Low frustration tolerance is a concept developed by psychologist Albert Ellis and arises from believing that frustration is unbearable and therefore must be avoided at all costs, as well as being a main cause of procrastination. The term is often referred to as short-term hedonism and can be utilised to describe the inability to tolerate unpleasant feelings or stressful situations. It stems from the feeling that reality should be as wished, and that any frustration should be resolved quickly and easily. Low frustration tolerance can limit the self and affect productivity, mindset, and overall mental health. It is important to recognise the negative behaviour characteristics associated with this concept, in order to build the path to tolerance.
The four different subdivisions of low frustration tolerance are:
1. Emotional intolerance, involving intolerance of emotional distress.
E.g., “I can’t handle this, I’m stressed, I’m angry, I’m anxious, I’m depressed”.
2. Sense of entitlement, involving intolerance of unfairness and frustrated gratification.
E.g., “Why do I have to wait in a queue? Why am I not at the front? Why aren’t I recognised first?”
3. Physical and emotional discomfort, involving intolerance of difficulties and hassles.
E.g., “I can’t stand doing tasks that involve a lot of hassle. I can’t stand having to persist at unpleasant tasks. I can’t stand doing tasks when I’m not in the mood”.
4. Achievements, involving intolerance of frustrated achievement goals.
E.g., “I’m not where I need to be. I haven’t achieved what is expected of me”.
In conjunction with low frustration tolerance, Ellis established that problematic irrational thinking stems from three core irrational cognitions. These irrational cognitions are also known as the three major musts – “I must do well. You must treat me well. And the world must be easy”. The three major musts describe the phenomenon whereby people live by a set of absolute and unrealistic demands that they place on themselves, others, and the world. These expectations often reveal themselves in “should” statements – “Don’t should on me and I won’t should on you” (Ellis, 1950s). These “should” and “shouldn’t statements leave us feeling negatively about ourselves because they set standards that we cannot realistically meet. They can also leave us feeling frustrated and hurt by others when they inevitably fail to fulfill our expectations. Examples of these damaging “should” statements include, “Everyone should love me, or else I am unlovable. I should always be successful, or else I’m a failure. When things are scary, I should be able to cope. I shouldn’t feel so shy and nervous”.
A large component of low frustration tolerance can be personality disorder. Avoidant personality disorder is a pathological condition and is present in those who may experience chronic feelings of inadequacy and are highly sensitive to being negatively judged by others. Symptoms experienced by those with avoidant personality disorder include oversensitivity to criticism or disapproval, reluctancy to become involved with others unless certain of being liked, extreme anxiety and fear in social settings, and the exaggeration of potential problems. These symptoms can be linked to the four subdivisions of low frustration tolerance (emotional intolerance, entitlement, discomfort, and achievements). To challenge this mindset and build tolerance, unconditional positive regard is essential.
Developed by psychologist Carl Rogers in the 1950s, unconditional positive regard was originally used as a humanist approach to clinical therapy – I don’t judge you; you don’t judge me. However, in the context of low frustration tolerance, unconditional positive regard must be applied to the perspective of the self. All humans have their own individual narratives, shaped by the story we tell ourselves, our inner-dialogue, and self-talk. Lack of unconditional positive regard for oneself, can lead to inherently negative thoughts and self-talk, resulting in the inability to achieve self-acceptance or life acceptance. Those without unconditional positive regard will also remain rooted in the hedonic pleasure principle, consumed by their relentless pursuit for pleasure and instant gratification – “I want to be soothed immediately. This must be fixed immediately”.
Another significant factor of low frustration tolerance is locus of control. Developed by Julian B. Rotter in 1954, locus of control is the degree to which people believe that they, as opposed to external forces, have control over the outcome of events in their lives. There two forms of locus of control – internal and external. Those with a high internal locus of control perceive themselves as having a great deal of personal control over their behaviour and are therefore more likely to take responsibility for the way they behave. It is of a healthy mindset to possess a high internal locus of control, with the ability to recognise internal agency, and become self-accepting and life accepting. In contrast to this, individuals with a high external locus of control, will often adopt a fatalistic outlook and perceive their behaviours as being a result of external influences or luck. People with an external locus of control may lack motivation and productivity, as they believe their actions cannot directly impact their circumstance. Extreme superstitious beliefs can also be linked to external locus of control and are an element of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Embark on the journey to self and life acceptance today with the help of a new, innovative, and ground-breaking treatment regime, known as TMS.
Operating under a curative model, TMS is a series of non-invasive procedures that uses painless magnetic pulses to target pathways in the brain associated with decision-making, processing power, and behaviours such as OCD. The stimulation of these pathways further strengthens them and results in a boost of brain activity which can assist with mental illness, clarity of thoughts, OCD and more. The success rate of TMS has been well-documented over many studies internationally, showing positive results amongst many patients.