Frustration is an emotion everyone can relate to. However, it is an emotion that is pretty vague. Are you exasperated, upset, disappointment, let down, irritated, or perturbed? Being frustrated leaves a lot to the imagination. In order to understand what someone is actually feeling when they say they are frustrated, it helps to look at the context of their situation.
An iceberg serves as a perfect metaphor for understanding emotions. The majority of an iceberg’s mass is below the surface. That is why people say something like, “It’s only the tip of the iceberg,” meaning there is way more to the situation than actually appears. Emotions like frustration, anger, rage, or apathy are secondary emotions that people reveal above the surface. Whereas the primary emotions like hurt, abandonment, isolation, and loneliness, exist below the surface. In general, frustration is an emotion that would benefit from further exploration because it can be only the tip of the iceberg, indicating there are more emotions underneath the surface. Here are 7 tips to help deal with frustration:
- Find the primary emotion. This is possible by using the iceberg metaphor. If you are feeling frustration, there is a great possibility that the feeling is just scratching the surface of what is really going on underneath. Frustration is a secondary emotion. Exploring the primary emotion underneath provides more insight into what a person’s really feeling and experiencing. Use the secondary emotion a signal and track it down to the primary emotion.
- Address the primary emotion. Addressing a secondary emotion is like putting a bandage on a bullet wound or treating just the symptoms of an illness rather than the actual problem. After finding the primary emotion, it is important to address it because it will involve facing the actual problem rather than just a secondary symptom of the problem.
- Talk about it with someone. Sometimes is can be difficult to process and sift through your feelings on your own. Talking to someone can help you figure out those primary emotions. Others can provide objectiveness and insight that can be difficult to understand when it comes to your evaluating your own emotions.
- Channel it into something else. When dealing with difficult emotions, it is important to utilize healthy coping strategies. Channeling emotions into something productive can be helpful. Emotions can involve an energy that needs to be release. So, whether it is exercising, completing tasks, or even tapping into creativity, it can help to channel emotions like frustration into something that is productive.
- Plan a course of action. You can only control what you can control. It is important not to waste your time on thinking about what needs to happen outside yourself to “make you feel better.” Only you can impact your emotions. Planning a course of action can help you maintain forward-thinking and become open to change. It can also help you make a plan regarding how you want to manage and face difficult emotions.
- Find something to focus on. Sometimes it is difficult not to dwell on difficult emotions. Frustration, for example, is an emotion that can become consuming as you dwell on it. Spending too much time on certain emotions can leave people feeling stuck. Planning a course of action is helpful, but it is important for a person to not ruminate too long and focus on something else.
- Practice gratitude. Gratitude is an emotion that can do so much for people. It can help people live in the present and find contentment. Frustration and other difficult emotions make it difficult to experience any of those things. Practicing gratitude will help you manage difficult emotions and experience a more fulfilling life.
Michelle Overman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist working as a counselor for students, faculty, and staff at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas. She also has a special interest in working with athletes and has been bridging the gap between athletics and mental health at ACU. She is in the process of becoming a Certified Mental Performance Consultant to further her expertise in sports psychology. Prior to her move to Abilene, Michelle ran her own private practice in Austin, Texas where she worked with a diverse population, including couples and families. Michelle earned a Master’s in Marriage & Family Therapy and has been working in the field for 6 years.