The difference between anger and frustration

  • Anger is: you don’t want to be in a situation. Frustration is: adding the belief that you can’t change it.
  • Frustration is a relative and nuanced version of anger. Anger is more primal and is associated with our survival. For example, we can feel anger from being hungry.
  • We now use words like frustration, irritation to reflect different emotions because we’ve developed language and our cognitive skills.

I love the definition of anger as “we don’t want to be here.” – wherever “here” is for us now in the moment. At work, with our screaming kids or alone. It’s so simple and more so, it can help us understand one of the most primal emotions, probably after fear, that we have.

If anger is not wanting to be here, then frustration is we think we can’t get out of here. We can’t leave our jobs or our kids (and we may not want to) but we feel that there are no other choices but to say in this situation the way it is.

Anger = you don’t want to be here
Frustration = you can’t get out of here

Anger is one the universal emotions, identified by psychologist and professor Paul Ekman, that we are born with. In fact, our emotions are ready to go on our birth day. It’s universal because this emotion will keep us alive.

A baby screams when it’s hungry. We yell “watch out” to keep ourselves self. Anger plays a role in humans surviving for so long. Without it, we wouldn’t have made as long as we have.

As we’ve evolved and developed language we have become nuanced in how we feel. It’s not necessarily anger we feel but irritation, frustration, ferocity, rage. Language and in turn, how we think, has given us this gift.

Frustration then comes from our developed language and thinking = we have no choice in this situation that we don’t want to be in. Out of all the nuanced derivatives of anger, frustrated is the one that will not give us an answer to our problem. It can be the most heart breaking.

We can not leave jobs we don’t want to be in because we feel there are no other options to pay the bills. We can not handle our kids’ tantrums because we believe that we’re stuck in the parent trap. And the cycle goes on.

But if frustration is a derivative of the primal emotion of anger and we can simply understand that anger, by itself, has given us options and motivated change. We eat to meet the need of hunger. We move our bodies to fight against an attack. At its core it can tell us the answer.

Frustration, then, becomes something we feel because of how we perceive our situation – without choices. If we drop the last part, we can then discover that our anger can give way to choices our developed brains haven’t even imagined yet.

%d bloggers like this: