Frustration as a type of mental condition

Posted onJuly 4, 2020 in Uncategorized

In recent years, in psychology, much attention has been paid to the study of certain pronounced mental states: stress, anxiety or anxiety (anxiety), rigidity (tendency to perseveration) and, finally, rustration. True, foreign researchers often avoid the terms “conditions” in relation to these phenomena, but in fact it is about states that under certain conditions leave a mark on the entire mental life for a while or, if we speak the language of biology, are integral reactions of the body in his active adaptation to the environment.
The problem of frustration is posed in terms of theoretical discussion and, to an even greater extent, is the subject of experimental research conducted on animals and people (more often on children). Despite the large number of works published on the topic of frustration, there is still a lot of obscurity in this topic. It is no accident that doubts are even expressed about the need for the concept of frustration, since the phenomena it covers are diverse and can be explained without resorting to this concept. So, in particular, Reed Lawson raises the question in the book “Frustration. Development of a scientific concept ”[18; 58, 60]. ‘This book is an attempt to show the modern setting and various solutions to this problem. In the book, in addition to a large generalizing article by the specified author under the heading “Searches and Arguments”, eight articles by various authors expressing a different approach to frustration are given.
There are difficulties in understanding the very term “frustration”. If we turn to the philology of this term, then frustration means disorder (of plans), destruction (of plans), that is, it indicates some kind of traumatic situation in a certain sense of the word, in which failure is suffered. As we will see below, the philology of the term is close to the widespread, though not widely accepted, understanding of frustration. Frustration should be seen in the context of the broader problem of endurance in relation to life difficulties and reactions to these difficulties.
IP Pavlov spoke many times about the difficulties of life that cause unfavorable conditions of the cerebral cortex. In one of the clinical environments, he made a characteristic confession: “In general, life is always unpleasant, continuous difficulty, and this difficulty makes itself felt when the nervous system has already been knocked down. We must consider that life is always difficult ”[3; 213]. In another clinical environment, Pavlov said that “difficult life situations cause either extreme agitation or depression” (3; 555). But difficulties in life can be divided into two categories. There are difficulties that are quite surmountable, although tremendous efforts are often required to overcome them. As Ushinsky pointed out, every work is associated with difficulties. These are often the difficulties, the overcoming of which is one of the conditions for the mental development of a person and his mastery of professional qualifications. When they talk about perseverance, they mean that character trait that is expressed in the struggle with difficulties, in overcoming obstacles. The concept of frustration does not apply to such difficulties, and if it does, it only applies to those cases when completely surmountable difficulties are subjectively perceived as insurmountable, when a person surrenders to them.
Other difficulties in life are among the insurmountable, or, carefully speaking, almost insurmountable (some difficulties that are insurmountable at the present time, for example, in the fight against cancer, will probably be overcome in the future). Researchers of frustration study those difficulties that are truly insurmountable obstacles or barriers, barriers that stand in the way of achieving a goal, solving a problem, and meeting a need.
But can all the insurmountable difficulties in life be reduced to barriers that block the intended action? MI Kalinin, in one of his conversations with high school students, talked about life pricks, disappointments and adversities, which require firmness to endure. character [1; 197]. Indeed, there are life difficulties, often arising unexpectedly as one or another kind of adversity or misfortune, which can be called barriers or barriers only conditionally, since they impede well-being, happiness.
The phenomena of frustration are most studied in relation to the barriers to activity, and therefore in the future we will focus on precisely such situations when the activity is blocked due to insurmountable obstacles, although the scope of frustration cannot be limited to such situations. There are ambiguities as to what to attribute the term frustration to: to an external cause (situation) or to the reaction it causes (mental state or individual reactions). In the literature you can find another use of the term. It would be expedient, in the same way as distinguishing stress – a mental state from a stressor – its causative agent, similarly distinguishing between a frustrator and frustration – an external cause and its effect on the body and personality. Although the term frustration in the literature is of little use, we will use it in the following exposition, using the term frustration – mainly to indicate the state provoked by the frustration. Such use of words prevents confusion in concepts and corresponds to the essence of the matter.
Referring to the definitions of frustration available in the literature, one can proceed from its definition given by S. Rosenzweig, a prominent researcher of this problem in the United States, according to which frustration “takes place when the body encounters more or less insurmountable obstacles or obstructions on the way to the satisfaction of any – or a vital need “(24; 379-388). Apparently, here frustration is viewed as a phenomenon that occurs in the body, in its adaptation to the environment. But a person is a social being, a personality, and therefore the considered definition, which limits frustration to biological interpretation, is completely insufficient.
