Did you ever notice how it’s the little things that get you tied up in a knot? The big things we often handle with grace and acceptance. We muster all our inner resources and deal with the situation, accepting what cannot be changed, and we do what we can to adjust. But sometimes those little things — well, you know what I mean. And sometimes dealing with frustration caused by “little things” is a challenge.
A “little thing” as an example
Some time ago lightning struck our house and did some damage to some of our electrical outlets and phones. Everything was fixed easily except for the halogen lamp. I bought a bulb (a $6.95 bulb which I think is pricey) and installed it in the lamp. No light. I twisted it, turned it, took it out and put it back in, reversed it—no light. Then I checked the plug which I already knew was working, plugged the lamp back in —no light. Since I didn’t know what else to do so I went about my business doing something else for awhile.
But I really wanted to get that lamp fixed. I have a sectional couch, and I had it pulled apart because the lamp sits behind it in the corner, the only dark spot in the room. The couch is heavy, and I didn’t want to put it back together until the lamp was fixed. I wanted to do it only once.
Repeating the process
A few hours later I returned to the lamp. I took the bulb out and did all the same things I did the first time. (The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Hmmm) I had a flicker of light and then nothing. No light. Insanely, I tried most of those steps again hoping to get the bulb “just right” and be rewarded with beautiful, corner-filling light. No such luck.
By now my frustration level was getting rather high, and it wasn’t a feeling I liked. It was a little thing, and I was not dealing with frustration well.
Wikipedia has a nice description of frustration:
Frustration is a common emotional response to opposition. Related to anger and disappointment, it arises from the perceived resistance to the fulfillment of individual will. The greater the obstruction, and the greater the will, the more the frustration is likely to be. Causes of frustration may be internal or external. In people, internal frustration may arise from challenges in fulfilling personal goals and desires, instinctual drives and needs, or dealing with perceived deficiencies, such as a lack of confidence or fear of social situations. Conflict can also be an internal source of frustration; when one has competing goals that interfere with one another, it can create cognitive dissonance. External causes of frustration involve conditions outside an individual, such as a blocked road or a difficult task.
So what do you do when you’re totally frustrated?
As in all things, there is a choice. In this situation, I could:
- have a temper tantrum (react in anger) to release the inner stress
- find a solution
- do nothing
This may sound strange, but I was in too good a mood to have a temper tantrum. I find that they rarely solve anything and there are other ways to let off steam. That left me with a choice between finding a solution or doing nothing.
My solution was to do nothing. We have a good friend who knows about these things. He was going to stop by by one day the following week, and he could try his hand at it then. In the meantime, I put the couch and the lamp back together to wait for Andrew’s visit.
Awareness is needed here
Generally, dealing with frustration in a mature and effective way involves awareness. When you are aware of the whole situation and aware of what’s happening within yourself, you can make rational decisions about the action you can take.
Ask yourself the questions:
- Is this important enough to allow it to ruin my day?
- Is this within my control?
- Do I need to get help or is s this something I have the skill set to deal with?
- What can I do now to lower my stress level and deal with the situation without losing my cool?
After assessing the situation I realized there was nothing I could do then to change the situation, I could make a decision to get help, postpone the action, or drop it all together.
I had high expectations for getting that lamp fixed and the couch put back together. It didn’t happen. I realized I could change my expectations about it, too.
Changing my expectations took all the tension out of the situation. I decided to wait for an expert to take a look at it.
Neither the cat nor I worried about the dark corner. In fact, it was a good place for both the cat and me to have a nap. (And that got her off my computer.)
I decided to enjoy the day.
The final solution
The eventual solution? Andrew checked the lamp and pronounced it dead.
I bought a new lamp.