Frustration and quiet action

At every moment of the day, we can take our emotional temperature. Photo by Matteo Fusco on Unsplash

The world is not as we might wish it to be.  Others do not behave as we might wish them to.  We ourselves are not as we might wish ourselves to be.  When we wake up in the morning, it is guaranteed that we will have a list of so-called problems in our heads, made up of things ‘wrong’ with the world, other people, or ourselves.

These are potential frustrations.  (A frustration is a wish or urge unfulfilled.)  At the very start of a frustration, there is a felt tension.  For example, if I am walking along the street, and someone blocks my way, I feel a brief tension.  My body is geared up to walk steadily, and someone blocks that flow.

What turns that brief tension into a frustration is what happens next. 


I can consider myself the important person, and focus on my own short-term interests.  Because I am important, and because I am focusing on my own interests, I become defensive.  I start to move towards possible actions which defend me.  I may push on through the other person, upsetting them in the process.  I may mutter to myself how inconsiderate they were to block my way.


Alternatively, I can immediately pause and assess the situation.  I can avoid taking a view of myself as important.  I can avoid defensively focusing on my own short-term interests, and look at the situation as a whole.  I can then choose a ‘quiet action’ that seems appropriate.  By ‘quiet action’, I mean an action that is empty of ‘internal noise’, or frustration.


This does not mean that I am not able to defend myself or others.  But it does mean that any action taken is free of frustration, and therefore more likely to be wise.

For example, if the person blocks my way for half an hour, and is going to prevent me from going about my business, then I may spend more time seeking a solution that defends my flow.

Equally, if the person blocking my way is drunk, and causing a general disturbance in the street, I may choose to call the police, or stand by anyone vulnerable, as appropriate.


The main aim is to achieve emotional moderation.  The theory here is that, if we get unduly excited with frustration, we are much more likely to fall into defensive, counterproductive behaviour.

Emotional moderation, when combined with thoughtfulness, leads to wise action.


At every moment of the day, we can take our emotional temperature.  If we find that we are getting overexcited with frustration, then we can pause and assess.

Once we have achieved a peaceful equanimity, we are in a position to respond with awareness.  If, using that awareness, we then apply careful thought, we are in a position to act wisely.


Spend a morning, or an afternoon, watching your own emotional temperature.  Notice when, and where, you feel tension.  Cultivate a sense of equanimity, so that you don’t feel unduly important or defensive.  Rest in that space for a while.

Then consider your surroundings with awareness.  Choose a quiet action that feels right, that feels wise.  If your intention and focus are good, then quite possibly there will be a good result.

You will know whether the result is good by taking your own emotional temperature again.  If you have a sense of lingering anger, unhappiness or guilt, then perhaps you need to do more work on yourself.  If you have an abiding sense of peace, then be happy with that.