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Learning From Anger And/Or Frustration - And Which One Is It?

Cincinnati, Ohio

September 27, 2020

I came across these two articles this morning that I’d like to share.

Recent events have made me feel — oh, that sounds rather passive. I’ll try again. I feel some pretty strong emotion(s) in response to some recent events. But what emotion (s)? I have learned that I usually have an intuition as to what emotion I am feeling but if I dig deeper, I find an emotion that better fits how I feel. As for the recent events, at first I thought it was anger but the more I thought about it, perhaps it is really frustration. They aren’t the same as this first article makes clear.

Article 1

Everyone gets angry sometimes and everybody will find that they feel a little frustrated and annoyed occasionally (some more than others) but are they really the same thing with one simply being a stronger version than the other?

Some people do confuse the two terms often using them interchangeably and often incorrectly. Although they are similar they can result from differing root causes and can also cause different responses. Frustration rarely causes such a profound effect as anger, nor is it considered to be as strong an emotion.

What Is Frustration?

Like anger, frustration is a natural human emotional and psychological response to something. The feeling is often due to disappointment when an effort or observation does not work out as expected or anticipated.

When this occurs we can feel disheartened and annoyed that our time, efforts or feelings have been wasted. We can feel beaten or overcome when something causes frustration and this can result in two ways; we may become overwhelmed and totally defeated meaning that the action is not repeated or it can be used productively. In the second instance we use frustration very positively and address the issue again from a different angle or approach, following repeated cycles of this occurrence a sense of achievement is experienced when the outcome does not cause disappointment or dismay.

What Is Anger?

Anger is also a natural human emotion and often misconstrued or misunderstood depending on how people have been exposed to it in their past.

We should all experience anger at some point in our life but it is how we deal with this anger or let it affect us that determines whether it is detrimental or not. There are a variety of reasons why we get angry and to what degree, some of which we are directly in control of and others less so, but we can all learn how to manage our anger more effectively not letting it have a negative effect on our life.

In What Ways Are They Similar?

Anger and frustration can be similar in some respects as they are both an emotional response and feeling and maybe be considered in a negative way. They both can cause annoyance and evoke a physical reaction. When external stimuli are conflicting and not occurring as we anticipated we become frustrated or angry as a reaction. In both instances we will probably need to exert some control or restraint in the way in which we respond. The difference however, is that usually (though not always) frustration can cause us to feel upset and vulnerable whereas anger may cause us to react in a more physical manner.

Other aspects of our life may influence how often we feel frustration, infuriation and anger and our lifestyle, health and stress level can affect this. If you are feeling as though you are frequently and negatively affected by anger or frustration it may be helpful to try and determine what triggers these emotions in order to find ways in which they can be managed.

Ultimately by decreasing the amount of stress we will have a positive effect on our life and health in general, but without some degree of stress or stimulus we may spend our lives simply ‘going with the flow’ and not making changes where maybe we would normally.

Anger and frustration are both normal human emotions that may or may not evoke strong reactions and inner feelings. Both occur in most people’s life on a regular basis as we are continually challenged by our environment, careers and relationships. It is how we manage these emotions that define us as individuals.

Article 2 - I replaced the word “anger” with “frustration” as I read this article.

Wherever you sit on the political spectrum, chances are you’ve felt angry lately. This is a fierce election, with a lot at stake, and anger is a natural response to a lot of what’s being said and done right now. Now, in meditation circles, anger often gets a bad rap. We imagine that we aren’t supposed to ever get angry, or if we do, we’re bad at meditation. But trying to never be angry won’t work. If you think about it, we can’t make anger go away any more than we intentionally produced it in the first place. So, when are angry we just have to be angry.

Instead of fighting with anger, we have to turn toward it, to experience it without affirming it and waving it around, and to investigate what it really is. It turns out, the closer you look, the more anger can teach us. Here are three ways that can happen. 1. Seeing the mind and heart First, anger can teach us about what’s really going on inside ourselves. We know what anger is. It’s a set of intense and mostly unpleasant physical sensations – pounding heart, surging blood, rapid breath, tense body, heat, pressure – together with flooding thoughts, like fiery streaks across the mind. But anger is often more complicated than it seems. I may feel angry, but if I look more closely, I often see that the anger is a cover for an emotion behind it, such as fear or grief, that I can’t yet feel. Maybe I’m furious because of something someone said to me. But a moment later I realize I wasn’t angry at them at all – I was upset with myself or with someone else in my life.  Or maybe I don’t feel angry consciously at all. I might look angry – in fact, you can see by my words and body language that I’m quite angry. But I insist that I’m not. Am I angry, only I don’t know that I am? That’s odd – the possibility that I could be in the grip of an emotion I’m not even feeling.  Maybe I’ve been covering anger over for years with some fake peacefulness, so that I don’t even know it’s there until one day, like a sudden flaring brushfire, it bursts forth. If we investigate anger in this way, it can teach us about who we are, about what’s on our minds and in our hearts. It’s like physical pain, the body’s way of protecting itself by indicating that something is wrong. It’s an indicator: something needs attention. The key in this kind of investigation is subtle observation: spaciously being with what happens, noticing it with mindfulness, and, in your own reflection, exploring the information that anger is providing you. After the moment of anger has passed, take time to investigate it. Bring it up in meditation, journaling, or other forms of reflection. What happened there? What were the proximate causes of it? What were the deeper causes? Think about the people involved – how you regard them and how you would like to regard them. 

2. Seeing cause and effect Second, anger can show us the illusory nature of the self; how, in fact, everything is the result of other causes and conditions. I don’t decide to be angry. It just happens, all of a sudden. Am “I” angry? Or have the conditions for anger triggered a response that is not “mine” at all? Nor am I ever really angry at another person. Even when a person does terrible things, it isn’t really the person who is at fault; it’s the passion or ignorance within them. The other person is really a victim of this passion and ignorance. And what’s the use of getting angry at a passion? In fact, the actions of others are never what really make us angry. The real cause of our anger is how we react to those actions. If I don’t mind what you did, there’s no anger. Anger is mine alone.  Moreover, since every moment arises from the totality of past conditions, a moment of my anger is produced by everything that has ever happened to me, even though it bursts forth now, triggered by an event in the present. This moment of anger, in a sense, must be here. 3. Meeting anger with patience Third and finally, anger can teach us patience. There’s no use regretting anger or trying to avoid it: here it is. This is what it feels like. I don’t have to believe all my thoughts about it, or act on them – in fact, I’ll be better off if I don’t. But I can be with the precious and inevitable moment of anger that has arisen. And if I can face and understand it, I will benefit. Possibly I will learn something valuable about myself and about being human. Possibly I will extend my capacity to understand and love others who also have in them the conditions for anger.  Intimately being with anger when we are angry is the practice of patience. When anger arises, just notice. Before you rush into foolhardy words and deeds, notice the actual phenomenon of anger. How does it feel? Train yourself to bring attention to the body in the moment of anger. Be with your breathing. Be with your heartbeat. Simply say to yourself, This is anger. This is what it feels like. It’s just like this. When you do this, you are slowing things down, gently embracing your condition, neither pushing it away nor getting hooked into it. Train yourself to pause, to practice patience. Resist the impulse to immediately shoot back with aggression. If you study your anger long enough to understand it, and not be caught up in it, you can welcome it, and even make use of it to give you energy and strength to pursue justice and goodness for a world in need. Anger can reveal a great deal about our feelings; about our true nature; and about how to be patient and effective with ourselves and others. Practicing in this way, what is often a poison can instead become a valuable teacher.

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