How to Conquer Your Frustrations
THE ANATOMY OF FRUSTRATION
one THE FRUSTRATION TRAP
two LOW FRUSTRATION TOLERANCE
three TEST YOUR FRUSTRATION TOLERANCE
BASIC PROBLEM-SOLVING APPROACHES
four THE PROCESS OF CHANGE
five SOLVE YOUR FRUSTRATION PROBLEMS
six FRUSTRATIONS AND VALUES
seven MANAGING FRUSTRATING PEOPLE
eight MANAGING YOUR CAREER FRUSTRATIONS
nine MANAGING YOUR TIME FRUSTRATIONS
You're about to read an extraordinary book-one that should be on the required reading list of every literate person in the country- written by a talented and insightful psychologist, Dr. William J. Knaus.
The topic, frustration, is one with which each of us has had personal, and perhaps agonizing, experience. Anyone who has ever been beset by needless anxiety and has been prevented by perceived psychological barriers from fulfilling the promise of his or her personal dignity and integrity should read this book.
This is not just another self-help book, promising quick-fix solutions to enduring problems. Nor is it a book of golden aphorisms which, if diligently memorized, produce magical lead-into-gold transformations.
Instead, it's a book you're going to have to work with. You can't just sit back in your easy chair and become a mindless, passive recipient of a few witch-doctor incantations.
You must be an active participant in these strategies.
For, as Dr. Knaus will tell you again and again, the ultimate key to change is action. People involved in physical conditioning programs know the meaning of the phrase "no pain, no gain," and in this book Dr. Knaus outlines a psychological conditioning program that also demands that, on occasion, you're going to feel a little soreness in your psychic muscles.
But even that transitory soreness comes to feel good after awhile, because it signals some good feelings-the exhilaration of personal freedom-freedom from a lot of psychological bogeymen that have prevented you from growing.
In this way, the frustration tolerance training program provides you with an inoculation of low-level frustration, which then prevents you from becoming overwhelmed by intruders on your psychological life space.
That is, some minor frustrations are good and help in the building of frustration tolerance that, in turn, add to your feeling of well-being and security.
For example, if you're a procrastinator it may not be easy to make out your first "code red" list, but once you've done it, the up-beat feeling of tension reduction becomes self-reinforcing, and within a week or so you'll find yourself looking forward to listing your new priorities.
The best way to read this book is a chapter at a time. Don't try to finish it in one sitting, for the messages take time to sink in, and, more importantly, you need time to practice the actions that are involved. Take time to think about it during those off-moments- when you're folding clothes or mowing the lawn.
Think of how you've been trapping and imprisoning yourself, and how, with little effort, you can unlock the chains. This book, although based on sound psychological principles, is not just the product of college lecture halls or laboratory experiments. It isn't so super-academic as to be detached from humanity.
The roots of this book come firmly from the soil of Dr. Knaus's clinical practice, and its compelling message, substantiated by many illustrative case studies, is "if he or she can do it, so can I."
With Dr. Knaus's program you're not going to scale every psychological mountain on your first hike. He takes you on a guided tour, one step at a time, and he details how to take those steps. You're not going to be subjected to "glittering generalities" with built-in cop-outs, but instead you'll be trained, in almost recipelike fashion, to develop your growth potential.
Dr. Knaus, to be sure, won't just take you on the easy route around those mountains, but he will, eventually, get you to the peak-and the view from the top will be well worth the climb.
Richard C. Sprinthall, Ph.D. Director, Graduate Studies in Psychology
American International College Springfield, Massachusetts
How to Conquer Your Frustrations is not for you if you are looking for a magical solution to eliminate your frustrations. Such magical solutions do not exist.
But if you want a resource that provides a highly effective blueprint for managing frustration, you are reading the right book. In this extraordinary book, Dr. William J. Knaus gives us a penetrating analysis of how we frustrate ourselves along with insightful strategies for how we can master our frustrations.
Through his awareness-and-action approach, he shows how to master frustration, reduce stress, and feel confident. In How to Conquer Your Frustrations, Dr. Knaus tackles difficult problems most psychological self-help authors fail either to recognize or to face.
