The conduct of human nature does not only focus on achieving personal goals (those things a man aspires to), but also in avoiding the things that are negative and a person feels threatened by them. It is impossible to always obtain what we want (reaching a goal or running away from something), because there are moral or physical obstacles that will be in the middle. This fact is known as frustration. And this happens to a child when he wants to get something and his parents will not let him, to an adolescent that craves something that could be damaging for his health. Many times, teenagers do not really know what they want very well, and feel frustrated if their family, looking for their good, does not allow them to pursue it. The kid often feels a state of non-satisfaction when he does not fulfil the expectations he was looking for.
But what do we understand, what is our definition of FRUSTRATION? We could define it as a feeling that shows up when we do not reach a goal we have set (it could be buying a toy, going on a trip with some friends that is cancelled by bad weather…) This feeling generates anxiety, anger and sometimes makes the person become depressed. With this scenario of sensations, the child should learn to respond in the healthiest possible way, so it does not affect his emotional balance (we take for granted that an adult would be able to do this).
We are talking about a situation in which something expected, a desire or a project is not fulfilled. So we are talking about a negative sensation, because the individual has failed to reach his expectations. But in its essence failure is not bad, and it is something directly tied to the human condition. Everybody has failed many times. The people who reach their pretensions cannot say they have never failed. We should teach our children that success is tied to overcoming the little failures that happen constantly in our life. On the other hand, those who fail are the ones who do not learn from their little failures and get stuck in a situation they cannot overcome.
So, WHAT GENERATES FRUSTRATION? Three things could be defined as the main reasons:
• The existence of a barrier or obstacle that does not allow us to fulfil a goal. It could be an exterior object, something physical. But it could also be generated by a situation (adults not allowing something, failing an exam…).
• The lack of something that is needed to fulfil the goal (lack of money, freedom, health, affection…).
• The co-existence of two objects that are not compatible and generate a conflict (a teenager who wants to go out the same day he needs to study to have success in an exam; a kid who wants to play at the park with a friend but who also wants to go out to the movies with an adult…).
The influence that frustration could have in a human being is determined by the individual’s personality and by other variables that are very hard to control.
We should consider and know the CONSECUENCES that frustration can generate in a human being (especially in a child) and we should be alert so psychological problems do not break down, mainly in adolescents who have a vulnerable personality. The most common reactions are anger, aggressiveness and sometimes violence. Sensations like sadness, depression, pessimism and lack of motivation can also arise. We can also find the person getting blocked, feeling resigned or showing a complete lack of willingness to try to adapt to the situation.
Of all the reactions listed, aggressiveness acts in a disturbed conduct. This will happen while the individual does not learn how to solve the conflict, using dialogue and reasoning as the tools to do it.
So, wherever we find aggressiveness, we should think there was a previous frustration. We can talk about different aggressive conducts: the direct physical aggressions (the ones young people use the most); the “displaced” physical aggressions (occur after some time has gone by and are deliberate; this does not happen with children, they are more common in teenagers or adults); the direct and displaced verbal aggressions; the internal aggressions (inferiority complex, apathy…); disorganized conducts (drug addiction, alcohol addiction in teenagers…)
As an answer to frustration, we also find regression, which can be seen in children when they give up trying to pursue a goal, comeback to psychological conducts they had already overcome. A student who studies hard but does not achieve the results he is looking for gets frustrated, developing emotional problems such as a lack of self-esteem.
To face frustration we can use DEFENSIVE MECHANISMS, getting them across to the infants so they can use them correctly. First of all, we should start by the possible solutions, acting in a rational way. The problems are not always going to be solved in a cold and rational manner, because there could be very complex ones depending on the different factors that affect a sensible individual. The defensive mechanisms that a person could use might be directly related to the pain and anger frustration could produce. These mechanisms could be used directly with adolescent children, because they would have a greater reasoning capacity. Of the different mechanisms, the one used most by the children could be the substitution, which means changing non-desired ways of conduct for those more desirable. When an adolescent is nervous, because the exams are near, he could lean towards smoking but he could also relieve the tension by taking part in a sport or doing an intense physical activity.
We can also IMPROVE THE TOLERANCE TO FRUSTRATION, which is the level of internal strength and balance that allows an individual to keep fighting for achieving the goal he has set without being afraid of failure or frustration. An individual with a low tolerance to frustration has a special sensibility for those things that are not nice. They can be frequently found in a bad mood, sad, feeling anxiety or just angry because of the bad luck they have had to face in life.
There are different levels of tolerance to frustration. For example, some children quickly get angry, showing frustrating behaviors related to a very small desire. But if things are explained to them, they react well, understanding the reasoning behind a decision taken. It is not about educating the kids on success. It is about teaching them that they can learn from every small mistake, trying to achieve the goal again without being discouraged in the process. A child would increase this level of tolerance to frustration when he learns from his small failures: breaking a glass at home, getting a bad grade which was not expected…
While he is growing up, a child must learn that he will not get everything he desires. He has the necessity to see things in a mature way. If he does not, he will keep reacting like a child when he is older. These individuals have a low tolerance of frustration which could be seen in the following:
• They feel they must obtain everything they want and therefore they demand it.
• They think life must be always easy and comfortable.
• They feel any difficulty or failure is too horrible to be able to swallow.
• They get confused between their desires and necessities.
What can be done to avoid this?
1. Be aware of it. This requires a deep analysis of the situation. It is the start. It is convenient to know how we react and what we feel bothers us.
2. We need to make sure we have a clear idea of the difference between desire and necessity.
3. We should control our first impulses. If we do not tolerate frustration well, it would be very hard for us to control our impulses, leading to overreacting to some things, which often happens to teenagers. Young people should think deeply if they really need something that might require a harmful impulse to get.
4. Learn to deal with pain and inconvenience. Adults know a lot about this, because they have learned that in life we can’t get everything and that everything does not generate pleasure. We need to teach young people that it is not only about overcoming the impulse to smoke, drink and go out with bad people; it is about holding up and staying tight when these impulses come. They should use their mind strength (like the adults do) thinking: “I can overcome this feeling and feeling bad about it, at the end, is not that bad”.
5. Control the environment. To reach the control of the impulses, it is good to be able to control the environment in which we act. For example, the adolescent should watch who he goes out with and the places he goes to. If we see him frustrated, we should investigate where he is going to and who he is going with. Modifying it would really help.
Francisco Javier Rodríguez Laguía
La frase del día