How to Tell the Difference Between Frustration and Negativity

Bryce Post
4 min readFeb 27, 2017


After the 2016 Presidential Election, for many it feels like there’s an ongoing dogma of stress and frustration due to the political discourse. But, it’s important to remember that everyone gets frustrated from time to time. The other day I burned one of my fingers on a frying pan while cooking.

In that moment, I could have kept listening to my negative mind thoughts that started berating me with countless unpleasantries of how I should have “known better,” why I was a terrible cook and so forth. I could have, but I didn’t. Instead, I took a breath, brought myself back to the present and laughed off the incident as a random moment of careless misfortune.

It’s in moments like that there seems to reside a little confusion for some folks. It can be difficult to distinguish the differences between frustration and negativity. Hopefully this article clears up a few things.

Frustration is natural. It’s born from a desired attempt at performing or acquiring something. It’s what one feels upon arriving at a store to buy some apples only to discover mere minutes ago someone else bought the last few. Frustration is when a loved one acts in a way that hurts or offends something in us. Grunts, sighs or maybe some cartoonish muttering often follow that feeling of frustration, which signal a mild discomfort to the rest of the world.

While there are parts of the ongoing and evolving positivity movement that I happen to resonate with, sometimes it seems both followers and leaders alike can misinterpret those ideas. For example, after burning my finger, for a few moments there was no way positive thoughts could be conjured in my mind because of the discomfort coursing through me. I recognize some monks can sit in pots of boiling oil without flinching, however like the majority of the population, I’m nowhere near that level of mental and emotional fortitude.

We need to remember that frustration is natural and it’s ok to feel it. It’s an organic emotion.

Negativity on the other hand, is a perpetuation of frustration, often projected on to others. Negativity is taking frustrations out on people, although sometimes those feeling it are caught up in a bevy of emotions. Negativity can also be purposeful, used as a way to stir up trouble by inciting unabashed corrosive rhetoric and/or passive aggressiveness.

Doubt is often, but not always associated with negativity. I think a smidgen of doubt is ok to feel, as it at least shows an openness to the possibility of something not occurring as planned. However, once it seems like the mind of someone else or your own is drowning a situation or idea with doubt, that’s the negativity taking over.

Remembering the hypothetical situation about going to the store to buy some apples? While one might quite naturally feel frustrated at discovering someone bought the last few just before you showed up, a negative response would be yelling at the produce manager.

Being around someone or something negative can be frustrating. But, how we react in those moments determine if one is moving through natural frustrations or poisoned with negativity. This isn’t to say we shouldn’t call out others who are being negative. Quite the contrary; a negative reply isn’t the only way to respond to someone, and just because one is responding does NOT mean they are automatically engaging in something negative.

I think negativity is an insufficient use of time, as it only exacerbates frustration in the person feeling it and those around. Frustration is not a waste of time and should be expressed because it’s an all-natural, home grown 100% authentic batteries not included emotion. But it becomes more of a detriment when one attempts to suppress frustration out of fear of being perceived negatively. THAT is a sacrifice of self-expression. I must concede that expressing negativity is also someone’s self-expression. But what is the end goal of expressing such discontent? I encourage everyone to ask this question to those who liberally express negativity.

There is another important important distinction to make in regards to frustration, specifically when it seems to occur chronically. Should one be feeling multiple bouts of frustration over long periods of time (more than three to six months), then perhaps steps should be taken to discover why this continues, either with meditation or therapy.

Sometimes, it takes a while to discover these depths within ourselves. As an example, think of emotions the same as the entire spectrum of color. Over the years however, many have learned some unhealthy habits in regards to expressing and suppressing emotions. Because of this, many aren’t aware of a whole detailed gamut of emotions are available to express. This has the potential to cause a great deal of frustration.

But remember, those moments of frustration reveal a lot about all of us. It’s in those moments of frustration we are being tested to respond with compassion or negativity to ourselves and the world around us. In those moments of frustration, what will you choose?

This article has been edited from it’s original form that appeared on Enlightenment Is Sexy. If this article resonated with you in some way, feel free to like or follow. Some other articles of mine may appear below too. Feel free to read them. Thank you for being.



Bryce Post

is a writer that always seems to be working on at least five different projects while attempting to share musings and revelations on a regular-ish basis.