His materials on low frustration tolerance, for example, direct our attention to a rarely considered but highly important area of psychological concern-one that is the scaffolding for most human misery.
Dr. Knaus knowledgeably and carefully guides us through the catacombs of our frustrations to realistically experience them and helps us to develop our potential to cope with frustration.
Frustration, as Dr. Knaus clearly points out, is inevitable. We can't avoid it. Instead, we can learn how to eliminate false reasons for frustrating ourselves and how to respond effectively to legitimate frustrations. This takes time and work.
But it is worth the effort when you consider the alternative-tension, stress, disorganization. Stress researchers tell us that we make ourselves vulnerable to disease, heart trouble, and possibly cancer if we subject ourselves to ongoing distress. We may even shorten our lives.
True, it takes work to improve our chances of living a longer, more satisfying life. But the work is simpler and the hours better than leading a status-quo existence where you react to change only to reduce frustration. When you take charge of your life, you initiate changes that map a challenging course that can cause you to tap your resources.
And as you learn more about your resources, as you develop confidence in your ability to face and master frustration, you find yourself.
L. Rene Gaiennie, Ph.D. Professor, School of Business Administration
University of South Florida
President, Strategic Planning Associates Bellaire, Florida
Senior Vice-President The Singer Company (Ret.)
Although almost all psychological self-help books present ways to get rid of problems and improve personal qualities and skills, few provide tested methods for dealing with the inevitable tensions and frustrations in the growth process. How to Conquer Your Frustrations helps fill this void.
Those who choose the pathway to self-improvement need to know how to manage their frustrations and tensions. The development of this ability constitutes a great benefit for those who want to self-improve, because frustration mastery promotes growth.
In comparison, people who avoid frustrations will restrict their growth experiences, elevate their frustrations, and lead a stressful existence.
Many opportunities exist for mastering the inevitable frustrations involved in self-improvement actions, such as advancing career interests, expanding perspective, building a healthy self-concept, and contributing to the advancement of humankind. Growth also involves destroying barriers that impede progress.
For example, you may want to reduce the negatives in life by losing weight, giving up smoking, overcoming shyness, persisting with plans, controlling a hot temper, getting better organized, purging a phobia, minimizing erroneous thinking, successfully challenging boredom, overriding a rut, overcoming procrastination, and so forth.
In effect, by building your positive resources and destroying the barriers that block development, you can gain greater mastery over your environment and have a chance to feel fulfilled and in command.
Those who want to develop positive qualities and reduce negative habits will find that change and growth do not happen by magic.
To find out what it takes to change requires getting involved in the process. To participate productively requires both willingness and the proper psychological tools.
In How to Conquer Your Frustrations I present important frustration-management concepts that you can use imaginatively to master your frustrations.
This book has value for many other readers as well. It can serve as a resource that graduate students in counselor-training will find helpful to use in working with clients who appear resistive to change, especially those who feel insecure and doubt their ability to face the tensions and frustrations involved in growth.
In addition, learning and applying frustration-management skills can directly benefit the person who wants to work out problems in counseling. Frustration-tolerance training, as described herein, plays a pivotal role as a resource for the person who wants to make changes through counseling because frustration mastery promotes growth.
Because How to Conquer Your Frustrations provides both prevention and problem-intervention strategies, professors may wish to use the work as an assigned reading when they teach Psychology of Adjustment or Mental Health courses.
It provides many frustration-problem-solving strategies that students can readily learn to employ to reduce stress, improve studies, and take better advantage of social and recreational opportunities.
CAN THIS BOOK SUBSTITUTE FOR A THERAPIST?
This book will provide helpful material that you can use in your self-study. If you test and practice the written principles, you'll progress toward your goals. Indeed, some people who have read one or more of my books have written to tell me that they gained more from the books than from formal therapy.
But in general I have to answer no to the question "Will the book substitute for therapy?" The book cannot interact with you in the manner of a warm, friendly, and competent therapist. You may not recognize the validity of your bibliotherapy and thus not apply some pivotal concepts.
