You dictionary, and the thesaurus. The Oxford English

You stand at the desk, essay in hand. A C- written in blue pen over the first page. A sea of horrible emotions flows into your head as you try to understand why you got such a low grade on the essay you worked so hard on.  You begin to almost black out, clear arguments followed by half-hearted answers are fired back at you. You feel no matter what you do, there is no way you can convince the teacher you are right. An impenetrable wall builds up in your throat. You give up, and you walk out of the room. The teacher goes back on her phone to play games, with a stack of ungraded papers on her desk. You are forced to calm down and your sea of emotions pours out of you into a pool of defeat. What is this wave?  Frustration. It’s a word I hear all the time, but do I really understand what it means?  I begin looking for a definition in the traditional places, the dictionary, and the thesaurus. The Oxford English Dictionary defines frustration as the action of disappointment; defeat (“Frustration, N” def 1 and 2).  But disappointment and defeat seem like completely different definitions. Why are there two definitions of this word?  Maybe it could be a shift in use over time. I move on to the Oxford Paperback Thesaurus to see what that says.  It also has two synonyms: 1. He clenched his fists in frustration: disappointment. 2. The frustration of his attempts to introduce changes: failure (“Frustration”). So it seems there are two meanings of frustration. Not sure where to go, I go to a book of quotes to find what other people say about frustration. Herbert Bayard Swope says, “I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure” (Swope). From the thesaurus, I learned that failure is frustration. So a way to interpret Swope’s quote is that if you’re frustrated, you’re not succeeding. I begin to understand that frustration is an identifier for failure. So I’ve learned that frustration is a tool to help you know that something is going wrong.  But is it a good tool, one that helps you identify that you’re failing. Or is it a bad tool, that isn’t helpful.   I turn to the story of Sisyphus in an effort to look back in time to understand how frustration was defined in the past.   The story of Sisyphus talks about the King of Corinth,  who is condemned in Tartarus to an eternity of rolling a boulder uphill, and then watching it roll back down again. Sisyphus is frustrated with the gods about his punishment. How could this possibly be a good tool? Or an even a tool?  What was Sisyphus supposed to learn, and how was frustration helping him to be more successful? I search the newspaper for news stories about frustration. The New York Times’ Pranay Sinha wrote an article called “Why Do Doctors Commit Suicide?”  In it she quotes a statistic that says that physicians are twice as likely as the rest of the population to take their own life.  I wonder why this is occurring.    It’s surprising because I think of doctors as very patient people. In Childish Gambino’s song 3005, he says “Got no patience, cause I’m not a doctor”. There’s a stereotype that doctors are very patient people. But the reality seems to be that they find helping other people to be very stressful.  I ask my Scoutmaster, Dr. Curtis Lehman MD, to shed some light on this subject.  Dr. Lehman is an Emergency Department Physician. To start off, I ask him what sort of frustrations occur in the department. He replies, “My number one frustration is patients not taking care of themselves and ending up my emergency department, whether that’s smoking, drinking or doing drugs.”(Lehman).  I ask him why he thinks such a large number of physicians experience depression.  He replies, “The number one cause is burn out and frustration is a large part of that, but it’s not the only part. Like I said earlier, problems with other doctors, administration, and patients. Social isolation because of odd hours could affect this. It really depends on the person”(Lehman). So what can you do to prevent it? “The number one thing is to be aware of it.”(Lehman).  I know him as a very patient person.  In fact, during our interview, one of our scouts threw up everywhere. We took a break to boil water and clean up the mess. I asked what his best method of calming down is. “Sometimes it’s important to step back and take a deep breath”(Lehman). I ask him about the idea of frustration as a tool. “I think that it would be a good tool for knowing something is wrong but, you need to recognize that you’re frustrated first. Which is hard for most people, even me, I feel myself taking breaths often.”(Lehman) So I realize that maybe I am on the right path. I move on to Shakespeare. In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Malcolm is convincing Macduff to take revenge on Macbeth for murdering his wife. His frustration and anger are evolving into guilt, but Malcolm quickly convinces MacDuff to take revenge. I can see that in moments of frustration, emotions make people easily susceptible to outside influences. So this further advances my idea that frustration is a good tool.  