irritation as teacher

Someone in my life irritates me. Or, more accurately, I experience the sensation of irritation when around a certain person. In the moment, I feel that sharp twinge of self-righteousness shoot through my veins and my mind is overtaken by chatter from my ego creating a case for why I deserve to blame this other person for my irritation. Very little reflection occurs in this moment. Triggers have been pulled and, at first, I allow my ego to drive.

We all experience annoyance or irritation with other people at some point. In some cases, the sensation may feel chronic and we have to choose whether or not it is worth losing energy over.

In this case, the person has only been in my life for a short while and almost immediately, I felt irritated. I can make a case to justify how I feel. I can psychoanalyze her with virtually no context to educate my position. I could be persuasive in telling myself, my friends or my partner why "she irritates me." I could let this fester until it begins to pull apart relationships, environments.... slowly... and passive aggressively.

Or, I could reflect and meditate on the irritation I feel until it leads me back to its source. And, no doubt, this innocent woman will not be anywhere in my original story. It may take me years to figure out or it may be somewhat simple.

I could realize that some people have felt irritated by me. I could consider how I would want those people to treat me. I might realize that I remind them of someone, maybe even themselves. I could understand that their irritation is not about me.

The feeling of irritation goes beyond interpersonal relationships. All of us experience irritation with ideas, beliefs, politics, teenagers, culture, class... the list is very, very, very long. We create boxes to put people or groups of people in based on our irritation. We even dehumanize people because how they pray to God irritates us. We band together with other people who share our irritations and we create polarities that too often result in violence.

So, what is irritation? As with all feelings, it originates within a person. It cannot be created in you by anyone other than yourself.

Imagine that your hand graced an open flame leaving a third degree burn. Now, imagine that, for what ever reason, the burn was not properly treated immediately after it happened leaving a red, rough scar and pain to the touch. The pain subsides until you irritate your hand by rubbing the burn the wrong way. A surge shoots through your hand and triggers all sorts of physical and emotional feelings. This is irritation.

Psychological irritation is only different in that the scar from a traumatic or painful emotional event is not as visible.

More often than not, we don't get the treatment needed to negate long term pain. We grow up through the bias of our parents pain, our cultures pain... and this pain is passed down to us--for us to navigate along with our own life pain. Feeling irritated by anyone or anything indicates a place within us that has not properly healed. It is never, ever about another person. We may be right in all of our judgments of the person we blame for our irritation. They may be foolish or too talkative or unethical or arrogant. But, it doesn't matter. It's not about them.

If your goal is happiness, then you must plan to take the hard road. And when it comes to feeling irritated you must take the time to find the original source of the pain and work to heal it. It may take your entire life. And that is the point. Grace is the result of walking the path (hard road) of self-analysis, self-awareness and self-compassion for the duration of our lives. We must be willing to refrain from projecting our pain onto others and in those moments of irritation and be gentle with ourselves. We must mindfully make quiet space in our environment and in our mind and just listen. Listen until the ego fades and the spirit rises.

We are amazingly intricate creatures with mysterious, cavernous places in our psyches. Irritation will lessen as we practice self-reflection. Tonight, I will meditate on my newly triggered irritation and be grateful to the woman who inspired it. For she is my teacher.