I stopped myself and still filled with anger, resentment and frustration I asked myself the now almost magical question for me: “If my former business partner is a teacher that I’ve sought, searched and paid for with a huge material and emotional cost then what are the lessons and skills that he is teaching me?”.

I’m not going to do a laundry list here of all the things I’ve learned about my self and became better at because of this man but I will say this: The learnings have been more than worth the cost. And now I had a new tool, each time I felt a feeling I did not want I could always ask myself the magic question again.

But the most valuable lesson I’ve learned from the event detailed above is that I can turn repetitive disruptive or destructive thinking patterns into ones that are creative and constructive.

The purpose of the question is not so much the answers you get from it. The purpose of the question is to shift perspectives from one of a victim to one of solution-seeking.

Task-relevant information could facilitate implicit down-regulation of negative emotions following failure

Oscar Wilde once said, “We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell”. I firmly believe that by treating our repetitive thinking patterns as opportunities to exercise our brains, our wills, and eventually our deepest desires we not only break the pattern of being our own devil but we will also make this world our heaven.

In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice

Victor Frankl

If find yourself wanting to work on your own patterns of powerlessness, disruption, and destruction, easily turning them into creative and constructive powerful patterns. You might find that coaching will make this process simply and amazingly pleasant. Should you ever find yourself in that situation, don’t hesitate to contact me!