How a person reacts to frustrations influences the judgments of others and in turn the way he judges himself. Furthermore a person’s manner of reaching to frustrations tends to be consistent and so he soon acquires the reputation of being an immature or a mature person.
One of the commonest and earliest-to-appear patterns of reaction to frustration is aggression in which the frustrated person strikes out at an offending person or object, either physically or verbally and with varying degrees of intensity. While most aggression is extra punitive, in the sense that it is directed toward other, some is intro-punitive, or directed toward the person himself. Most often, however, aggression is displaced. Instead of attacking the person or obstacle responsible for the frustration or blaming himself, the aggressive person directs his attack toward an innocent person or group.
Even intense frustration may not be expressed directly or displaced because the channels for expression are blocked by fear of punishment or social disapproval. The frustrated person then withdraws into himself and becomes inactive, inattentive, and apathetic. He gives the impression that he either is indifferent to frustration and lacking in emotional responsiveness or is “weak” or “spineless”.
Some people regress by not “acting their ages” when faced with frustration. They long for the good old days when they felt capable of meeting life’s challenges and were not frustrated by feeling of adequacy. The married woman who feels incapable of meeting the responsibilities of home and family runs home to mother for help. The man, feeling that running home to mother is “childish,” goes to his pals where he can get his gripes off his chest as he did during the gang days of childhood.
Frustration form thwarted drives has long been regard as a precipitating factor in personality maladjustment. But there has not been universal agreement about exactly how the personality is affected because frustrations are not expressed in just one way. Freud placed emphasis on regression to infantile modes of response as the usual reaction to frustration. Jung contended that continual thwarting resulted in a turning inward of the libido or life urge, thus causing the person to become self-centered and reflective rather than overtly expressive characteristic behavior of the extrovert. Adler maintained that thwarting leads to compensation in which the person is motivated to overcome barriers either by overt behavior or by symbolic expression in fantasy. More recently, Lewin has claimed that the person who encounters seemingly insurmountable barriers will insulate himself from his environment by withdrawing into himself and showing the characteristic behavior of the introvert.
These and similar observations of the behavior of people in frustration situation have emphasized two things: first that there are marked individual differences in the way people react to frustration, with has found to fit his needs best, and second, that most patterns of behavior learned in frustrating situations result in maladjusted forms of behavior.
It is important to recognize, however, that frustration does not always lead to maladjustment. Some people try to relive the emotional stress caused by continued frustration by making a rational attack on the problem. If they fail, they will probably resort to the use of defense mechanism. Under such conditions, ,maladjusted behavior develops with its unfavorable effects on personality.