The bad habit of taking frustration out on others

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Louise Hay
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From the employee assisting us to the taxi driver who takes us to our destination, passing by neighbors, friends or family, it is not necessary to have a close relationship with someone to take their frustration on us, but having an emotional connection does not save us. from becoming a kind of punching bag. The bad habit of venting frustration on others is widespread and only generates more tension.

Low frustration tolerance

Frustration is a difficult emotion to manage. We feel frustrated when the world doesn't go as planned, when our expectations are not met, our plans are broken, or we can't achieve what we wanted.



We can all get frustrated at some point, it's a normal reaction. But there are people who have a low frustration tolerance. This means that any small problem or setback becomes an impassable wall that causes them discomfort.

These people do not tolerate well the discomfort and difficulties that normally arise in life and cannot bear the delays in satisfying their desires. As a result, they tend to experience more stress, anxiety, anger, and resentment than those who can tolerate and manage frustration.

Low frustration tolerance is usually the result of irrational beliefs, such as thinking that everything should go according to our plans, that others should always act kind and thoughtful, or that the world should follow our conception of justice. When these assumptions are not met, we feel frustrated.

But it is also based on the inability to postpone the rewards. People who want to get everything done as quickly as possible have not developed the psychological mechanisms that allow them to cope with inconveniences and delays, so when they appear they feel very upset.


Take frustration out on others

In 2015, psychologists from the Leibniz Institute of Social Sciences conducted a very interesting experiment: they recruited a group of people who became involved in an online game, previously manipulated in such a way that some lost and others won, regardless of their efforts.


When the game ended, they were told that they could return to compete with other people. Whenever their opponent lost, they could punish him by making a noise. The researchers found that those who lost, when given the opportunity to punish someone, chose to do so using very high volumes, unlike those who won, who applied lower volumes. They also saw that the more frustration and negative feelings the losers felt, the more volume they used for punishment.

This study shows us that many people do not know how to cope with frustration and rush to unload it on others. In fact, they are often not even aware that they are feeling frustrated. These people usually lack emotional granularity; that is, they know they feel bad, but they don't know exactly why.

Frustration runs over them and they don't know how to handle it. In this way, a feeling of irritability and hostility is added to the failure or setback. In fact, having these people an external locus of control, they often blame others for their problems, so their first reaction when they feel frustrated is to look for a culprit.

So they end up taking their frustration out on others, whoever they are, whoever comes by or whoever is close at hand. They usually do this unconsciously, because their myopia prevents them from reacting differently. But other times they do it with joy, simply because they want others to taste some of the discomfort they are feeling too.


How to positively vent frustration?

Sometimes frustration arises from our desire to control things, so it's important to learn to flow and be willing to accept change, because it's the only constant in life. We need to prepare for uncertainty and be aware that things, no matter how planned, will not always turn out as we expect. It's about preparing for the worst in the best way possible.


When we feel frustrated, we need to look at the situation from another perspective. Let's think for a moment of a person looking for work and being offered a salary of 20.000 euros per year. If that person hoped to earn 30.000 euros, they will feel frustrated and disappointed, if they expected to earn 15.000 euros they will feel elated and if they expected to earn 20.000 they will be satisfied. The situation is always the same. But the emotions it generated are different. The person's expectations have changed. This means that when frustration assails us, we need to ask ourselves how our expectations are contributing to the discomfort.


On the other hand, the fact that obstacles arise does not always mean that we should change our goals, but only the way to achieve them. Developing flexible thinking will help us improve our frustration tolerance because we will be able to find alternative ways to achieve our goals or even change them if necessary.

Finally, to vent frustration in a positive way, we can devote ourselves to more productive things, redirecting that energy towards activities that allow us to achieve our goals. We must remember that a mishap can be seen as an obstacle or as a motivation that encourages us to redouble our efforts, it depends only on us.


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