You CAN Handle It!

Posted on October 9, 2012

Feed Your Frustration Intolerance Some Data

by Malek Mneimne, M.A.


Low Frustration ToleranceLife is filled with constant adversities, challenges, and difficult situations. According to the A-B-C-D-E model of REBT (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy), “A” stands for adversity (or activating stimulus). Not everybody is faced with the same A’s or challenges in life, and we have varying views of what is challenging or difficult to overcome. Nonetheless, adversity, challenge, or difficulty, however defined, is inevitable, much like death, taxes, and ratings of worth.

Adversity can contribute to feelings of hopelessness and depression. In the face of adversity, we may believe that we can’t stand it or that it cannot be overcome. We may believe that nothing we do will change the adversity or difficult situation. We need not be powerless in the face of adversity, however.

Oftentimes, people become unnecessarily hopeless and depressed when they believe that they can do little, if anything, about adversities or difficulties facing them. In some cases, we believe this BS because we have faced a similar adversity before and had little success in coping with it, and therefore conclude that, on the basis of such historic data, the same unsuccessful outcome will re-occur. We rub our crystal balls, see failure in the past, and predict that it will occur again in the future. We overgeneralize from lessons of the past, often focusing on the negative. In other cases, we believe that we cannot stand the adversity and avoid it altogether even though we have had no previous experiences with similar adversities. Somehow, we just don’t think we could face it.

These predictions are incorrect, help us to feel worse than necessary, and get in the way. No two adversities are ever exactly the same. Situational factors constantly change. With them, so do our biology and personality. So although you may have unsuccessfully faced a similar challenge in the past, it does not follow that you will face the same lack of success, however defined, the next time around. Alternatively, if you have never faced the adversity before, then you cannot know whether you will be able to stand it or not; your prediction that you won’t be able to or can’t stand it is based upon a crystal ball that likely needs some Windex.

So give yourself some data with which to evaluate your perceived lack of control or ability to face adversity. Show yourself that you can indeed face it without dying and still come out alive and happy. Feed your frustration intolerance with evidence. If you find yourself experiencing “I can’t stand it-itis” tell yourself that you can stand it and see for yourself. You may just be happily surprised by the consequences.

Source: Albert Ellis Institute

Many people working on addiction recovery are challenged by feelings of hopelessness and depression that may be related to how they interpret life’s adversities. To learn more about Low Frustration Tolerance and ways to gain High Frustration Tolerance, visit SMART Recovery Tools/Articles.

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One thought on “You CAN Handle It!

  1. Norene E Chevalier

    I completely relate to what you are talking about in this article Malek. In sessions, I utilize a CBT/SFT with a positive psychology approach. Within the first 2 sessions I teach them the cognitive-behavioural schema and spend much time on Cognitive Distortions. I believe that individuals need to know up front that they have choices about life and living. In addition, I focus a lot on their “language;” i.e., try to avoid words like “why” because it causes others to become defensive – use words phrases like “how come… can you elaborate, etc;” and “but” because everything said beforehand is eliminated; “woulda, coulda and shoulda” and recommend the book by the same name; and have them eliminate the word “sorry” when in fact they have not done anything wrong. Sometimes clients will say “it’s just linguistics.” My response, “yes it is… and it makes a big difference in our thinking, feelings, choices, actions and outcomes.
    Thank you.

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