Frustration is the unpleasant experience when things are not working the way you want them to work1. The key in frustration is that it happens when you are trying to achieve something – print a document, convince a friend to go see a movie with you, or catch a train – but you run into problems – e.g., a paper jam, an unwilling friend, or sloppy planning on your part, respectively. The event becomes an obstacle – something that get into the way of achieving what you want2. Unlike some other anger-emotions, there is not a clear candidate for blame in a frustrating event – except possibly oneself. The printer is not too blame, although perhaps the manufacturer or your colleagues are, but that is not the focus in frustration. Neither is the friend, who has every right to organize her evening as she pleases. In some people, especially those that find it difficult not to blame others for their misfortune, frustration often leads to anger. Someone who misses their train can blame the rail company, even if the train ran exactly according to schedule. He could grudgingly argue that the trains are always late, except when he is late himself.
The obstacle in frustration can take several forms – it can be physical (e.g., not being able to thread a needle), mental (e.g., not being able to solve a crossword), or social (not being able to impress someone). Frustrations can be very short-lived (e.g., not getting the toaster to pop down), or growing for years (e.g., being unable to maintain a relationship). Frustration is often related to our own inability to do things. The objects you interact with could be faulty, but it can also partially be blamed on your own clumsiness, ignorance or incompetence3.
As long as it is not pushed too far, frustration can drive people to become more determined to solve the case, so that they are not ‘beaten’ by the obstacle. If they eventually succeed, this will be accompanied by a sense of satisfaction that would not have emerged without the obstacle. This is the underlying pleasure in puzzles and games. However, if after repeated attempts the obstacle is not overcome, the energy that had been building up over the course of the attempts can then be expressed in less constructive ways.
In the comic, Murphy is trying to start a presentation while everyone is waiting. He keeps running into problems and it seems that every action makes it worse.