The gap between frustrating and frustration

Here’s a common mistake folk make when using English. They say things like:

“That’s scary.”

“He’s so frustrating.”

“This is confusing.”

I’m not innocent here, though I am getting better.

If you want to live a happier, healthier and better life, then here’s how to correct that mistake. The error is a simple one – you’re putting your experience onto something outside your experience.

Nothing in the universe is ‘confusing’. Not even the funkiest quirks of quantum mechanics qualify. Reality plods along doing its own thing.

Plenty of things confuse me. But they aren’t confusing. That’s my reaction, not a property of it.

Maybe you already know this idea. Maybe you don’t agree. So let’s talk about how to use this:

The next time you think something like, “he is frustrating”, pause. Reword it to be closer to the truth. Something like:

“I find his behaviour frustrating.”

That’s much better. It places control back where it really belongs – with you. You could stop here and life a richer life.

Or you could take it one step further. Because as much improved as that is, it’s still not completely accurate. Let’s dive one layer deeper:

“He makes these snide remarks to me. Then I feel frustrated.”

Beautiful, right? Now we have cause and effect. So we’re done… right?

Oh, no. Not yet, my precious pendo. That statement has such gaping holes in it, I could lob a tennis ball clean through.

“I let go of the pen, then gravity pulls it down” – that’s a complete statement. As long as there’s gravity, it’s going to pull stuff downwards. It’s universal.

But feeling frustrated when someone makes snide remarks to you?

There are millions of folk who wouldn’t react that way.

Some would fly into a blind rage at that (which is hardly what I’d call ‘frustrated’…)

Some would find it hilarious.

So there’s a difference in people that leads to different outcomes. Somewhere between the snide remark and the frustration is a process.

Something that happens so fast, you don’t even notice it.

This is how folk go from:

“He makes a snide remark… I run a process over that… which leads me to experience frustration.”

and boil it all down to “he’s frustrating”.

There’s an enormous amount of cognition going on, yet it’s all behind the scenes.

So pull back the curtain and get the spotlights on it.

Examine the processes that take stimuli and translate them to emotions.

Understand your reactions.

Once you do, change becomes easy.

This, by the way, is real introspection. Anything short of it is self-delusion.

It takes training and discipline to think like this.

Plus a few mental techniques not everyone knows.

Here’s how to learn them:

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