You may procrastinate if a trained specialist does not help monitor your progress. You may find it difficult to self-observe objectively. Some of your frustrations may come from concepts, ideas, images, and behaviors that seem so natural that you don't recognize or question them even when the book describes them.
THE AVAILABILITY OF THERAPY ASSISTANCE
With the exception of Rational Emotive Therapy, Behavior Therapy, and Cognitive Behavior approaches, few systems provide direct help with frustrating problems. Most therapy systems fail to emphasize frustration tolerance and mastery as part of the therapy.
Indeed, practitioners of some systems, such as classical psychoanalysis, eschew problem-solving methods, and thus prove virtually worthless for people who want to develop coping skills. Modern psychotherapy systems, especially those oriented to Rational Emotive and Cognitive Behavior systems, have moved forward using tested multiple-treatment strategies to help people deal with frustrating problems and stresses.
But even with the use of modern multiple-strategy systems, helping people master frustration takes time and work for both therapist and client.
Erich Fromm, a noted thinker in the psychology of love, has written that love requires care, concern, and discipline. In effect, Fromm says that love requires work. So does the development of healthy self-love. It requires caring and disciplined work to change dysfunctional frustration-creating thinking and behaving to objective thinking and functional actions.
HOW I WROTE THE BOOK
I wrote How to Conquer Your Frustrations to help the reader recognize, channel, and manage frustration. You can't avoid frustrations, but you do have control over how you manage them.
This book suggests fresh concepts, strategies, and tactics you can use to embark upon a frustration management self-help program. In this book I describe multiple strategies, including both awareness (cognitive) and action (behavioral) methods, for mastering frustrating circumstances.
I show more than one route to get there. However, as Alfred Korzybski, the great general semanticist, noted: "the map is not the same as the territory." The map, for example, can't give you the sensory experiences of walking along one of the pathways that appear upon it.
To know the territory you have to actively explore and experience it through your senses. To get to the territory a map can help. To make a clear map of the "frustration territory," I wrote How to Conquer Your Frustrations in a language style called E prime (E').
E' eliminates all forms of the verb "to be" (am, is, was, were, has been, have been, will have been).
For example, instead of saying "I am a psychologist," in E' I would say, "I work as a psychologist." In non- E' I might say that "Sandra is a thief." In E' I would say that "Sandra stole my watch and sold it to Sam. I describe Sandra's actions (which she can learn to correct) rather than typing her as a thief.
By using E' I can define situations, such as my functioning as a psychologist and Sandra's theft of a watch, with greater precision. The E' system developed from the work of the general semanticist D. David Bourland, a follower of Alfred Korzybski.
Bourland advises us to eliminate the verb "to be" because it often leads to vagueness, overgeneralizations, sloppy thinking, inaccuracies, and misleadingly abbreviated statements.
Of course, E prime can do little more than reduce problems caused by the inappropriate use of the verb. However, E' does enforce a discipline that requires the writer to express ideas in a more factual, active, and descriptive style, but it has some drawbacks.
For example, in using verbatim transcripts of conversations, eliminating "to be" would change the quote.
So in How to Conquer Your Frustrations, transcribed conversations remain as spoken. I also keep the verb when I quote other works. I used E' to improve the flow of the material and to help make the message clear.
Indeed, you probably will not miss the verb. The use of the system served as a challenge to me to bring my points into sharper focus, so that you don't have to wonder what I meant and spend time interpreting my work. You can use your time working instead to manage your frustrations and developing your positive qualities.
In Part 1 we will look into how we contribute to the development of our own frustrations and what we can do to manage them. In this section we look closely at low frustration tolerance, because unless we can deal with our frustrations with reasonable tolerance, we will befuddle our own best interests, cause ourselves to feel emotionally distressed, and dramatically water down the quality of our daily activities.
In Chapter 1 we will consider how our frustrations tie us down and how we can start to build emotional muscle using our frustrations for a psychological workout.
Chapter 2 spotlights low frustration tolerance and describes how this condition can have a disrupting effect on our emotional well-being.
Chapter 3 gives us an opportunity to test our frustration tolerance and to consider ways to begin boosting it.