Aleteia

How to overcome frustration as public life begins to resume

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Confinement has been tough, but opening up also has its challenges.

The confinement required as a preventative measure to slow the rate of contagion with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has created seemingly countless sources of frustration. The gradual process of re-opening public life, which is going at different speeds in different places and can be confusing, relieves some sources of stress while creating others.

There’s a half-hour wait to enter a shop because of limits on the number of people allowed inside: frustration!

It’s impossible to visit parents and friends because they live more in the neighboring state with different rules in place: frustration!

You’re not allowed to go to an uncle’s or cousin’s funeral: frustration!

Your wedding has been postponed: frustration!

The trip you’d been planning since last year has been cancelled: frustration!

There won’t be any public mass before Pentecost: frustration!

Big or small, we’re all dealing with many unfulfilled desires and broken dreams right now. They are all the more difficult to accept and to manage, because society before the crisis was not at all used to accepting limits. It was relatively easy to get everything, right away.

However—and this is good news—it’s possible to use these frustrations to grow and become stronger, to move forward, to reinvent ourselves with new goals. That’s what a social worker and marriage and family counselor, Bérengère de Charentenay, proposes that we do. Interviewed by Aleteia, she describes four steps to overcome frustration.

1
Accept your emotions

Frustration gives rise to other emotions: anger, sadness, disappointment, fear … Emotions are neither good nor bad in themselves, but they give us an indication of what we’re going through. It’s important to know how to recognize and accept our frustration, name it, and ask ourselves what we’re going to do with it. How we act on our emotions is what’s good or bad. Either we limit ourselves to outbursts and  complaining, or we decide to use our frustration as a springboard for positive action.

2
Accept your limits

No one is perfect. We have to accept our own limitations, as well as those of the people around us, our relatives, our political leaders, etc. “If you think you’re all-powerful, you’re going to be very disappointed,” warns de Charentenay. “Life is full of frustrations, and we experience them from the time we are very young, from the moment we separate from our mother. But it’s also what helps a child grow up and get moving. Experiencing need makes us want to improve our situation, and that’s what makes our incompleteness good.”

3
Take a step back

When we are filled with frustration, we are left with two choices: either get stuck at an impasse, or step back and find another path. “I can always take a step to the side to get around the obstacle (within the limits of legality!) or at least accept it,” says de Charentenay. Take the example of not being able to visit grandparents — you can invent another way to be present in spite of everything: call them on the phone, write them a card or a letter, play Scrabble from a distance. If we have to spend hours in line in front of shops or waiting for public transportation, let’s plan to do something with that time so it won’t be totally wasted: listen to a podcast, read a book, learn a language.

4
Avoid acting like a victim

Overcoming frustration means accepting reality as it is. Rather than passively suffering as a victim, we can make it an opportunity to experience something other than what we had planned. “Let’s try to look deep within ourselves for what motivates us, what makes us feel alive, and let’s set new, concrete, achievable goals. Let’s be independent of this frustration,” advises de Charentenay. In other words, let’s take control of our lives, giving free rein to our creativity and imagination, despite the limitations of our situation and the frustrations they generate.

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