How to Handle Psychological Frustration and Conflict Successfully


The concept of adjustment is associated with what may be called living dynamic, liable systems to change from time to time. As identified by Ibudeh (1990) these systems may be.

Systems of organs, psychological systems or personality systems, groups of individuals, that is, social systems closely structured social systems such as social organization. Such systems as are engaged in an exchange with the surrounding world are known as open systems.

It is believed that, in the process of adjustment, forces are balanced mutually within the systems with forces originating from the environment.

The immediate goal of the process may be the interaction of the system with the environment. The environment within which adjustment occurs is identified by Ibudeh (1990) as follows:

Physical environment


This is defined by the physical characteristics of the environment in which the individual lives. The city plan, the way to school, the characteristics of the school building, facilities for leisure time activities, etc.

The micro-environment

This is defined as the social system within which the individual interacts directly, in the family, at school, in peer groups, and during leisure time.

The macro-social environment

This is the society to which the individual belongs, with its social, economic, political, and cultural structure, its laws and regulations, its usages, and customs.


The course of behavior does not always run smoothly. Things that is likely to avert us from reaching the goals may happen. The term frustration refers to the blocking of behavior that is directed towards a goal.

Therefore, it results in an emotional feeling of depression, guilt, anger, etc. If motives are obstructed or blocked, emotional feelings and behavior often result.

People who cannot achieve important goals may feel depressed, fearful, anxious, guilty, or angry.

Satisfaction of needs seldom can be attained without some measures of struggle and delay. Our delay and interference are prolonged, and when the needs are urgent, psychological tension increases.

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When the tension persists in the same person at different times, disorganization of behavior occurs (Ibudeh, 1980). Frustration could be regarded as the level of tension, which produces irrational, disorganized conduct or behavior.

This meaning of the word corresponds roughly to the usage adopted by Maier (1949). Maier (1949) distinguished between motivated behavior and frustrated-instigated behavior. The former refers to flexible, voluntary behavior in pursuit of some goals. A frustrated person cannot reason and cannot behave in effective ways.

Multitudinal sources of frustration

Generally speaking, the causes of frustration are to be found in the following:

  • Environmental forces that block motive fulfillment (delay)
  • Personal and interpersonal inadequacies that make it impossible to reach goals (lack of resources)
  • The conflict between motives (dilemma)
  • Economic factors (financial)
  • Societal factors ( society)
  • Occupational factors (bring positive returns)

Frustration is important not only because of the psychological discomfort it results in but because of certain other effects. It seems clear therefore that there is not a single immediate result of frustration, but that several different things may happen.

Frustration can lead to (a) need or goal enhancement, (b) aggression, and (c) regression. The need or objects that satisfy the needs (goals) are enhanced in the situation of mild frustration.

Wright (1937) found that adults who sought after the harder-to-reach desert dished in a cafeteria and people that are prone to buy ostentatious things are liable to be cheated.

And that children rated toys as more desirable when they were enclosed than when were easily available on a table. Frustration has traditionally been identified as a cause of aggression. We kick the car that will not run and curse the rain that spoils our way. The aggression itself may be frustrated by physical, psychological, or, social barriers, in whichcase, the attack may be shifted to a substitute and often innocent object or person.

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This is displaced aggression. One of the classical theories in psychology, a hypothesis has been formulated called the frustration-aggression hypothesis has been formulated by Dollard and his Associates (Dollard, Dood, Miller, Mowren, and Sears (1963) the frustration-aggression hypothesis simply stated that aggression always presupposes frustration, and that frustration is always followed by aggression.

It has been demonstrated that there are situations in which aggression can occur without a frustrating stimulus (Bandur and Walters, 1963) and that although frustration causes “instigation to aggression will not always occur (Berkowitz, 1965)

Regression can also occur in the face of frustration; regression is the return to earlier, less adaptative ways of behaving.

It may involve a return to earlier forms of activity to reach a current goal (instrumental act regression), or selection of a goal once held at an earlier time (object regression), or a reversion to earlier, less mature needs (need regression)

It has also been defined as a return to more primitive or infinitive modes of response, either, (i) retrogression to behavior engaged in when younger, or (ii) prioritization, that is, more infantile or childlike behavior, but not necessarily that which occurred in the individual earlier life.

When frustrated, there are several things (coping behavior responses) one can do. He or she may

  • Redouble his or her efforts, for he or she may have been blocked because of insufficient effort, that is, he or she may attack the obstacle.
  • Seek a new route to the goal which circumvents the block or barriers.
  • Redefine the situation, decide on another goal, or accept a compromise, that is, withdraw from the situation.


Conflict exists whenever there are two or more competing needs of motivation, especially, when not all can be satisfied. There are only three kinds of conflict situations.

Approach-approach conflict

In this case, two positives exist, but both cannot be attained – one or the other must be chosen. An example is trying to decide whether you should spend the evening at a movie or watching a favorite TV program or studying for a quickly approaching examination.

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An approach-approach conflict is usually easily resolved (you can see the movies tomorrow unless the movies for both incentives are very strong and the goals are indeed incompatible)

Avoidance-avoidance conflict

This conflict results when the choice is between two negative alternatives or incentives. For example, one may have to decide which of the two dull courses to study for tonight.

The most distinctive feature of avoidance–avoidance conflict is that it is usually difficult to solve, especially if both incentives are strongly negative (100 years in prison or death by hanging).

Often, we fail to make any decision at all, attempting instead to remove ourselves from the conflict situation, for example, by watching the TV and not studying at all.

Approach-avoidance conflict

Frequently, a goal or incentive has both positive and negative aspects, resulting in both approach and avoidance responses.

For example, food that you find particularly tasty may cause weight gain and cavities or be destructive to your system. In this type of conflict, “distance” from the incentive appears to be important.

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