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Is Operating in Frustration Helping or Hindering you?

In recent blog posts, we have explored two levels of the 7 Levels of Effectiveness.

We already discussed Hopelessness and Fear and how they affect us in our personal and professional lives.

Seven Levels of Personal, Group, and Organizational Effectiveness - Keen Alignment

What is Frustration? 

Frustration is when you have tried 16 times to launch a new software and present a new program, and 16 times at the last minute right before you’re ready to go on, you’ve experienced a technical difficulty. 

Your program isn’t moving forward. 

You’re not projecting on the screen, there’s no sound, or your PowerPoint is frozen. 

You’ve put in 70 hours. Your co-worker has put in 70 hours. 

You’ve had consultants problem-solving, troubleshooting; and no matter how hard you try, it’s not working. 

So frustration sets in. 

And when frustration sets in, the feeling may begin as a small tingling in your stomach, heat in your throat, or flushing in your cheeks. It could be itching of the eyes or sweating of the palms. 

Whether it is an aching in your stomach or the feeling of bees buzzing up your solar plexus, frustration could start out as fear, but over time, it turns into agitation, annoyance, being short-tempered or hot under the collar.

What Happens When We’re Frustrated

In a state of Frustration, you are focused on fighting and jockeying for position against (not with) others. 

There is a strong feeling that you MUST resist the external world (both people and circumstances). When you are knee-deep, or throat deep in frustration, the focus is on yourself, your perspective, your point of view, your experience, and you are pretty certain that you are right about how you feel. 

This is the “I am right, you are wrong and get out of my way so things can be better” state of mind.  

In this state, you are only happy between 12-22% of the time. 

When you are in operating in this state of agitation, you feel a strong need to push against something, to beat it, to apply force, and to make it different. When you no longer want this thing, this agitation, this irritant in your energy field, you make the conscious choice to move forward and change, and you’ll do whatever you need to get that done. 

There’s this amped-up energy with frustration and what is needed is change. You feel it, you want it, you may even need it, and the only way to make it happen is to harness that negative energy and move to the next level, which is Courage. 

When you are ready for the energy of frustration to be a source of something powerful, you get to the point where you realize that the only thing you can control is your Self, your perspective, your point of view, your response, and your action. 

The transition from frustration to courage happens when you say to yourself, “I have had enough, I cannot take it anymore, it is time for ME to make a change.”  

When We Start to Shift from Frustration to Courage

In this forceful state of being, you quite often double down. You push harder to move forward. The good news is the attention, the focus, and the concentrated effort is on making the irritant go away, and making the problem go away. 

This is a huge focus of concentrated energy coupled with the convergent focus on the problem, which can be good. 

However, when the brain is focused, concentrated on the task of making the irritant go away, it narrows in. And when it narrows in, it cannot see any other alternative than the one it has in mind. 

How Frustration Affects the Brain

So the brain zeroes in, and the amygdala wants the pain to go away. We have to seek and destroy the source of pain.  

What happens is that the good chemicals are cut off and get hidden. These are chemicals that help us see clearly, and tap into our higher level of solutions.

This causes our executive brain to go offline. 

Our thinking brain goes offline, and we don’t use our common sense. While you are pushing and in this energy of angst to make a change, there is a narrowing in an inability to see others’ perspectives, inability to hear, to listen, to consider another possibility. 

The energy is boxed in. It’s got to have a change, and it’s got to have a change now. 

Frustration brings with it intensity. And inside of that intensity, all other alternatives are turned off, tuned out, disconnected. 

So often in frustration, people will move forward in one path, which could be good. However, if all other alternatives are not weighed and considered, we often move forward with a short-sighted solution; or we make a change in one area that winds up adversely impacting us and others in another area. 

Learning how frustration shapes our mood, attitude, thinking and behavior gives us insight into how we make decisions in this state.

A More Scientific Explanation from BEabove

Our coaches at BEabove give us a scientific explanation of what is happening in the brain and body during a bout of frustration.

The Dominant Brain Response is Antagonism, the fight action of limbic/adrenaline response is dominant at this level. 

There is left hemisphere dominance, which manifests in being overly rigid and focused on the competition, controlling others and the environment in order to get one’s own needs met (different than controlling the environment out of fear). 

The main emotion the left hemisphere has access to is anger, and it is common that people’s emotions play out in this limited range at the level of Frustration. 

Typical Body Sensations and Response

In Frustration, once again there is little conscious awareness of the body. 

The adrenaline of anger manifests as heat; it can feel like a volcano that is just about to erupt, with sensations in the heart area, fists, face, chest, and tightness in the belly, shoulders, and neck area. 

It’s not uncommon to experience headaches from suppressing anger and furrowing the brow. Teeth are often clenched or ground (mostly unconsciously) and TMJ can manifest. 

Cortisol levels are high when a person is in Frustration. This level is associated with heart disease. 

