I am yet to meet a person who in the process of looking after a loved one (whether a child, an elderly or frail relative, or a friend) does not experience frustration. I am yet to meet someone who does not experience frustration within their intimate relationships and friendships.
I also find that many of us find it difficult to “accept” and validate our own experience of frustration and that of another person’s.
We may find it unsettling to “sit with” frustration—we may walk on eggshells trying to prevent someone from experiencing frustration, or may feel guilty about feeling frustrated ourselves, especially when we feel it in relation to our loved ones. This usually exacerbates the stress we are already experiencing.
However, the experience of frustration can be of great value to us. It can point us to
valuable insights around what we dislike and find uncomfortable, such as our perception that our experience is not being considered in some way, or our experience of feeling unheard/not understood, or our finding it challenging to move forward with a desired goal.
Below, I would like to suggest to you four points that I would love you to consider, that may assist you in managing/reducing the intensity of this challenging feeling. 1. Remember that Jesus Experienced Frustration Too.
Many Bible passages suggest that Jesus himself experienced frustration in relation to his apostles and the people he was ministering to—especially if he was witnessing hypocrisy, self-righteousness, or abuse. For example, consider the following Bible verse:
3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5, NIV)
I also imagine that for Jesus feeling not heard and misunderstood were well-known companions, as he painstakingly tried to find ways to help people understand his message:
For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them. (Matthew 13:15, NIV)
60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” (John 6:60, NIV)
2. Strive for Emotional Acceptance.
I find it helpful to often remind myself that neuropsychological research confirms that our immediate emotional reactions, including our experience of frustration, are beyond our control*.
Likewise, I like to keep in mind that whether he was weeping, driving out money changers, or felt scared— Jesus expressed his internal reality genuinely and communicated his thoughts/beliefs honestly. He never miss-represented his inner experience.
3. Strive to Experience Self-Compassion vs Self-Condemnation.
I believe that it is helpful to respond to our emotions, including frustration, with compassion and curiosity.
This reduces our likelihood of our experiencing "reactive" feelings such as feeling guilty about feeling frustrated, that only exacerbate our emotional distress. Allowing ourselves to experience compassion towards our inner experiences diminishes their intensity, helping us to manage them better.
Consider this excerpt from “Liberating Inner Eve:”I appreciate the power that compassion and acceptance have in soothing emotional aches and fostering the experience of being valued, heard, understood, cared for, and accepted, for both men and women.I think that it is not often enough that we apply these to ourselves and treat our emotional wounds with gentle, compassionate caring, especially at times when acceptance is not available from others.
4. Learn to Monitor Your Inner Experience.
I often encourage individuals to be mindful of their inner experience and if they notice their frustration increasing, consider taking time to soothe themselves and get some respite from their experience. Consider the way Jesus took time away from his Apostles, “disconnecting” from his teaching ministry, healing, and serving—to spend completely alone, nourishing his being with a solitary communion with God the Father:
12 And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. (Luke 6:12, King James Version KJV)
13 When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities. (Matthew 14:13-21, King James Version KJV)
15 When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone. (John 6:15, King James Version KJV)
Something I often do at those times I find it difficult to remove myself from a stressful situation is imagine myself breathing out the stress/tension in my body and filling up with something that inspires me instead, like the beauty of whatever nature is around me, or something relating to my faith.
To finish, consider this beautiful quote from saint Augustine:
“Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”
This quotes helps me to appreciate that our transient experiences of anger and frustration, which we all can relate to, can also awaken some amazing qualities within us: persistence, strength, compassion, courage, and hope!
*Please note that while our initial emotional reactions are outside of our control, any behavior (which for an emotionally healthy adult IS within their control) that intrudes on personal boundaries of what another person considers to be physically and emotionally safe, is always unacceptable.
References: Maroda, Karen J. Psychodynamic Techniques. New York: Guilford Press 2010 NIV Bible Zawisz, B. Liberating Inner Eve. Westbow Press: 2017
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