It’s not you, it’s science… OK! Actually, it is you.
People irritate you easily – Alexandre Porto
· 5 min read
I remember a close friend of mine who one day seemed agitated and looked super bothered by something. He sat down for a moment and let out a loud sight:
— What’s the problem, man?
— Nothing — he responded with a hint of hesitation, — I mean, it’s difficult to explain. Yesterday the simplest thing happened and I lost my temper. And this keeps happening again and again.
I sat down with him. He continued:
— My neighbor is making noises. It’s not like they are throwing parties every night, they are just making normal everyday noises but I still feel my blood boil and I want to pull my hair out every time I hear the slightest noise!
Hearing this I immediately remembered an article that I read on Reddit.
It basically said that many people these days are overstimulated. This means that their sensorial system is exhausted with information of many kinds.
Constant use of modern social media may be the cause of this fatigue of the senses since the user receives flushes of information of all types every day.
Doomscrolling — the concept of scrolling down the social media feed until the end of times.
However, After listening more carefully, I noticed another pattern that scientists of the mind have pointed out as a cause of irritability for almost a century now.
It’s not you, it’s me.
The idea is that one can only be ever bothered by something present in themselves.
The concept is backed by Carl Jung who says that:
Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves. — Carl Jung
To look within ourselves and feel disgusted hurts.
If I find myself horrendous I’ll avoid mirrors like hell.
If I see something that I despise about myself reflected in another’s actions and words I’ll avoid contact with this person.
But if this is impossible I have no choice but to feel the irritation surface from the depths of my core.
Blood rushes to my head and I immediately get snappy and awfully judgemental.
Of course, being judgemental is the right response, but I should be judging my own actions and not other’s.
This is what I told my friend who was irritated about his neighbor. He just can’t possibly avoid his next-door neighbor who lives literally a few meters away. He must find a way to healthily cope with the irritability.
Either deal with it or go crazy.
If Jung’s assessment is correct, my friend must first identify what aspect of the neighbor’s action reminds him of a part of himself that he despises and after this step, promptly work on it.
This is important:
As soon as you identify a part of yourself that you dislike you should immediately face it, and this is neuroscience-backed. Do not procrastinate and do not fear brutal confrontation with the self.
The Real Tragedy is This:
It is often tragic to see how blatantly a man bungles his own life and the lives of others yet remain totally incapable of seeing how much the whole tragedy originates in himself, and how he continually feeds it and keeps it going. — Carl Jung
If you feel even a little hint of irritation towards somebody else let an alarm ring in the back of your mind and beware that you are probably being confronted by a part of yourself that you’d like to change. Or at least be aware of.
To realize this and work on yourself in a way that your previous irritation fades away is a huge challenge, and for many people this work requires professional assistance. But you can do it by yourself too.
The Gift Of Self-Discovery
Feeling irritated by someone else is a great gift because it reveals what you don’t like about who you are and reveals parts that you unknowingly hide deep within yourself.
Seeing yourself as someone who is flawed is humbling.
The part of yourself that you just discovered used to be “invisible” for you. For many psychoanalysts, this is a dark part of the individual’s shadow.
Seeing a personal flaw of yours present in the other person is a powerful tool of empathy.
Because this dark part of the self is so fiercely avoided, the only way that it can be expressed is by subconscious means like in dreams or in form of unexplained irritability. I think this contributes to the obscurity of this subject.
My friend was irritated by the fact that the neighbor is revealing a part of himself that he believes should be kept hidden.
His trouble with his neighbor was that the neighbor failed to hide flaws that my friend worked so hard to conceal!
When my pal walks around his house he’s unnecessarily careful to not make any noise. He uses his energy to hold his voice down when he speaks because he doesn’t want to be a bother to the other neighbors. When he moves a chair he raises it away from the floor as much as he can to avoid making scratching noises.
Hermann Hesse said:
If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part yourself. What isn’t part ourselves doesn’t disturb us. — Hermann Hesse
What he understood after our conversation was that this kind of noise is totally normal.
If he wants to keep being silent, he needs to understand that it’s just his personal preference and no other neighbor has the obligation to do the same. It’s silly to get irritated if they don’t.
“You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” — Marcus Aurelius
It was within his power to find tranquility and he did it.
We talked many times after that first conversation and he no longer gets irritated by the neighbor’s moving chairs or singing in the shower.
As a matter of fact, he told me that his life changed, and now every time he feels irritated by someone or something he goes into deep introspection decided to find the flaw in himself that irritates him so deeply and — eventually — finds peace.
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