Are You Frustrated, Anxious or Angry? Listen Inside, You May Be Tripping!

When you feel frustrated, you may be tripping over a part of you.
When you feel frustrated, you may be tripping over a part of you.


When clients feel frustrated, anxious or angry, one of the things I most enjoy about our work is deeply listening to what's actually happening inside them. Sometimes clients have apologized for what they say to me. This sounds like, “I’m so sorry. You are probably tired of hearing people complain about things.” Or, “I feel silly saying some of this. I mean, people have much bigger problems than I do!” 

The truth is, hearing people's experiences and struggles is truly not tiring for me. In fact, it can be invigorating. Even when someone is frustrated about a relatively routine happening, listening with an understanding ear for what is really going on is an honor. 

You see, for all of us it's tricky to discern the story under our story. This is also true for coaches and therapists – which is why so many of us have people that we talk with as well. It's so important to have the openness and curiosity of another person’s wise eyes and ears when we feel frustrated. 

When people voice frustration – the sense that something is not quite right but all of their good thinking cannot resolve it – I look to see if they are being tripped up somewhere.

In other words, are they tripping? (Not in the drugged sense, though similar to the desire to reach for a drug, the internal interactions that are tripping someone up often arise from a deep desire to get relief from some uncomfortable feeling.) 

Do you recognize it when you’re tripping on some part of you? You most likely know when you feel frustrated, but can you find the part of you that you’re tripping over that may be causing your pain?

It can be very tricky! So here are a few ideas to help you identify and locate what’s in the way when you’re frustrated.

By having a little more access to what’s going on inside of you, you will be better able to keep yourself from falling on your face – metaphorically speaking.

This technique, when you learn it well, can change everything for you. 

In fact, I use this every time I'm feeling strong, uncomfortable feelings like frustration, anxiety, fear or depression. 

Sometimes, when these kinds of feelings are mild, I can do this “on the go” and the feelings move along easily. When my feelings get strong or very stuck – I definitely need to take more time and focus on each step. 

I've witnessed so many changes using this technique for myself and my clients. In fact, it's most often the difference that makes the difference! This model uses Internal Family Systems (IFS), Polyvagal neuroscience and a bit of meditation & journaling.

While there are nuances in experience that can be better detected by a therapist, you can patiently begin using these steps to help your own frustrated feelings. 

  1. Just notice that you're feeling bad. Breathe and accept that, just as a bit of information about what frustrates you.
  2. Listen to what you hear yourself saying in your head about what's making you feel frustrated. Honestly, this is the part that most people instantly and automatically do – and they often stop here. It's important not to stop here, however. When you remain in this “thinking” state, it is the most painful and least productive place to be. In this phase be careful not to react in the outside world based on anything you're thinking or feeling inside yourself. (ie. slooooooowww doooooowwwwn)
  3. Breathe & offer yourself compassion.  Realize that all those difficult thoughts you're having would make anyone feel lousy. Write down the thoughts and keep them as information
  4. Next, breathe and “back up” from what you're tripping on inside yourself. (Cause I'll guarantee you this is where your struggle is arising from). Get enough perspective to kindly observe this part of you that's saying painful things or has yucky feelings.  THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART!
  5. Now, go straight to your body, much as you would if a doctor asked you, “Where does it hurt?” Breathe slowly, consciously, scanning to get information. Where is the sensation that's bothering you come from inside you?
  6.  Take time to get to know the part (or parts) of you that are strongly impacting your thinking and feeling right now. Remember that it is important for you to know this part of you as well as you know your face or the back of your hand. 
  7. As you become aware of this part, breathe, focus and ask questions like: 
    1. How long has this part been with me? (Usually a long, long time) 
    2. Can I be curious or even compassionate toward this painful part in me? (Hopefully, yes. If not, back up and work with the parts that dislike it!) 
    3. What does this part say or believe? (This may be a source of my pain or fear!)
  8. Write down any notes about what you discover about this part of you that was feeling frustrated (or causing you to feel frustrated). HINT: Don't assume you'll remember later!
  9. By this time you may be feeling calmer, lighter and more spacious. Offer yourself a lot of gratitude.

Now that you can see what's tripping you up, you'll recognize you have many more options for moving forward confidently and with less frustration.


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