I found this provoking line in the book I’m currently reading, Ghana must go, by Taiye Selasi; “Frustration is self pity by another name.” It peaked my interest.
1. The feeling of being upset or annoyed as a result of being unable to do something.
2. A cause of dissatisfaction or annoyance.
3. The prevention of the progress, success or fulfilment of something
Excessive concern with and unhappiness over one’s own troubles.
Oxford English Dictionary
Feelings of frustration are fairly common in our day to day lives. We can encounter this emotion when things happen that are out of our control ( Traffic is slow due to an accident so you’re late for your meeting) or things we have control /influence over but did not adequately exercise ( You rushed through the prep for your presentation and your clients were not impressed by it).
Our emotions are a great indicator of our current state of mind. Whist the feeling of frustration initially reveals a sense of powerlessness, a loss/lack of control over the situation, this can be temporary. How temporary it is, is a matter of choice.
In his book, The 7 habits of highly effective people, Stephen Covey talks about Stimulus (what has happened to us) and Response and how, between the two we have a freedom to choose what our response will be.
” Look at the word responsibility- “response-ability”- the ability to choose your response. Highly proactive people recognise that responsibility. They do not blame circumstances, conditions or conditioning for their behaviour. Their behaviour is a product of their own conscious choice, based on values, rather than a product of their conditions, based on feeling.”
– Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
This is from the Habit 1, Be proactive, which I personally find the most challenging, simply because over the years I have built up habits that do not support a proactive state of being.
Frustration can lead one to a state of acceptance, “it’s out of my hands, I’ll take on board whatever feedback comes.” or it could lead to worry and blame; ” Half of the people in the room aren’t even qualified for their jobs, they just don’t understand where I’m coming from!”
Taking responsibility for the situation you’re in allows you to regain control and with that, a movement up the emotional scale. You can continue to find people and things to blame until you have an ill-catered party for One. While our feelings are always valid in themselves, our response to them may not be. After all, would you rather feel good or feel bad? How you continue to feel afterwards is up to you. No one else suffers as much as you do when you’re frustrated or wallowing in self-pity, not even the people you hold accountable for your current state of mind. And if it is yourself you blame, there are no gains from making the situation worse by beating yourself up about it.
So, for me frustration is the gateway to self-pity and I’ll be using Taiye’s quote as a “warning to self”. Most of us are not well trained to quickly choose a response that puts us back in control. It might take a while to identify that our response is what’s causing our frustration, more than what has happened. But if our ultimate goal is to feel good about life and about ourselves we can apply some self-compassion which will empower us to find a solution.
“There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way.” Thick Nhat Hanh