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Emotion Encyclopedia for Writers



DEFINITION: the feeling that accompanies an experience of being thwarted in attaining your goals


In psychology, frustration is a common emotional response to opposition. Related to anger and disappointment, it arises from the perceived resistance to the fulfillment of individual will. The greater the obstruction, and the greater the will, the more the frustration is likely to be. Causes of frustration may be internal or external. In people, internal frustration may arise from challenges in
fulfilling personal goals and desires, instinctual drives and needs, or dealing with perceived deficiencies, such as a lack of confidence or fear of social situations. Conflict can also be an internal source of frustration; when one has competing goals that interfere with one another, it can create cognitive dissonance. External causes of frustration involve conditions outside an individual, such as a blocked road or a difficult task. While coping with frustration, some individuals may engage in passive–aggressive behavior, making it difficult to identify the original cause(s) of their frustration, as the responses are indirect. A more direct, and common response, is a propensity towards aggression


  • Goals not being met
  • Career not advancing as Character believes it should
  • Nemesis actively 'frustration' character
  • Inability to act against a problem (i.e. daughter kidnapped)
  • Drug use, opening opportunity for 'false positive reaction to situation)
  • Invention, novel, other form of invention or art not working


ambivalence, ambivalence of impulse, annulment, bafflement, balk, balking, betrayed hope, blasted expectation, blighted hope, blow, buck-passing, buffet, cancellation, check, checkmate, circumvention, comedown, conflict, confounding, confusion, counterbalancing, cruel disappointment, dash, dashed hope, decompensation, defeat, disappointment, discomfiture, disconcertion, disillusionment, dissatisfaction, elusion, emotional shock, evasion, external frustration, failure, fallen countenance, fiasco, fizzle, foil, foiling, forlorn hope, getting around, getting round, hope deferred, invalidation, letdown, mental shock, mirage, neutralization, nullification, offsetting, outguessing, outmaneuvering, outwitting, passing the buck, psychological stress, rebuff, repulse, reversal, reverse, rout, setback, sore disappointment, stress, tantalization, tease, the runaround, the slip, thwarting, trauma, traumatism, undoing, upset, vitiation, voiding


"act of frustrating," 1550s, from Latin frustrationem (nominative frustratio) "a deception, a disappointment," noun of action from past participle stem of frustrari (see frustrate). Earlier (mid-15c.) with a now-obsolete sense of "nullification."


  • Pacing in short spans
  • Stiff posture, rigid muscles, a corded neck
  • Clenching the jaw
  • Speaking through the teeth with forced restraint
  • Scratching or rubbing the back of the neck
  • An impatient snort or sneer
  • Pounding a fist against the tabletop
  • Drawing breath and releasing it before speaking
  • Splaying hands out wide to stretch, then relaxing them
  • Throwing hands up in an “I give up” gesture
  • Stalking away from someone, leaving in a huff
  • A strained voice


  • Throat closing up, swallowing becomes difficult
  • Hardening of the stomach
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Acidic food sour the stomach (i.e. Coffee)
  • Attention is pulled away from 'now' to visualize about 'then'


  • Self-talking to calm down, to think straight
  • A need to ask questions and rehash information
  • Obsessiveness with compulsive reactions to possible solutions
  • Reining in one’s emotions before damaging relationships
  • Acute tendency to judge condition by the way  people 'appear' ignoring previous knowledge that may indicate similar situation with them (judging peoples outsides, by character's insides)
  • Can cause polar opposite reactions such as lack of energy, lack of emotion, long periods of sleep, lack of interest hobbies, friends, social importance and bathing.


Frustration, (of the non-drug induced type), is normally developed by repetitive failure to achieve or be to valued for a task. Also a response to accomplishing a task only to find that what was done was not enough and more is required (false peak achievements). At the beginning of the Arc, failure and frustration could fuel greater commitment and motivation to accomplish the elusive task. However, the longer the failure condition, or the goal remains elusive, the less Frustration works as a motivational fuel and the stronger its adverse affects on the character.


  • Spiritual/Religious (i.e. increase in faith)
  • Guidance Given by Mentoring Character (i.e. increase in belief)
  • Sex
  • Drugs
  • Event creating overruling emotional state (i.e. Rage)]
  • Event creating overruling clarity (i.e. Wife dies)


  • Using more force than necessary (stomping feet, throwing instead of handing off)
  • A display of violence (kicking, grabbing, shaking, or destroying something in release)
  • A tantrum (screaming, body flung down on the floor, crying)
  • Physical Appearance suffering (day old beard is often seen)
  • Importance  level of Character's problem now overvalued resulting in disinterest in other people's problem.
  • Frequently "blows" possible opportunities from inadequate preparation -- the result of hearing about the opportunity, and rushing blindly to take advantage.


  • Anxiety
  • Mental Paralysis
  • Acute Depression
  • Drug Use
  • Erratic Behavior
  • Dread
  • Violence
  • Anarchist Behavior
  • Vigilantism
  • Fixation


Frustration is frequently part of the puzzle box for  the Complex emotion Jealousy.

Often frustration is negatively enhanced by time related situations and stimuli. This  tactic works well with the beginning 1/3 of a 24hr or longer count-down scenario. As the countdown continues past the 1/3 mark stress should progress/mutate into stronger, often more debilitating, manifestations i.e. anxiety, dread



Frustration at Work and Perceived Alternative Job Opportunities

FACIAL EXPRESSIONS:Predicting Engagement and Frustration

Religious Zeal after Goal Frustration

“The Value of Frustration”: An Interview with Adam Phillips

Minding the Gap: Navigating Chasms of Confusion and Fogs of Frustration

Between Frustration and Elation


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