Saturday, June 30, 2012

Dealing with frustration

I had so many plans for this blog post and all of them are disappointing me. It's horribly frustrating, so before I go insane I am going to go with the flow and talk about frustration and how I deal with it.

The short answer is I don't. I bottle it up until I'm afraid that if I express even a small sliver of it I'll explode and then I go some place and hide. While hiding I cry and scream and do whatever works until the level of frustration drops below the point where I worry I'll hurt someone.

Adam tried to point out to me that, at least in BJJ, I really ought to try to convert this anger into some kind of energy to apply to my technique. My problem is that when I get frustrated in BJJ, say, for example, because I've escaped from mount just to find myself in side-control (and on and on), my first thought is not "well, I'll just escape from this too, and this time I'll get on top". That might be productive. No... my frustrated thoughts tend to wander towards breaking fingers, biting, and poking eyes. Civilized people just don't do this, ok, maybe in the mythical "street fight" but never to one's training partner. So now I'm in the awkward position of trying to fight against one person to get out of side-control and fighting against myself to get my thoughts back to proper jiujitsu.

On top of this, I really don't think people perceive my reactions to being frustrated correctly. People seem to tell me things like "It's ok, everyone starts out a little claustrophobic." or "You'll figure out how to position yourself so you know you won't get hurt." Maybe I'm wrong; maybe I am dealing with a secret fear of being crushed. I think what actually scares me is how desperate I am in that moment to inflict as much pain as possible. It probably doesn't matter - either way I need to deal with it and get past it. I just feel like the advice for dealing with claustrophobia is "just breathe and realize you're safe" and breathing, though helpful, does not diminish my desire to destroy fragile appendages. 

This is not just feelings either. When I get this frustrated and angry I will self-destruct rather than hurt another person. If my lip is bleeding, odds are its because I bit it until it did.

Don't think I limit my bizarre overreactions to BJJ. Other parts of my life are more frustrating than jiujitsu ever is. I miss my bird. I can't seem to get pregnant. I have motivation problems. Normal jobs bore me to tears. I take my frustrated rage and I hit the gym until I'm too tired to think about it anymore. 

As far as jiujitsu goes, I'm trying two things. First, I need a better handle on what frustrates me. The worst, I think, is being caught in one position too long. Second, I'm starting to deal with frustration by not letting it get to the sadistic stage. Say I am caught in one position too long. I'm trying to count roughly to 10 as I am trying to escape. If I haven't managed to escape and my training partner is, for whatever reason, just not moving, I'll just tap out anyway. I need to protect my mental stability as much as my neck, arms, whatever. 

If anyone has some better ideas, please, let me know.


  1. I have pretty similar problems with frustration and even anger too. They were much worse even two years ago than what they are today. I would bottle things away until I literally "blew up" and did lash out at people. It wasn't pretty and made my feelings of guilt and frustration worse. There are a few things that I have finally allowed myself to do that I used to have on my "that's not allowed" list and a few things that were on my "that couldn't possibly help" list. Here are the ones that I have found to be the most helpful, though not in any particular order.

    I've started to talk about my frustrations, though I have learned it has to be with someone who is capable of active listening as well as validation. My mum has usually been good at this as is Melinda. I'm still working on figuring out how to understand Nathan's version of those, usually I have to work on that when I'm not near the explosive frustration. It seems like it could be hurting someone else to make them listen to my frustration, but I've found that they appreciate it more than me running away and avoiding and just not being myself for days/weeks. I still have my withdrawal periods, but those are fewer and don't last as long anymore.

    Along those lines, I will write out everything that is frustrating me. This isn't something that I can type. I have to see it in my own handwriting and in the tangible world. Even if I never look at it again it is no longer stuck in my head. I can think straight again well enough to not feel the urge to hurt people.

    I scream and cry and punch things. And then go sit in the bathtub or shower until I feel like the water is carrying away that energy and I'm starting to feel like I'm something resembling balanced. Exhausted, but balanced. I really like to do this in the dark with gentle music and one candle burning. The decrease in light helps me to focus more on my other senses, which are a great help to finding something resembling peace in the maelstrom that is my brain. Sight is too distracting for me to be able to truly fall into the needed state of being/mindfulness for this to work.

    I color. This is one of my favorite ways to channel frustration when in a place or time that it isn't appropriate to do the other things. At work for example. My co-workers kind of poke fun at me for it, but that doesn't bother me much when I'm playing with colors and shapes and designs.

    Like you, I hit the gym. I had to learn when to stop though. Mind you, that meant limiting my time to 90 minutes rather than 150-240 or more.

    I find a playground with swings or climbing trees and swing or climb and let the experience of climbing into a different world or "flying" through the air chill me out a bit. Along the same lines, I'll maybe drive through the mountains with my windows down and music blaring. If I find a particularly uninhabited place, I will get out and scream or hit things/ground with sticks or fists. This is best done at night though.

    I don't know if any of these would work for you, but hopefully they will either give you ideas for yourself or at least help you to know that there are others who experience similar feelings of anger/frustration.

    1. I find it interesting that you have listed a lot of things that I used to use when I would get frustrated as a teenager. The playgrounds, coloring, and running water were all things I did back then that I have gotten away from. Maybe I should try them again.

      You have reminded me of something. As a teenager it hardly ever bothered me that my frustrations were stupid. I knew in 5 years the fact that my crush hated me would be an irrelevant blip in my life story, but I allowed the frustration to fill me up, burn a nice healthy path through the forest of my mind and fizzle out. Now that I'm older though, I feel like I'm supposed to be more mature, more in control, so I throw up these walls and try to keep the frustrations out... which really only serves to keep them in.

      It seems to me there should be some kind of balance between dwelling on frustration (masochistic) and fortifying oneself against frustration (unrealistic). I just wish it didn't depend on being throughly distracted. Oi.