Underlying the emotion of frustration is the irrational belief ” I should not have to suffer discomfort.” This is often backed up by similar demands, such as ” the world must change to suit me” or ” Everybody else must change , not me”. As I often good-humouredly say to patients,’ Good luck with those demands!’ It is useful to redefine frustration as disturbance/discomfort anxiety’ in order to distinguish it from ‘ ego anxiety’.

In the latter, we are making some demands on the situations. When frustrated about something , we are usually demanding that other people or situations change so that we don’t have to suffer discomfort. This relieves us of the burden of having to change something in ourselves , or of accepting that it is not always possible to change circumstances , and that we must learn to adapt.


To develop this skill , we must introduce another term:’ frustration tolerance’. This defines our capacity to suffer discomfort . None of us likes discomfort but we all have different endurance or tolerance levels. Those with high frustration tolerance levels can accept short-term pain for long term gain.

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Those with high frustration tolerance levels can accept short – term pain for long term again. Those with low frustration tolerance (LFT). However are not prepared to put up with short-term pain , yet still desire long term-gain.

A simple example of this might be where I might remain frustrated with my fitness regime, yet refuse to get off the couch.

So the real key to developing the skill of how to manage discomfort is to acknowledge that frequently in life we must learn to accept short-term pain if we wish to achieve long-term gain. Once you learn how to put this concept into practice in your everyday life , you will no longer struggle to deal with discomfort or expect the world or life itself to change to suit you.

To learn how best to achieve this objective, I suggest the following two frustration exercises.

Frustration exercise one:

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In the first exercise , we are going to challenge your low frustration tolerance as follows:

1- For the next eight weeks , I want you carry a note book around with you.

2- Whenever you encounter a situation where you find yourself feeling extremely frustrated about something , write down in your notebook what the trigger was and what your emotion was.

3- When you have a few quiet moments , take out your notebook and write down on a paper your answers to the following three questions.

What was your long – term aim or what did you want to achieve?

What short – term discomfort were you trying to dodge? Did your behaviour worsen the situation , and if so, how could you change it ?

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4- Finally , having honestly answered these questions, decide how you are going to put proposed changes into action.

What you will usually discover through this exercise is how often either you were demanding that something or someone must change to avoid you having to experience discomfort, or you were avoiding , or dodging the discomfort and hassle of dealing with the issue yourself > Once you have identified on paper the discomfort you were trying to avoid and detailed how you will now deal with the issue , put this solution into practice. This may involve having a difficult conversation with someone to resolve a situation , or taking on something which might be challenging . You may have to change how you view a situation or accept something which cannot be changed. These solutions not only challenge your frustration , but make you more resilient .

Frustration exercise two :

The second frustration exercise involves the coin exercise described in the previous writing on uncertainty , I suggest you repeatedly perform the coin exercise until you learn how to cope with the frustration created when the coin turns tails, messing up your previously organised , controlled, everyday life. Initially you will hate and despise the coin , as it has removed control from your grasp. Bit by bit , however , you will notice yourself becoming more resigned to when the coin turns tails.

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The key to this exercise is of course that to achieve your long-term objective of learning how to deal with discomfort , you must put up with the short-term pain of missing out on many pleasurable activities. You will notice after a month of this exercise that you have a greater acceptance of and adaptability towards situations not going your way. Your frustration levels will fail and your capacity to accept discomfort will gradually increase.

If you haven’t got the message after four weeks, I find that repeating the exercise for a further four weeks will usually consolidate the concept!

If you carry out of these two exercises as outlined , the effects on your life can be transformative . You will solve problems more efficiently and with less hassle; you will cease to be aggressive , irritable and demanding. Instead , you will be calmer and more tolerant of discomfort and acceptant the fact that discomfort is part of life. you will realise , finally , that learning how to manage discomfort is one of the genuine shortcuts towards developing greater emotional resilience in your life.