Dealing with Frustration

Things often don't go my way and I get angry. Then I make bad decisions and wind up saying things I regret. What is a good way to deal with frustration?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Is it reasonable to assume that your life will always be frustration-free and a smooth ride? No way.

In the Book of Proverbs, King Solomon said: "The righteous person falls seven times and gets up. The evil person falls just once." We see that the righteous person is not defined as someone who never makes a mistake. Rather, a great person keeps trying again and again. He sees frustration as only a passing nuisance, and therefore never gives up. In truth, the fact that's he's fallen seven times is precisely how he becomes great!

You have to distinguish between what you "hope will happen," and what "will probably happen." Life inevitably has its ups and downs, its moments of relaxation and times of tension. When you learn to accept this reality, you come one step closer to being able to deal with frustration in a healthy way.

Being able to bear frustration is one level of dealing with it. A higher level - often characteristic of those who achieve greatness - is the resolve to accept frustration, love it and work with it!

If you think about it, you'll see that deep down you really can learn to "love frustration." Imagine going out to buy a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. You bring it home, open the box and discover that all the pieces are in numbered order! It's infuriating! Why? Because they've taken away the challenge. You paid good money for a box of frustration and you want to have it!

Life is like a jigsaw puzzle. So many things only get accomplished through struggle. Childbirth and career advancement are two examples. We accept certain pains as a worthwhile price to pay for the pleasure we seek. As Maimonides says, every aspect of life has both its positive and negative side.

Even in everyday life, we can derive enjoyment from frustrations and subsequent resolutions. When you have a complex problem, first try to build the framework, an overall sense of how you want this to ultimately resolve. Then set about solving the puzzle... one piece at a time.

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