Our frustrations are often blamed on modern society, but monkeys had the same frustrations 50 million years ago. They could climb a high tree for a juicy mango only to have it snatched from them by a fellow monkey. They evolved a brain that thrives on frustration, and we have inherited it. Our brain releases happy chemicals when we overcome an obstacle. But unhappy chemicals serve us too, by letting us know when Plan B is a better use of our energy. Frustration leads to new ways to feel good. Here are some examples.
Cracking nuts open is frustrating, but a monkey needs the protein. It will bang away at a nut for a long time because dopamine triggers a great feeling when a reward is anticipated. Persistence often works, but not always. If your technique is flawed or you’ve picked up a bad nut, persistence gets you nowhere. Knowing when to stop and try something different is the way to succeed. Frustration helps a monkey know when to stop. Giving in to frustration quickly is a bad strategy, but it’s also bad to ignore frustration forever.