Intermittent Frustration Ask Dr. G
Written by Doctor G

intermittent frustration


Been a little annoyed lately? Had moments of frustration?

Good for you!

No, actually, that IS good for you. Stick with me for a minute. I recently learned from a woman named Nili Couzens the inarguable truth that our brains are wired to pursue intermittent frustration.

Did you ever play a puzzle or a video game or follow along with a TV game show? It starts off easy. After a couple of rounds, things get harder. If it stayed super easy, you’d turn it off or find another focus – our brains get bored with easy. If it started off VERY difficult and you never found a piece that fit another or leveled up or got a question righr… you’d turn away from that as well. Constant frustration doesn’t serve our brains.

But intermittent frustration? When you get some but not all, when you can feel things getting harder and know that you’re growing, learning, stretching – your brain works to try again. “This time I might get it!” is the natural reward system we have in our neuro-circuitry.

This might just be why little babies are cute and so often cuddly – it’s setting us up for future intermittent frustration and the “leveling up” of parenting.

Anyway, what I’m reminded of is this – if you’re sometimes frustrated, feeling like something got harder and you might succeed but you might not… that’s not just Candy Crush. That’s the way your brain learns and grows and tries new things.

So, it’s like exercise. You may not enjoy it, but that stress is useful. It’s getting you ready for whatever you want to be able to accomplish next. Keep at it. If an employee or a child or someone you mentor is frustrated? See if you can help them find what this is preparing them for, and how it can lead to the life they want to build.

And let me know what’s frustrating you – I’m interested!

All my best,

Dr. G

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