Living through the 2020/2021 Coronavirus pandemic has been frustrating for all of us. Some are even depressed. Overcoming negativity and frustration might be difficult, but it is possible.
What is it that makes us see the world in a negative light? Frustration. And to move beyond our frustrations requires understanding that they are born of two possibilities: we either feel that we lack something or that we have lost something.
In the first possibility, we want to achieve something. For example fulfilling personal goals, desires, instinctual drives, and needs or dealing with perceived deficiencies, such as a lack of confidence or fear of social situations. We perceive that when we achieve this goal or desire, it will complete or perfect our situation and will make us happy.
In the second possibility, we have lost something, and that loss has altered a situation. For example, we have lost our job, we have gotten a divorce or someone close has passed away. We now perceive that the previous situation to our loss was perfect or complete and happy, so we want to get it back.
In both cases, we are confronted by wanting what we do not have, believing that if what we wanted was within our grasp, we would find happiness. This is the first obstacle to overcoming negativity and frustration.
The American Psychological Association defines frustration as the feeling that arises when we do not obtain something that we expect or when we have lost something and we want it back, but we can’t. Frustration can lead to depression, sadness, low self-esteem and general negative and destructive thought patterns. But where does this frustration come from?
Say, for example, that you have a good life, family, a career you feel passionate about, and friends. But you still have a feeling that something is lacking. You want to connect with another human at a deeper level than you have before. You want to love and feel loved. You want to be married.
But you don’t seem to find a suitable person, and this creates a sense of frustration. Because of this frustration, you are not able to fully enjoy all the other good things in your life.
Often, we find our frustrations rooted in projecting happiness into the future. Believing that when we achieve a future goal, as mentioned here – getting married – or finding a new job, having a child, buying a car, or home, we will be happy and fulfilled. Our life will be perfect. But because we do not have what we want, need, or desire now, we get frustrated or depressed.
We Are Not Perfect, and Neither Is Life, but That Is a Good Thing
A way of understanding perfection is something that requires nothing added – it is complete on its own. If it needed something, then it will not be perfect. Logically, there can only be one Perfect Being, which is Allah.
Allah is unlike all creation, which is a central tenant of the Islamic faith. He is the manifestation of perfection itself so, no one and nothing else can be perfect.
We are not perfect, and our lives are not perfect. And nothing that we can do or acquire can change this fact. We will not become perfect beings after memorizing the whole Quran – although it is a very noble task – neither will our lives become perfect when we reach or achieve a goal or attain a coveted acquisition. Understanding this is the first step towards overcoming negativity and frustration.
But the inability to achieve perfection is not a bad thing. Our imperfections and our imperfect lives remind us that we need Allah, that He alone is perfect. And Allah say:
So remember Me; I will remember you. And be grateful to Me and do not deny Me.Quran, 2:152
A Syrian refugee once shared with me how happy he was to safely arrive in Germany. He was looking forward to building a new life, adding that he could not have achieved this dream without the help of Allah the Almighty. He was grateful.
This person had lost everything. His home, his career and most of his family, including his parents. He was not sure he would be able to go back to Syria anytime soon, but regardless of all this man had lost and left behind, he was grateful.
Instead of being frustrated or depressed; he was grateful for the opportunity to rebuild his life. He chose to see the positive over the negative. That gave him a positive outlook in life despite the difficulties.
How To Overcome Frustration
The way to overcome frustration is to understand that perfection in this life is not possible; perfection belongs solely to Allah.
If we understand this, we will not be waiting for some future event, acquisition, or person to make us happy and complete us. We will understand that every situation has challenges and tests that allow for growth. We can conquer our frustrations by viewing them as stepping stones on our life journey instead of an impediment to happiness.
The Prophet, peace be upon him, told us that every affair is good for the believer. If something good happens to him, he is thankful for it and that is good for him. If something bad happens to him, he bears it with patience and that is good for him (Muslim).
When we stop depending on or striving for a future promise of happiness that will only occur when we gain or achieve a particular objective, it is easier to focus more on our blessings. And when we focus on our present blessings, our gratitude will become more sincere.
This does not mean that we should not desire to improve our situation, but in striving to balance our frustrations with gratitude, we will be able to overcome them and be happier in the present.
In fact, the surest way to increase our blessings is to be grateful. Allah says in the Quran:
If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favour].Quran, 14:7
(From Discovering Islam archive)