But frustration is a negative emotion, so does this mean it could mean that you could use ir for an evil purpose? Using my gained knowledge from the last source, Shakespeare, I decide to look into my pop culture source. I find that Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith is a good example. During Anakin Skywalker’s time as a Jedi, he feels frustrations with the Jedi Council. He feels that they are purposely ignoring his potential by not making him a Jedi Master. They see hate and anger in him, so they do not invite him to the council.  This frustrates him. Palpatine, who is interested in defeating the Jedi Council, recognizes Anakin’s frustrations and tries to use them to manipulate Anakin into helping him defeat the Jedi Council. And it works. Yoda notices this before it happens.  He says,  “Anger leads to hate…hate leads to suffering.”  He sees Anakin’s anger and warns him about it, telling him that it will lead to suffering and the Dark Side. But Anakin ignores Yoda’s warning. So frustration can be used as a tool for bad. What about good? Determined to find an example of the use of frustration as a tool for good, I turn to my religious work. I find in Holy Bible, New International Version, a quote from the book of Ecclesiastes. It says, “Frustration is better than laughter because a sad face is good for the heart.”(Holy Bible, Ecclesiastes 7:3). What this is saying is that frustration is good for you because it toughens you up. It makes you stronger as a person by teaching you lessons. While researching this, I find different synonyms of frustration. In the Christian Standard Bible, they make frustration into grief (Holy Bible, Ecclesiastes 7:3). In the 21st Century King James version, they make frustration into sorrow (Holy Bible, Ecclesiastes 7:3). So that is a third definition of frustration: sadness. The definition of frustration is expanding constantly in my research. I find a poem called “Frustration” by Don Marquis, He talks about how he will ask for something and will receive something half-hearted back. “If I should order elephant. They’d put a camel on my plate.”(Marquis 9-10). He feels frustrated with the world because he feels that the world is ignoring him. Now I feel frustrated.  My last two sources, the spiritual source and the poem, haven’t given me a solid answer about whether frustration is a good tool. So I use what I have learned, take a step back and try another way to figure this out.    My last source, Interview #2, is the turning point in my research. My interview is with Marybeth Kufen, a Kindergarten teacher at Mary D. Lang Kindergarten Center in Kennett Square, PA. She teaches students not only with disabilities,  but also some who don’t even speak English. Imagine trying to teach a five-year-old how day and night relates to the rotation of the earth. Now imagine trying to teach a five-year-old how day and night relates to the rotation of the earth, and the five-year-old doesn’t speak English. And yes, this is something Marybeth Kufen teaches to her students. This seems impossible, right? But Marybeth has been teaching these classes since 2006. I ask how she adapts to these conditions in the classroom. “I always have a small pocket English to Spanish dictionary on my desk if needed, but we also have interpreters in the building on standby. And if all else fails, about fifty percent of the staff are fluent in Spanish.”(Kufen).  I ask her what sort of lessons she has learned during her career? “When I was first teaching, there was a boy named Ryder. He was a troublesome child, and most of my teaching tricks didn’t work on him. So I got pretty frustrated with him. One day I got a call from his mother saying that he felt like he was being yelled at every day, so I stepped back and took another approach to the situation. I tried being kinder and paid more attention to him. And it worked. I’ve been using this idea that if I’m frustrated, I’m probably doing something wrong.”(Kufen). Marybeth uses her frustration as an indicator of when something is wrong. And it works. She says she has a similar situation going on this year with a boy named Miles, and her radar detection of frustration is really helping her manage Miles. And by the way, Marybeth Kufen is my mother and I gave her that pocket dictionary for her birthday one year. The word frustration can mean a lot of things, It could mean defeat (“Frustration N”, def 2). It could mean annoyance (“Frustration N”, def 1) or even sorrow (Holy Bible, Ecclesiastes 7:3). But I no longer see as just a negative emotion,  I see it as notification that tells me, “Something’s wrong here.”  But it’s not a notification that you just get on your phone at random times, “You need to recognize that you’re frustrated first.”(Lehman). You also have to recognize it as a blip on your radar too. Before I started writing this paper, I just saw frustration as a negative emotion. “There is no humanly possible way to avoid frustration, it’s part of life”(Lehman). And that’s the truth, but instead of avoiding it, embrace it.