Frustration is part of life. But understanding where it comes from enables us to live joyful, effective lives—even when things don’t go our way.

Estimated read time: 3 minutes

The root of every frustrating situation you have ever faced in life can be summed up in two words: unmet expectations. Undoubtedly, we have each experienced those moments, days, weeks, or even longer seasons of frustration – all of which occur because we feel entitled to the fulfillment of one or more of the following sub-conscious desires:

  • Unmet expectations for comfort
  • Unmet expectations for control
  • Unmet expectations for convenience
  • Unmet expectations for compliments
  • Unmet expectations for companionship

For two young professionals who were raised in well-to-do families, grew up in affluent neighborhoods, resided in comfortable homes, and enjoyed family vacations paid for by generous parents, transitioning to the challenges of adulthood and ind ependent living was a bit unsettling. When the expectations of childhood comforts went unmet or were slightly delayed, frustration subtly creeped into our lives. Why? Because the desire for comfort had inadvertently became a demand.

Life can toss some awful moments at human beings. The death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or even difficulties getting pregnant will quickly remind us that we have less control over the circumstances in our lives than we would ever care to admit.  When my plan for my life seems to take a backseat to a different and more divine plan that was not my blueprint, I will inevitably become frustrated.

Starting a new job and expecting immediately to become the most valuable member of the team is a sure-fire way to become frustrated in two of the entitlement categories: convenience and compliments. First, I will soon realize that the job description might not have been crafted with me in mind, as though I were the center of the universe.  As a result, I will have to adjust and adapt in seemingly inconvenient ways.  Additionally, my sense of accomplishment might be threatened if I do not receive public praise from my superiors for completing the smallest and simplest of tasks. 

Above all else, we each have a deep longing for companionship.  We value close friends who really like us and provide those meaningful connections and fun weekend memories.  Most urgently, we also hope that we will one day find that special someone who would rather be in our presence than anywhere else in the world.  We want to be both liked and loved by the most important people in our lives.  However, when individuals who we most value do not satisfy the deepest desires of our hearts or fall short of our expectations for the intimacy we imagined, we experience deep disappointment. The unmet expectation of true companionship can be among the most frustrating of all.

Is it possible to live life devoid of all frustration? No!  Nevertheless, by understanding that frustration is a merely a symptom of often unrecognized or unspoken expectations, we can treat the cause as opposed to trying to unsuccessfully manage some of the consequences (sulking, whining, complaining, or pessimism… to name a few) of frustration in our lives. We believe that the best strategy in facing the root cause of frustration is accepting the indisputable fact that life is difficult. Life always feels less difficult when we admit to ourselves that life is difficult.  Accept that bad things happen to good people.  Reflect on the possibility that pain is not always a problem, but could be the catalyst for positive change.  Stop wasting so much energy on trying to control people and circumstances, but instead invest in who you are becoming and focus on something you can always control: your choices.

At the end of the day, some degree of frustration is inevitable, since we all live in a world that is broken and not in harmony with its original design.  So accept the things you cannot change, fight to change the things you can, and choose to leverage your best energies in becoming the best version of yourself, so that you will be a blessing to every human being you encounter and a benefit to the world in which you live. 

To learn more about the topic of frustration, click here and you will receive Dr. Michael Brown’s complimentary downloadable resource on the five symptoms of frustration, five root issues of frustration, and eight solutions to deflating frustration in your life.

Additional Resources

I'm So Frustrated