Anger and frustration are both universal emotions. While they do have a close relationship and are often used interchangeably, there is a distinct difference between the two terms.

Frustration Characteristics

Frustration is a response to feelings of dissatisfaction. This can be intrinsic or extrinsic – for example, we may be frustrated by another person’s inability to grasp what we are trying to explain, or frustrated by our own inability to express our explanation adequately.

Frustration itself is not anger but can provoke or incite anger. The degree to which this occurs or the frequency in which it occurs in any individual is closely related to the person’s anger management profile. Frustration can be one of many triggers that lead to anger.

Those who readily progress from frustration to anger are likely to move to the anger phase quickly in other triggering circumstances also. Frustration is only one of these potential triggers. Those who better manage their anger are more likely to be able to reconcile their frustration before allowing it to trigger their anger.

Rather than invoking action, frustration often causes inaction or stagnation. It is the resultant anger (if that is the result) that usually compels action, which can, of course, be positive or negative.

Frustration is created in our minds over circumstances that we perceive as being beyond our control at that particular point in time, or as readily as we would like. It invokes feelings of hopelessness or helplessness. We become frustrated when the desired result of a particular situation is not met to our satisfaction and results from an escalated annoyance.

Frustration does have many origins but results in a mixture of feelings of disappointment, sadness, or discouragement that our time and efforts have been in vain and to no avail. If frustration is not dealt with effectively, it can become anger.

The Positive Side of Frustration

Life’s little annoyances and disappointments can prove to be positive self-help for us if we choose to learn from them. We will never eliminate frustration from our lives entirely; it naturally crops up here and there as we go about our daily routines.

The key is in teaching ourselves to become more mindful in frustrating situations so that we choose to seek solutions instead of devolving into anger. Doing so is an expression of emotional maturity, which is a learned skill, whereas allowing a habitual anger response to any frustration is an emotionally immature reaction.

Anger Characteristics

Anger generally produces an emotional escalation that compels the person to action. This does not mean that all anger is acted upon or results in physical expression, depending on the emotional makeup and maturity of the person angered.

When outside factors overwhelm us and become more than we can handle, anger can be the result. There is passive anger and aggressive anger. Passive anger is the least harmful to others but can cause physical damage inside our bodies if we don’t deal with the source.

Aggressive anger is evidenced by a hostile display of loss of temper, physical aggression, shouting, and other behaviors which cannot be hidden from those around us. Often these features of anger are directed at others or toward something inanimate.

Anger is accompanied by loss of control in one way or another, which can be fleeting or sustained. Resolution from anger usually requires the passing of time, an intervention by another person, or a pleasant experience replacing it.

The “pleasant experience” can be attaining the desired outcome or getting our way. Anger is a normal human emotion but the way we display it, allow ourselves to be affected by it, and resolve from it can be controlled with learned self-discipline techniques or anger management therapy.

Is There a Positive Side of Anger?

As civilized people, we mostly do our best to avoid or mask our anger. The usual end result of a display of anger can be a sense of calm or a feeling of shame and embarrassment, sometimes even self-destruction.

But is there an upside of anger? Research has shown that constructive anger can be a powerful motivator to help you get what you want by causing you to push on toward your goal in spite of barriers. Strange as it may seem, angry people are more optimistic (like happy people).

Anger can also benefit relationships, believe it or not. In our society, we tend to try to hold back any showing of anger. But in personal relationships, it is best that when appropriate we show our anger, in a constructive manner, so there is less confusion about what we want from the relationship. This lays the groundwork for less venting and more constructive communication.

We Have the Power to Choose Our Responses

We are all individually responsible for choosing our own thoughts, beliefs, and perceptions. Our thoughts generate emotions. No one else controls these for us. When we put everything into perspective, we can ask ourselves if this situation is worth getting angry or even frustrated about. Sometimes it’s as simple as switching your focus from the problem to the solution.