According to the definition given by Brown and Farber [8], frustration is the result of conditions under which the expected reaction is either prevented or inhibited. Lawson, interpreting the position of these authors, explains that frustration is a conflict between two tendencies: the one that belongs to the type of connection “goal-reaction”, and the one that arose under the influence of interfering conditions [18; 31]. Brown and Farber emphasize the contradictions that arise from the action of frustrators, and it is this contradiction that explains the emotionality, which usually distinguishes reactions in these situations. Ardently supporting these authors in an effort to distinguish between an external cause and the state caused by it, Childe and Waterhouse [9], in contrast to Brown and Farber, recommend to call frustration only the fact (Event) interference, studying its effect on the activity of the organism, but do not lead to such word usage of any developed justifications. Based on the concept of frustration as a mental state, we give it the following definition: frustration is a person’s state expressed in the characteristic features of experiences and behavior and caused by objectively insurmountable (or subjectively understood) difficulties that arise on the way to achieving a goal or solving a problem. As applied to animals, the definition is as follows: frustration is a state of an animal, expressed in characteristic reactions and caused by difficulties that arise on the way to meeting biological needs. The need for two definitions is dictated by the fact that an animal is a biological creature, and a person is a public one, and frustration has different significance and different causes in humans and animals, although there is much in common in this state, as provoked by “barriers” that block activity. There are attempts to elevate the phenomenon of frustration to the rank of completely regular phenomena that necessarily arise in the life of the organism and personality. Thus, Mayer [19] believes that the behavior of an animal or a person depends on two potentials. The first of these is the “repertoire of behavior”, determined by heredity, developmental conditions and life experience. The second potential is constituted by selective or selection processes and mechanisms. They, in turn, are subdivided into those acting with motivated activity and those arising from frustration. The former function when the activity is aimed at achieving a goal based on appropriate motives, one of which (very important) is the satisfaction of needs. In such cases, behavior is always the path to solving the problem. Quite different electoral processes and mechanisms take place during frustration: while motivated and purposeful behavior is distinguished by variability, constructiveness or maturity and “exercise in freedom of choice”, the unfocused behavior characteristic of frustration is characterized by destructiveness, rigidity, and immaturity. There is doubt as to whether frustration can be considered unjustified. If by it we understand how this is wanted, for example, by Childe and Waterhouse, an external reason (barrier or obstruction), then one of two things is possible: either this barrier is overcome, and in this case the behavior will be not only motivated, but also reasonably motivated, or the barrier causes inappropriate, and sometimes, indeed, destructive behavior. But even then it cannot be said that behavior is not motivated by anything and does not pursue any goal. The mere fact that it is attributed to selective forms of behavior indicates that it has its own motivation.
Although the concept of frustration is used in the arsenal of Freudianism, it cannot be considered necessarily associated with it. The problem of the barrier that blocks activity is posed by Kurt Lewin without the direct influence of Freudianism. Many psychologists who conduct a large experimental work on frustration are not Freudians at all. In particular, it would be ridiculous to suspect Freudian researchers of frustration conducting experiments on animals – and there are many of them.
The work on frustration carried out from the standpoint of Freudianism and neo-Freudianism should be categorically rejected. These positions are based on the fantasy of the struggle between “id” (unconscious but powerful drives), “ego” (personality with its psyche) and “superego” (principles of behavior, social norms and “values”). This struggle is full of frustration, understood as suppression by “censorship”, which is a function of the “superego,” the drives that a person has been obsessed with since childhood and which are significant (neo-Freudian) or fully (in Freud’s) sexual nature. Freudianism belittles the role of consciousness and the specific social conditions of human development. Instead of vital needs, conscious purposeful actions, Freudianism puts in the foreground some kind of “subsoil” fatal forces, which supposedly determine the behavior of a person doomed to constant frustration, since the “superego” resists the manifestations of “id”.
