How To Use Frustration as a Tool for Healing

Tips from a chronic pain recovery therapist

image made by author using Canva

Are you feeling frustrated that life isn’t the way it used to be for you?⁠

What if your frustration with the present is actually an invitation into the future? What if the energy of frustration could be used as a springboard for growth?⁠

A very common experience is: Wishing we could go back to a time in our life before the chronic pain or anxiety symptoms developed.⁠

Another very common experience is: Discovering that healing from chronic pain or anxiety requires us to develop a level of self-love that transforms our life for the better in ways we never knew were possible.⁠

Here’s another way to look at frustration. I’m going to compare the healing journey to a theory called “The Four Stages of Competence” (Google it for more info):⁠

Stage 1️⃣: Unconscious Incompetence.⁠

This is when you “don’t know what you don’t know.” You’re blissfully unaware that you’re using short-term coping mechanisms to suppress emotions from stress and trauma, and you have no idea that these coping mechanisms will eventually break down and stop working.⁠

Stage 2️⃣: Conscious Incompetence.⁠

This is a tough stage. Your coping mechanisms start to break down: All of those long-suppressed emotions start breaking through to the surface, either in the form of emotional overwhelm or other symptoms like anxiety, depression, chronic pain, etc. You finally become aware of the distress you’ve been suppressing — but you have no idea what to do about it. This is a time of suffering.⁠

This is a stage when frustration may feel like a longing to go back in time and return to the blissful ignorance of Stage 1.⁠

Stage 3️⃣: Conscious Competence.

Things are starting to look up in this stage — but they can still be quite frustrating. This is the stage when you’ve started to learn some tools to reverse the habit of emotional suppression — tools for acknowledging, processing and finally releasing emotions. Tools that make life as a feeling person more sustainable. Tools that start to offer a ray of hope!

But there’s frustration too, because in this stage you have to use soooo much effort and attention to learn, practice and remember to use these new tools. There are many setbacks along the way and you may find yourself doubting the process and, from time to time, wishing to return to the blissful ignorance of Stage 1.

Stage 4️⃣: Unconscious Competence.

This is where all the hard work of Stage 3 starts to become much easier! The tools for feeling your feelings and releasing them start to become second nature. You’re becoming fluent in acknowledging your emotions, using them to fuel assertive action (like setting boundaries and pursuing passions) and then letting them go once they’ve served their purpose. Life becomes less complicated — and so much more fulfilling than it ever was in Stage 1! It turns out that all the frustration was not trying to pull you back to the past, but was actually pushing you forward into the future 🔮.

What future vision do YOU see for yourself in 2023? Is it a vision of creative expression, adventure, love and connection, spending time in nature, or something else that’s uniquely you?

With love, encouragement and limitless belief in you,

💖 Anna

➡️ If you need support with chronic pain and anxiety, 𝗱𝗼𝘄𝗻𝗹𝗼𝗮𝗱 this FREE resource I created for you: 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗣𝗮𝘀𝘀𝗶𝗼𝗻𝗮𝘁𝗲 𝗖𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘁𝗶𝘃𝗲’𝘀 𝗚𝘂𝗶𝗱𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗼𝗻𝗶𝗰 𝗣𝗮𝗶𝗻 𝗥𝗲𝗰𝗼𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘆.

And follow me on instagram for healing tips, inspiration and encouragement.⁠

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