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I recently took a class (very helpful, indeed) and one of the questions I had to answer during a given group exercise was, “What’s the source of your current frustration?” After a short reflection, I understood they were not asking me to compile a list of the people and circumstances displeasing me, but to identify the true origin of my frustrations.
I was frustrated, of course, that they assumed I was frustrated. Yet, what would be the point of denying the reality of my frustrations? Sooner or later during our lives, we will all experience small or big frustrations. It makes no sense to deny frustrations do happen. I think it is better to find its starting point.
I believe frustrations can be divided in three major categories: oneself (“I had the bad luck of me being myself”), other human being (who, it seems, in many cases are less and less “human”), and the whole universe (Milan Kundera once complained that among all of the planets in the universe, we were born here, the less experienced, almost immature planet.)
We can also say that frustrations happen when there is a discrepancy, a gap, between our expectations and desires and what reality has for us. In other words, we create our own frustrations because very often we don’t get what we were expecting to get. And that’s quite frustrating.
Let’s be honest: we are the origin, the cause of our frustrations because we assume our desires and expectations should manifest themselves in “real life” in the same way we had envisioned them. Any deviation from our expectations and desires deserves an unmistakable expression of disapproval.
So, a careless driver changed lanes without signaling it? He/she doesn’t even deserve a driver’s license. Our favorite soccer team lost when we expected a win? Let’s blame the referee. A candidate we don’t support won the election? That’s becase all voters lack intelligence.
There are many more frustrations, of course, including not losing weight, not having enough money, working at a less than desirable place, not finding a good companion, and seeing others getting ahead in life while we are still stuck in the same place. In short, we live frustrated.
According to Freud, modern society and its discontents are inseparable. But, because seldom if ever we reflect about the deep roots of our frustration, we deceived ourselves, we look for scapegoats, and we find “reasons” to explain that our actions are ethical, moral, and appropriate (including changing lanes without signaling it.)
That unending cycle of frustrations repeats again and again ad infinitum, ad nauseam, and each new turn in the spiral seems to go faster than the previous one.
In summary, the true origin of all my frustrations is me clinching to my false, immature, individualistic, narcissistic self which, it is true, reflects the sick and decadent society we live. But my self is still mine and only me. It’s my responsibility.
That unavoidable responsibility of become who I truly am is also frustrating.