Particularly vicious are the attempts to use the doctrine of frustration in its Freudian interpretation to explain social phenomena, attempts to take it into the arsenal of social psychology. So, for example, in the book of Dollard, Dub, Miller, Mauer and Sears “Frustration and Aggression” [13], even such phenomena as war are reduced to the drama of infringement of personal desires, requests and hopes. L. Berkovits [7] considers the aggression arising in social relations to be nothing more than a manifestation of frustration – a conflict between a person with his violently asserting instincts and the environment, considered “in general” as something unchanging and hostile to a person. The anthropologist B. Malinovsky [21] ascribes to the natives a susceptibility to frustration in the form of aggression, as if inherent in them by nature. With this “discovery”, he tries to explain the struggle of the natives with the colonialists, leaving aside the specific conditions of enslavement and exploitation that encourage the indigenous population to rebel against colonial oppression.
Meyer in his article “The Role of Frustration in Social Movements” [20] draws on the phenomena of frustration as an explanation of the relationship between countries. He, for example, declares: “We were more afraid of Russia because we were afraid of its goals more than the frustrations of Japan and Germany.” At the same time, it would be wrong to associate all works on social psychology carried out abroad with Freudianism and, in particular, with frustration in its Freudian interpretation. So, in the large collective work “Current Problems in Social Psychology” [15], which contains articles by 51 authors, Freudianism and psychology occupy an insignificant place, and frustration is mentioned only occasionally. This, of course, does not mean that social psychology in the United States, which does not take the position of Freudianism, does not have very significant shortcomings, and, in particular, in the psychologicalization of the driving forces of social development. The influence of behaviorism is very strongly manifested in the USA in works on frustration. Lawson explicitly states: “In short, the interest in frustration as an internal state, from a behavioristic point of view, distorts the problem, makes it a pseudo-problem” [18; 7]. The existence of what is called the inner world of a person, the existence of consciousness, direction as a system of attitudes and experiences by behaviorism is either denied or recognized as something not worthy of scientific study. However, the requirement of objectivity in psychology does not mean a denial of the inner world of a person, but an incentive to cognize it by the most objective methods, which include not only experiment, but also observations, as well as a verbal report, which always includes some elements of self-observation. The behaviorist position impoverishes the study of frustration, simplifies and sometimes distorts this complex phenomenon, socially determined in humans.
Usually, frustration is studied as a reaction to those stimuli or those situations that can be called frustrators. If by reaction we mean everything that is provoked by a frustrator in an animal or a person, including a mental state, then one cannot object to this. But speaking of frustration as a reaction, foreign researchers usually mean the movements and actions performed, not taking into account the fact that the same movements and actions in the psychological sense can be ambiguous. Often a very strong and deep experience of frustration is weakly expressed externally, it seems to go deep, just as in the case of grief some people do not cry, outwardly remain calm, and yet they can feel grief. stronger than those people who in similar cases shed profuse tears.
It is characteristic that psychologists who object to the study of mental states in frustration, nevertheless, are forced to talk about them, and even the same Lawson, among the “dependent variables” allocated to him during frustration, calls “changes in imagination and emotionality”. The mental state caused by a frustrator undoubtedly depends on the type of this frustrator. S. Rosenzweig [24; I51] identified three types of such situations. He attributed privation to the first, i.e. lack of the necessary means to achieve a goal or satisfy a need. As an illustration of “external deprivation”, i.e. cases when the frustration is outside the person himself, Rosenzweig brings a situation where a person is hungry and cannot get food. An example of internal deprivation, that is, with a frustrator rooted in the person himself, is a situation when a person feels attraction to a woman and at the same time realizes that he himself is so unattractive that he cannot count on reciprocity. The second type is deprivation. Examples: death of a loved one; the house in which they lived for a long time burned down (external loss); Samson, losing his hair, which, according to legend, was all his strength (inner loss).
The third type of situation is conflict. Illustrating a case of external conflict, Rosenzweig gives an example of a man who loves a woman who remains faithful to her husband. An example of an internal conflict: a man would like to seduce his beloved woman, but this desire is blocked by the idea of ​​what would happen if someone would seduce his mother or sister.
The above typology of situations that cause frustration raises great objections: the death of a loved one and love episodes are placed in one row, conflicts that relate to the struggle of motives, to states that are often not accompanied by frustration, are unsuccessfully highlighted. It’s not at all good to call conflict cases when a person encounters an external insurmountable barrier on his way. According to this logic, one should speak, for example, about the state of conflict with a turbulent river, which turned out to be an insurmountable obstacle for a person. But leaving these remarks aside, we must say that the mental states of loss, deprivation, and conflict are very different. They are far from identical with various losses, hardships and conflicts depending on their content, strength and significance. With all this, we believe, it is still possible to single out some typical states that are often found under the action of frustrators, although they manifest themselves each time in an individual form. First of all, it is necessary to indicate those cases when frustrations do not cause frustration. In the literature, they are often referred to as tolerance, i.e. patience, endurance, the absence of heavy experiences and harsh reactions, despite the presence of frustrators.
