Thinking about frustration

So I’m working with a nutrition coach to change some habits I’d prefer not to take into the next 50 years of my life. Today during our call she asked me about the frustration I had just mentioned and I explained it was actually something that had come up a lot lately. I honestly have no idea how I got here, but now I’ve spent hours thinking about what frustration means to me, and why I have such a strong reaction to feeling frustrated, and how that leads me to eating my feelings of frustration instead of expressing them.

I know, it sounds a little loopy. I can almost hear people saying, “Just don’t eat when you feel like that” or “Just have an apple instead of eating something unhealthy”. I just want to clarify, if it were that simple for me I wouldn’t be working with a nutrition coach. I don’t know why frustration is such an overwhelming feeling but when I stopped and thought about it, I realized that is part of what makes it so overwhelming. Bear with me here, I know that was a circle, but have you ever felt something, experienced something, or interacted with someone that just leaves you without any idea what to do next? It can feel overwhelming. But knowing that is likely where you’re headed is a whole other level of overwhelm. It’s like you ride your bike down a hill and at some point you crash. Now the crash is overwhelming…but if you know you’re going to crash before you actually crash then you are overwhelmed that the crash is coming and then overwhelmed by the experience of the crash itself. See what I mean?

That is how I experience frustration. I can see it coming and that gets me frustrated before the thing that I am expecting to be frustrating itself can even start. Nonsensical? Possibly. But there’s my brain.

So the conversation was interesting because two things happened. One, I talked about feeling frustrated and what causes that feeling, and two, I did not eat those feelings. Instead, I made a mental list of all the pieces of the story I was telling myself about in this particular situation, were frustrating. And then I thought about them. My coach told me awareness is knowledge and applied knowledge is power, but that you have to start by noticing. So I sat here and thought about all of the things in the situation I had told her about were frustrating. I reminded myself of more of them every time I thought I was done. I was incredibly nitpicky and felt very petty about the list I was making but my job wasn’t to judge; it was to notice. So I noticed how it felt to name the things that I found frustrating. I thought about how it felt to feel that frustration, but also how it felt to notice the frustrating feelings instead of just letting them build up.

So frustration, it turns out (for me at least) is actually a really big deal. What I think is going to be frustrating is often as frustrating as whatever the event or situation actually is. But what is frustration? I kept coming back to wanting to define what I was feeling. Yes, the word has a definition, and I was using the word correctly, but reading that definition, I wasn’t feeling the emotional response that I was when I was defining things in my life as frustrating.

When I stopped and really thought about it, what it finally came down to was that frustration is a number of things. For me it includes the sting of impatience, the boredom of waiting, the annoyance of repetition, the sighs of forbearance, and the physical response of feeling my blood pressure rise, my brain start to short circuit, and my muscles get tight. How all of that gets defined as one word I’ll never understand but there it is. That is how I feel frustration, and knowing that, my very emotional response to feeling frustrated makes a lot more sense. Now all I need to do is pull it all apart so I feel those things separately instead of lumping them all together, and then feeling inept when I can’t stop ‘feeling frustrated’. So off I go to think about it some more and see what I can do to help myself make a change so I’m better able to manage my emotions instead of letting them manage me.

One thought on “Thinking about frustration

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