Feeling frustrated can be thought of as a combination of two things: Expecting to have control + Not having control = Frustration
And what do we hear ourselves and others say? “Just make them understand that you don’t have time.” “All you have to do is control your anger.” “Tell her she can’t do that anymore.”
In all of these, there is an element, a belief, of control. An expectation that we should be able to do something by metaphorically snapping our fingers. And if you can’t, there must be something wrong with you.
So what happens when it doesn’t go as we expected? Frustration.
What to do.
If things are added together to get something else, there are two ways to decrease that “something else”. In this case, to decrease the frustration.
We can decrease the “expecting to have control” or the “not having control”.
Of course our first inclination is to get more control. Great. So we stroll down to the super-market and pick up a case of “Control”. If only it were that simple.
There are ways to gain a bit more control over a situation, but saying “I’m going to try to get more control over it” hardly ever yields a desired result. That requires identifying actionable items, etc., but that’s another post.
Focusing on the expectation of control.
The other part of the equation is “expecting to have control”. This one often times is just as difficult to figure out as getting more control, but requires less outward action and can be more effective.
How to do it.
Managing expectations requires honesty (with yourself) and a willingness to see things for how they are instead of jumping straight to the “fix-it” stage. In fact, when done properly, it can make the “fix-it” stage something that’s just not there anymore.
Observing what IS before trying to change it.
The idea of accepting what is there is not anything new. In working toward seeing a current situation for what it is, we can release the stress of having to change something right away.
After considering the circumstances, 1) it may not be changeable; 2) it may not be changeable by us; or 3) it may be the most desirable situation, anyway.
How can we “observe”?
How about a pause button.
We acknowledge a situation, feel ourselves begin to react, then stop. Just for a short moment. We take some time to just acknowledge.
Making non-judgmental observations, either aloud or to ourselves, can help us to SEE it for what it is rather than for what we interpret it as. (That horn is loud. My body feels warm. That man is tall. vs. I can’t stand that stupid horn! I’m burning up, this stinks. That guy is scary as hell!)
This slows us down. From there, we can decide to act, or not. We can choose to do something rather reacting when it may not change anything.
What this gets us.
We like to think we have control over everything. After all, if I can control what happens to me, my surroundings, and other people, then I know I will be safe.
That belief can hurt us when we apply it to everything. Instead of feeling safe, we are confused because we aren’t able to make something happen, cause a change, as easily as we think we should.
By slowing down and taking an honest look at what is really within our control, our expectations can be adjusted to be more realistic, and we can (indirectly) “control” our frustration.