There are different forms of tolerance.
The most “healthy” and desirable should be considered a mental state, characterized, despite the presence of frustrators, calmness, prudence, readiness to use what happened as a life lesson, but without much complaint about oneself, which would already mean not tolerance, but frustration.
Tolerance can be expressed, however, not only in a completely calm state, but also in a certain tension, effort, and containment of undesirable impulsive reactions.
Finally, there is a tolerance of the type of flaunting with accentuated indifference, which in some cases masks carefully concealed anger or despondency.
Tolerance can be nurtured. In the experiment of Keister and Epdegref [16], children practiced solving problems according to the so-called method of successive approximation, in which the difficulty of the problems gradually increases. Children trained in assessing the difficulty of tasks and as a result, they developed a “sober”, calm attitude, even to insoluble tasks.
Dewitz [12] showed by his experiment that children accustomed to behave calmly and play amicably with other children in their usual conditions showed less aggressiveness in frustration than children brought up in a less calm environment.
Tolerance regarding barriers that can be called reasonable and necessary is mandatory. The term tolerance in this case is not even adequate. It is not about “enduring” these barriers, but about recognizing all their necessity and usefulness, considering them to be good for oneself and experiencing frustration rather when these barriers are insufficient (for example, in the so-called “loose” collective or in a classroom where the teacher cannot provide discipline).
What are the mental states in those cases. ”When there is no tolerance, but there is frustration?
It should be said from the very beginning that these states are different and depend on different reasons, the significance of their action, habits to them, the individual characteristics of the subject play an important role; the same frustrator can cause completely different reactions in different people. In American literature, there is a very common tendency among the reactions to a frustrator to highlight aggression. There is an attempt to interpret any aggression as frustration. For example, Miller, Mauer, Oak, and Dollard — the workers at the Institute of Human Relations at the University of Iels, [22] stand at this position. One of the articles of these authors says: “The student of human nature should be told that when he sees aggression, he should suspect whether there is frustration here, and that when he sees interference with the habits of an individual or group, one should be wary of whether all other aggression ”[22; 337]. Although these authors reject the accusation that they reduce all frustration to aggression, they emphasize aggressive reactions to frustration so much that their theory of frustration is usually called the theory of frustration – aggression. We believe that there is no reason to consider aggression as the only reaction to frustration. But this form of reaction is observed very often.
What is meant by aggression?
According to the direct meaning of the word, it is an attack on one’s own initiative with the aim of seizing. When talking about frustration, the term aggression is given a broader meaning. We are talking about a condition that may include not only a direct attack, but also a threat, a desire to attack, hostility. The state of aggression can be outwardly pronounced, for example, in pugnaciousness, rudeness, “cockiness”, or it can be more “hidden”, having the form of latent ill will and anger. Outwardly seeming aggressive reaction may actually not be the same, for example, when the student, as they say, “gives back”. A typical state in the so-called aggression is characterized by an acute, often affective experience of anger, impulsive disorderly activity, malice, and in some cases a desire to “take evil away” on someone and even on something. Roughness is a fairly common manifestation of aggression.
IP Pavlov gives such an example of an aggressive breakdown in himself: “When the experiment did not go, but the experiment was done by the assistant, then the devil knows what words I made at his address, which I would never have allowed, I threw the tools etc.” [3; 179]. In one of the clinical environments, there is a case when a friend asked Pavlov to wake him up, and when Pavlov fulfilled this request, a friend, a quite “decent” man, threw a pillow at him [3; 365].
In both examples, loss of self-control, anger, and unnecessary aggressive actions come to the fore. Pupils who “failed” in the exam, sometimes without making any open aggressive actions, at the same time, show anger, a desire to transfer the blame to innocent people, more often to an “unfair”, “picky” teacher, and sometimes “to comrades and even parents who seemed to interfere with their proper preparation for the exam.
Attempts to link aggression with a certain level of personality development should be rejected, as G. Anderson, for example, did. [4; 13]. He proposed to distinguish six levels of personality development. The highest level – socially holistic behavior – is characterized by submission, recognition of dominance. This is followed by a level called “avoidance of dominance” and differing, apparently, in its formal recognition, if you want to find some workarounds. The third level is characterized by aggression, hostility, anger.

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