Why Life Isn’t As Annoying As You Think It Is
For the first time since my 7-year-old daughter was born, we went on a weekend trip with just our two boys. Our three children are for the most part excellent kids who love each other, but they are siblings who spend a lot of time together so naturally they bicker quite a bit. Who gets to sit up front, who gets the push the elevator button, who was talking first…every parent of more than one child knows the drill. My boys tend to think it’s mostly my daughter’s fault since she’s the baby, she’s the one who cries the most and complains the loudest, and it’s easy to shift the blame to her. We theorized that this weekend should be relatively quiet: after all, if the loudest complainer isn’t with us, everything should be pretty peaceful, right?
Just a few hours in, they began arguing with each other over headphones. And then who was talking first. And then jokingly, who got to push the elevator button. The whole weekend was slightly quieter with one less voice, but the arguments certainly weren’t lessened by any means. After another day with quite a few arguments in a row, we pointed out that they tended to think their sister was the cause of all their discomfort, but with their sister absent, they still seemed just as uncomfortable. My youngest son very insightfully said that he thought when she was there, all of their irritation was directed at her, but without her there it had nowhere else to go but towards each other.
He was close, but there was one more option to consider. We tend to look at the world around us, and if we find things that are irritating or annoying, we blame them for our world not being our idea of perfect. We move from room to room and day to day like this, seeking out that which is imperfect and then blaming it for as long as we can. We like to think that it’s always the other person, the job, the teacher, the bills, but the truth is that annoyance is always coming from the same place: our thoughts about what is going on around us. The one thing that is always present any time we have any feelings about something is our thinking about it. Situations come and go, but that little voice in your head is judging whether it is “good” or “bad” and telling you that you should have been the one to press that elevator button, this time, is always talking. The option my son missed was himself, which is an option we rarely ever think of, especially when we are feeling annoyed, angry, irritated, or wounded.
- Why would you look towards yourself? After all, you’re the one who being slighted, passed over for promotion, or ignored by your significant other, so you have every right to look outward.
- I’m not telling you that your pain isn’t real, or that you don’t deserve to have hurt feelings, but looking to see where those feelings are coming from can do more for your psyche than nursing old wounds and crying into a carton of Ben and Jerry’s ever could.
- If you realize that everything you feel comes from your personal thoughts about whatever you’re experiencing, there’s great power in that. You’re not a robot with emotional buttons that everyone else pushes all day long; you’re a beautiful human being that has been empowered not to have to take everything personally or lose a night of sleep crying.
- You can acknowledge the slights as they are thrown at you, recognize the slam that is hurled at you, but you don’t have to be a slave to it. It’s like having an emotional superpower!
- It doesn’t change the fact that things are still going to happen. It doesn’t make you a brick wall that nothing penetrates, or a doormat that is regularly walked on, but it allows you to see that regardless of what others say or do to you in each moment, it’s your choice to allow it to wreck you emotionally.
- Looking inward allows you to see that even devastating emotional happenings can just…happen without you having to get tangled up in them.
Next time you’re feeling out of sorts, and it seems like it’s “out there,” take a moment and ask yourself if you would always be annoyed by what is happening. Contemplate whether everyone would be frustrated, or if there are times when you could let it roll off your back and move on without a backward glance. See if it’s the thing out there, or if it’s what you are thinking about it, your mood, how your day is going, or whatever else may be happening in your life. Just notice the thoughts about it, and who is making you have those thoughts. If you try it even once, you may see the person pushing your emotional buttons is you!
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