Frustration: When A Need Can’t Be Satisfied

Years ago, when a former colleague who didn’t know me well (we’re friends now) had only just started working closely with me, she witnessed me swearing at the computer. The work I do involves computers and other fairly technical equipment, from TVs and DVD recorders all the way up to machines I don’t entirely understand, and in that sense it is logical that there is the potential for problems of a technical nature. It’s also true that we get almost no IT support from the person who is paid to supply it. So when she heard me say, “Come on, you piece of shit!” quite loudly, the comment came from a deep well of frustration born from many problems, few addressed, and many sleepless nights, as I started early in the morning and my body still didn’t seem to understand that to get the rest one requires as an early riser sleep is a necessary ingredient. But she didn’t know that. Not really, anyway. She said, “Right, so swearing at inanimate objects, then?” I replied: “That’s right, yeah”. I’d always sworn at underperforming or broken inanimate objects, it seemed normal to do a rather muted impression of Basil Fawlty thrashing his car with a tree branch when it won’t start and he’s in a hurry.

(My former colleague was also shocked at the frequency of my use of the word motherfucker. At the time it seemed like disapproval, but I later learned that it amused her.)

But frustration is what I’m musing on at the moment. It can become an almost blind thing, allied with rage or confusion or both, and you can’t think straight when the mist descends. All you know is that it – whatever ‘it’ is – isn’t working, or never works, or there’s no co-operation, or whatever you seem to try fails in some form. I used to get seriously bad bouts of it, complete with huge outbursts. Often situations would arise when I was attempting to make allowances for the sleeping members of my family, when I was awake and shaving or showering in the dark, and the explosion came when it was obvious that these allowances were not a two-way street. I woke people up sometimes with my tantrums.

It seems that I may have got some of this behaviour under control now. It would be foolish to say there are no outbursts and that frustration is not part of my life any more. Of course it is. We all have moments of this sort. But I don’t get consumed by an unquenchable fire as often. Naturally, having written this I’ll start kicking in doors and throwing things and shouting at the top of my voice tomorrow morning. But I hope I don’t.

The strange thing is that it almost seems like a bizarre kind of addiction, this frustration thing. Like people move from one source of frustration to the next one, if the need first need becomes satisfied. I wonder why this is. Drama is something it seems we need, in varying degrees, in our lives. Maybe that’s it? I don’t know. Maybe I’m a recovering frustration addict.


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