The LFT thought-form – managing low frustration tolerance self talk with CBT – guided self help CBT worksheets:

The Low Frustration Tolerance ‘thought form’ worksheet

Many people who suffer from stress disorders develop Low Frustration Tolerance (LFT) – this is a term coined by one of the founding fathers of CBT, Dr Albert Ellis, referring to when we imagine we cannot and will not and should not have to tolerate conditions that frustrate us (eg conditions that cause us discomfort, and anger us). “I WILL NOT  TOLERATE THIS!!!” *tears door off hinges *kicks the cat…

Which of course is not quite rational, given that when we have a stress disorder, pretty much everything frustrates us, so we often cause ourselves and others unnecessary upset by over-responding to events and situations that in reality are in fact not that big a deal, or are even benign or neutral. So how can we learn to be cooler and develop high frustration tolerance and rational awareness and self management of this bad habit? Thought stop, pause and re-evaluate, and manage your self talk and behaviour deliberately – over and over until you have new default ‘good habits’.

‘Know what you can control and what you cannot control, that is the secret to good balance’, (thank you Greek stoics). The idea that we have a supreme ‘entitlement’ not to be caused any discomfort is irrational. Sometimes it simply is what it is, plus note that if stress is distorting your thinking, and causing a trippy nervous system and extreme emotional states, well you can’t even be trusted as a reliable narrator of exactly what the situation is.


Thought Stopping: begin to build a new habit of noticing situations where you are using the low frustration tolerance distorted thinking habit – and consciously and deliberately interrupt and disrupt it. Cool yourself down with rational reframing instead – go from 70% anger to 35% irritation in seconds, then let it go… It’s a science, believe it

Summary: reframe and replace: Notice the LFT – stop it in its tracks – examine it for evidence – and replace it with alternative healthy thinking. Feel better. Behave better. Dump the habit. This strategy works best if you WRITE IT DOWN in the first couple of weeks – find how you explain things to yourself, examine the thinking, and reshape it with actual literal statements that are in your words and language.


This is called ‘learning by discovery, and is more likely to stick in your head as a skill that can be done quickly as a mental task.

The following table gives general examples and shows you how it’s done. Make your own more specific to address your particular patterns:


Low Frustration Tolerance thinking: Reframe with a Rational Thought Replacement
I SHOULD NOT HAVE TO TOLERATE [insert whatever is annoying you, a person and something they’re doing, or whatever it is] – so I will not tolerate this. It’s very silly (irrational) to imagine I shouldn’t have to tolerate things I find frustrating, because my stress is a disorder and I find pretty much everything frustrating! Even benign neutral events. So… that’s not going to work out. It’s more true and rational to thought-stop and remind myself that I’m over responding to events and situations that are not really a big deal, and that I can accept reality in a cooler and more proportional way, and that I do have the resources to cope.

{Breathe it down…. Reframe… )

I CAN NOT TOLERATE [insert whatever it is that you refuse to accept] – so I am justifed in exploding with anger at this INJUSTICE! The idea that I cannot tolerate situations I disapprove of: peoples behaviour, random events, unsatisfactory conditions, and so on, is actually untrue. I CAN tolerate them, I just don’t want to, so I REFUSE TO. Which is quite ridiculous (irrational) since I cannot control others or the world or basic facts and realities, so I’m really just causing myself and others unnecessary upsetness with this kind of ‘rule’ and attitude and behaviour.

It’s more true and rational to say that I would PREFER NOT TO HAVE TO TOLERATE this, but I can tolerate it, and I’m okay, it’s okay.

[know what you can control and what you cannot control, that is the rational thinking core).

I can’t bear [insert whatever it is that you think is making you frustrated / angry / upset]! That’s a bit silly (irrational). If I ‘couldn’t bear it’ I’d drop down dead or burst into flames, because ‘it’ is happening – yet here I am. It’s more true to say that I have problems coping, and I wish I didn’t have to bloody cope, but that I’m doing my best. Accepting that I can’t bear something as true is irrational, and might become a self fulfilling prophecy (it maximises my discomfort and turns on my threat response, usually resulting in self sabotaging, or self defeating, or self limiting, behaviours).

It’s more true and rational to say that I can bear this, I’d just prefer if I bore stress more easily, but I have a stress disorder and I can only do my best – I am doing my best, and my best is good enough – and evolving and changing and getting better…

{breathe it down… and let it go}



Try it for yourself! Download and print a PDF version of this post that contains a blank table page HEREor get a nice notebook and create your own tables.


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