We’ve all been there: the queue for tickets in the railway station that goes on forever; the traffic jam that slows our progress to the office to a crawl; or the mountain of paperwork we need to navigate when dealing with a bureaucracy.
It’s frustrating, right?
In previous posts, I’ve highlighted the importance of getting in touch with your self-talk. Your self-talk is the voice that rattles around in your head, commenting on your past, present and future.
Sometimes this self-talk is helpful – when you’re weighing up options or reflecting on pleasant experiences. Sometimes, however, it’s unhelpful -especially when it’s overly harsh or critical, or when it prevents us from taking action in a way that benefits us.
This self-talk can contribute to the procrastination we discussed previously. Another way it can make life difficult for us is when it gets agitated about a situation, leading us to believe we “just can’t stand it!”
I can’t stand this!
And so we say to ourselves, “I can’t stand this!”, which can often lead to emotions reflecting this belief – frustration, anger, anxiety and so on. We might also act out these emotions, by sighing or adjusting our body language to something that transmits “Come on! Hurry up!” to others.
Saying “I can’t stand this” really isn’t helpful, especially as we can quite literally put up with these situations. If we’re honest with ourselves, we don’t like these situations, but we’re well able to survive them and move on with our lives.
Psychologists refer to this pattern of thoughts and emotions as “Low frustration tolerance”. It can be an unhelpful pattern on two fronts. Firstly, it can lead to situations when we lose our temper or act out and say things we later regret. Looking at these situations very rationally, we wind ourselves up and then release our frustrations on ourselves and others.
It can also contribute to us walking away from or avoiding situations that might be uncomfortable – but hardly painful! – and reducing the number of opportunities we have to learn and grow.
If we avoid situations we think we “can’t stand”, then we’ll never learn how to handle them better and realise that we can, in fact, stand them. We mightn’t like them, we may find them boring or challenging.
But we can get through them and learn along the way.
What to do?
Might you be prone to patterns of low frustration tolerance? Do you think you wind yourself up emotionally by the way you talk about situations to yourself? You might find it useful to listen carefully to yourself talk in these situations, trying to move from “I can’t stand it” to “I don’t like it, but…”
- Such as waiting in the train station: “I don’t like it, but I do need a ticket to get on the train”.
- When stuck in traffic: “I’m not enjoying this, but it’s out of my control right now”.
- When dealing with paperwork “This seems very boring, but it’s going to help me achieve my goals”.
Understand that having a thought is just that: having a thought. It doesn’t necessarily reflect reality or mean you have to act on it.
If you can become more aware of your thinking patterns, spotting your “I can’t stand it!” tendencies and take useful and purposeful action anyway, you’ll find in time that you can “stand” a lot more than you thought you could!