"Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself."
--Saint Francis de Sales
Every day there are plenty of good reasons to be frustrated: another long line, telemarketers, a goal that isn't materializing "fast enough," people who don't do what they're supposed to, rejection, disappointment. How does one deal with it all? You can drive yourself crazy, behave irritably, feel victimized or try to force an outcome -- all self-defeating reactions that alienate others and bring out the worst in others. Alternatively, you can learn to transform your frustration with patience.
As a psychiatrist, I help others see that patience doesn't mean passivity or resignation but power. It's an emotionally freeing practice of waiting, watching and knowing when to act. To many people, when you say, "Have patience," it feels unreasonable and inhibiting, an unfair stalling of goals. In contrast, I'm presenting patience as a form of compassion, a way to regain your center in a world filled with frustration.
In "Emotional Freedom," I discuss how to transform frustration with patience. To tame frustration, begin by evaluating its present role in your life, how much it limits your capacity to be happy. The following quiz will let you know where you are now so that you can grow freer by developing patience.
Frustration Quiz: How Frustrated Am I?
To determine your success at coping with this emotion, ask yourself:
- Am I often frustrated and irritable?
Answering "yes" to five to seven questions indicates an extremely high level of frustration. Three to five "yeses" indicates a high level. Two "yeses" indicates a moderate level. One "yes" indicates a low level. Zero "yeses" suggests that you're dealing successfully with this emotion.
Even if your frustration is off the charts, patience is the cure. In today's world there are plenty of opportunities to cultivate this invaluable skill. Life teaches patience if you let it.
When someone frustrates you, always take a breath first before you react. Decide if you want to talk now or wait to calm down. If you're highly reactive and upset, have the discussion later, when you're calmer; you'll be more persuasive and less threatening. At that time, use this approach:
- Focus on a specific issue; don't escalate or mount a personal attack. For instance, say, "I feel frustrated when you promise to do something but there isn't follow-through." Do not resort to threats or insults. In an even, non-blaming tone, lead with how the behavior makes you feel rather than how you think the other person is wrong.
In communication, patience is a powerful emotional currency. As you're more able to tolerate the discomfort of frustration and not blow it by acting out, your relationships will function on a higher level. In any interchange, always define what you're after. Is it to resolve a specific frustrating behavior? To say "no" to participating in a dead-end pattern? Or is it to simply convey your feelings without expectation of change? Even if the frustration is irresolvable, patience sets the right tone to treat others and yourself respectfully.
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