That Enemy Called Frustration

Frustration (verb)
1. (a) To prevent from accomplishing a purpose or fulfilling a desire; thwart: A persistent wind frustrated my attempt to rake the lawn. (b) To cause feelings of discouragement or bafflement in.
2. To make ineffectual or invalid; nullify.
Frustrated (adjective)
Having feelings of dissatisfaction or lack of fulfilment.
I took my diary (2012 edition, entitled “The Private Memoirs & Confessions of a Justified Chemist”) with me the other day for entertainment on a train journey. I like to annotate, fill in details on bits I skipped and to read & reflect. I noticed this year one concept has been recurring again and again in my text: frustration.
Frustration. Frustrating. Frustrated.
Some examples of the relevent motifs that have been passing through the past 5 months:
  • Despite progressing steadily with my German, there are still plenty of instances where I either make mistakes or don’t understand what people around me are stalking about. My linguistic shortcomings frustrate me.
  • I’m not sorted out with a graduate school place yet. It won’t be long before my current work placement runs up and where I’d need some other job/training. This lack of certainty about what is coming next frustrates me.
  • Waiting for emails from professors or graduate schools for extended periods of time. When I don’t receive an instanteous response I feel the combination of stress and frustration mounting.

Frustration occurs (according to the dictionary definitions above) when one has a target that one is not fulfilling. With the lack of fulfilment comes the sense of having been thwarted and unhappiness at your present state. I can be very principled, focussed and goal-orientated: the flip-side is when I don’t get my way, or can’t see immediate progress. Then we have the emotion build-up.

Sometimes...I have days like these. I feel ya, cat...

Frustration is a very counter-productive emotion. When I get stressed about something like an upcoming test (or more specifically, about getting low marks in an upcoming test) then I work with the stress: I channel it to incentivise myself to revise hard and keep focussed. When I get frustrated about lack of progress with test revision it feels like I’m working against the frustration:  trying to study while the voices in my head tell me I’m getting nowhere. Stress makes me want to sit down at my desk and pick up my notes; frustration makes me want to throw my notes on the floor and leave the room.

Thus, the more I get frustrated about my German shortcomings, the more likely I am to just give up and cut classes. The more I get frustrated about having no concrete post-summer plans, the less likely I’ll sit down in a clear mood and come up with alternatives.


The frustration must be done away with. Goals should be set with a long-term frame of mind, for learning a language takes more than a year. And some of the small-print should be rubbed out, for what difference does a year make to “becoming a scientist qualified up to postdoctoral level”? Step-wise goals shouldn’t be confused with milestone goals. In my pursuit of fluency in German I should be taking on more & numerous linguistic challenges at a steady rate, not just “get better at spekaing German by the end of 2012”.

Take a bath, drink a cup of tea, have a good night’s sleep. Then look at things with a new perspective.


4 thoughts on “That Enemy Called Frustration

  1. I like the way you analyse frustration to make sure it won’t come in your way… Setting “mini-goals for yourself might help as well, like “speaking German everyday”, then “read one little article a day” or something. Good luck!

    • If I try to better understand what I’m doing (& why) then I think it goes a long way towards preventing/remedying myself from behaviour repeats. That’s the plan, anyhow. Thanks!

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