The Fuel for Frustration



I’m not actually a scientist. And this ‘discovery’ has been thought of by others at time, I am sure. And I guess I didn’t really need click bait because you are already here, so…

Let’s talk frustration. We know it, we hate it, it seems to be everywhere. It is a powerful emotion and can at times seem to overwhelm us for reasons we do not understand. As a victim of frustration myself, I started to notice a trend. Lucky for you, I will reveal this trend early on and continue with examples and suggestions to follow. The fuel for frustration tends to be expectation.

My 4 year old daughter is very independent. She likes to do things her own way and her own time frame. That can be frustrating to me. I tell her it is time to get dressed, and find she went to go play instead. I expected her to listen to me and set myself up for frustration.

Two years ago for mothers day, we were financially tight and very stressed out as my husband was in his first year of Physician Assistant school. I told him I did not need anything for Mother’s Day to make things easier. Sunday morning rolled around like a normal day, and I became increasingly more frustrated. I was hoping for at least a Mother’s Day card or a fancy dinner or a bouquet of roses or a lifetime supply of chocolate. The frustration grew to anger. I directed it at my husband, but the truth is I told him one thing and then expected him to do something else. Why would he? He had thought I told him what I wanted which was nothing, so he was doing what he thought I expected. (That misunderstanding is now a source of humor to us.)

I went to a new store for some party supplies. I was driving around the parking lot looking for a way out. I thought there would be an exit here, well it looks like there is one there, maybe over there. In my head that car would wait for me, I have the right of way. Now there is no stop light and a one way street, I have to go all the way around the block to find a way back home. So much expectation.

These are just some of MANY times that I have let expectation get the better of me. Because I expect a certain thing and it does not come, I am angry. I think it is anger or frustration towards the thing, but in reality it is frustration in myself for not getting what I wanted. Wow, when I put it that way it sounds super annoying, right?

In a perfect world, we could rid ourselves of unrealistic expectations and live in peace and harmony. Sadly, that is not a world that we live in. I have compiled a few suggestions to help us (yes, myself included) to navigate the dream world of expectation to keep us happy and satisfied when things do not go the way we planned.


This is a concept that was taught many different ways while I was working on my degree in Marriage and Family studies, and is applicable in this situation as well. In examples where I am frustrated at my children because I expected something of them, I have to realize something. They are children. Their minds are working tirelessly every day to absorb information and process it in a way they can use to understand this giant and confusing world around them. It really is hard to be a child when there is so much they do not understand.

A baby does not understand that their crying for the past 6 hours makes you want to scream and break a window.

A toddler does not understand that running into the road is incredibly dangerous and that is why you reacted fast and fierce, causing them to be scared.

A driver does not know your every thought and intention.

A spouse can not read your mind and know that when you say you don’t want anything for Mother’s Day, you still expect the world.

In the face of frustration, look at who the frustration is directed at and seek understanding. You can’t expect others to read your mind, you can’t expect young children to grasp concepts above their development, and you can’t expect perfect of yourself in absolutely everything that you do.


A lot of frustration stems from miscommunication. It can happen at any time for a million different reasons. At some point early on in my marriage, I thought that Oreos were my husband’s favorite cookie. I continued to buy them when he requested a treat or I would bring them as a surprise for him when I thought he needed it. One day I bought my favorite, Chips Ahoy. We enjoyed them together and the following conversation unraveled:

Him: Chips Ahoy are definitely better than Oreos.

Me: I thought Oreos were your favorite?

Him: No, Oreos are great but these are my favorite.

Me: I always bought Oreos because I thought they were your favorite. I like Chips Ahoy more too.

Him: I thought Oreos were your favorite because you were always getting them!


Miscommunication. That easy.

If you have a request or (heaven forbid) an expectation, be clear. Be honest. Tell the intended audience exactly what you are expecting. With this open communication, it is much harder to misunderstand what is wanted or what is needed.

Above all that, be honest with yourself about your expectations. It is common to think that your expectation is ‘wrong’ or ‘unrealistic’ but these are words that should not be used in relation to feelings. All feelings are valid and real. If you have a certain expectation, be honest to yourself about it. In this way, you will be able to avoid another dimension of frustrations.


Guys. Consistency is so important. Not even just with your expectations, but life in general. Another story about my crazy 4 year old:

She likes the crust cut off of her sandwich. I don’t know why it is a thing with kids, but something in their genetic code has them avoid crust like our ancestors avoided the plague. When I make her a sandwich, I instantly cut off the crust. Except for a few days ago, when she flipped out upon the delivery of her lunch, hysterical because she wanted her crust. How was I supposed to know that? I was dependent on her consistency for the things that she wanted. When things changed and I was not notified in a timely manner, she became frustrated.

If your expectations change for any reason, let those changes be known. Otherwise, you just set yourself up for failure.


This has been briefly covered throughout the article already, but that is because it is CRITICAL. Unless we have some magical force out there that has yet to be made aware to the general public, people can not read minds. We can not expect to know everything that is expected of us. That is why we have communication.

Vocalize those expectations. Otherwise, you are setting yourself up to be let down and frustrated. Keep an eye out for an upcoming article about productive methods of communication, that will be a good one.


Even with all the honest communication and consistency and understanding, I can guarantee that life will still serve you an occasional heap of frustration for whatever reason. My intention is not to erase frustration completely, but to be more understanding of some of the root causes to help ourselves progress. I feel much happier when I know that my expectations have been made clear, and I have never had a frustrating Mother’s Day since.

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