How Frustration Affects You Over Time

Frustration over time changes personality and behavior. 

So frustration one day is a mood. Frustration for two days is the mood lasting longer. Frustration two weeks, the mood becomes part of the persona. 

Frustration seven months a year turns into regular, everyday behavior. You’re frustrated waiting for things to happen, agitated and short-tempered. You’re in a mode of fighting, pushing, elbowing, blocking and tackling day in and day out. 

So the personality, the behavior that frustration creates over time ranges from impatient, ill-tempered, passionate, and intense, to angry, crotchety, and crabby.

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Using Self-Awareness and Self-Control to Combat Frustration

Self-Awareness and self-control play a powerful role while navigating the force field of frustration.  

In frustration, the energy is so strong it may consume you, take you over and you do not even know what hit you, or worse hit all of those around you. 

When you develop a healthy self-awareness, and regularly check in with yourself, you become astute at spotting yourself falling below the power and freedom line into frustration. 

When your self-awareness is foggy or unclear, you may be taken away into fight land and not even know you are there until the fight results in a damaged relationship.

When you are oblivious of your own condition, your own feelings, thoughts, and well-being, you are disintegrated from your heart, head, and body. It is very hard to recalibrate. On the other hand, when you give yourself the opportunity to lay some new behavioral tracks, your access to recalibration is at your fingertips. 

That being said, it takes practice, a lot of practice. 

As human beings, we have a wonderful gift in self-awareness. One of the best things we can all do for ourselves is train our brain to look within and inquire about what is behind our thoughts, feelings, emotions, sensations, and perceptions.

If you are like most people, you think of yourself as the sum of your thoughts, feelings, emotions, sensations, and perceptions. 

If frustration, annoyance, crabbiness, and intensity are getting in your way, and you want something better for you and for your relationships, self-inquiry is an excellent first step towards self-awareness. 

Being More Conscious

Rupert Spira is a renowned teacher of Consciousness. 

He digs deep into the question WHO AM I? Who is the I?  

His investigations into the essence of what it is to be human expands our understanding of what it is to be happy and to live above the line.

His lessons use analogies, stories, and insights to explore mind, consciousness, and thought. His fascinating lectures give access to awareness for each participant that is ready to give up suffering and embrace it.

He challenges mindsets with his question; “Who are we when we are divested of all our thoughts, feelings, sensations, and perceptions?” 

The majority of us go through life thinking we are a cluster of passing thoughts, feelings, sensations, and perceptions. When we have the realization that we are not our thoughts, we are not our feelings, sensations, and perceptions.  

We become less interested in our thoughts and feelings, and more interested in the one that is aware of our experience.

Rupert says the first step is the recognition ‘I am awareness’.

The awareness in which the entire content of experience arises.

If you look at times when you have been frustrated, annoyed, impatient, or agitated, you can see (if you are willing) that all of your experiences are a result of a collection of your thoughts, feelings, sensations, and perceptions.  

Those thoughts, feelings, sensations, and perceptions are fluid and move through us, but they are not us.

Organizational Implications

Consider that in frustration, it’s power, it’s force, it’s competition, it’s dominance, it’s aggressiveness that causes us to leapfrog over maybe the root cause or other adverse impacts causing a cascade of other systemic problems from a decision made out of frustration and impatience.  

When we want something to go away and we push for that thing to go away but we don’t consider systemic impacts, we don’t consider the impact on people, we don’t consider the practicality and the long-term implications of our decisions, you know, in the rush to take away the pain of frustration, we don’t consider. 

So often, we create a solution that has many more negative implications, but we didn’t see it because it was frustration and the need to take the pain away that had our attention at that moment. 

And inside of that narrow focus, we couldn’t make heads or tails out of the big picture. When a leader steps into an organization steeped in frustration, the leader needs to be operating in a state of Courage or Engagement, and must be more focused on collaboration than competition.

Any efforts this leader initiates must be made to build (or rebuild) trust slowly. 

Blasting through with a new program without taking the time to create authentic relationships will backfire at this level. 

Frustration very quickly looks for things to criticize and reasons to stay separate and prove superiority. 

At this level, team-building exercises may actually create more disengagement because they can be seen as hokey, inauthentic, and a bandage on the real problems of the organization. 

A program that begins with self‐reflection and exploration of personal values and vision (for example, through one‐on‐one coaching) prior to group work is often effective.  

How KeenAlignment Helps Break Through Frustration

At KeenAlignment, before we embark on a Level Set with a leadership team, we meet one on one with every member of the team and debrief their leadership assessment and find out what is working and not working for them personally and as a member of the human system.

A Level Set always creates an opening for people to come together to create a real and authentic vision for the organization and who they get to be as a team in that organization. 

In addition, addressing frustrations head‐on with honesty and a concrete plan for positive change is important—ideally, one that is developed from the group and builds on the values and vision they have created and aligned on.  

This is the Level Set.

Schedule a Consultation with KeenAlignment


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