It’s very common basic spiritual and psychological advice that ‘That which annoys me in others is a mirror of what I need to look at in myself’. (@verna_maruata) Well, I thought I’d look at that a bit more today.
I think it’s probably true: what annoys us in other people is likely to be something we need to look at in ourselves. However I do think it’s too easy to say that it’s always something we mirror onto other people. When I’m annoyed at someone who doesn’t schedule very well, that doesn’t necessarily mean I schedule badly myself. It might just mean that I have a need for more structure than they do. Or they need more freedom to change things at the last moment than I do.
I do think there is a fundamental truth here though: what annoys is in others tells us something about ourselves. For instance it tells me I need structure and a minimum amount of predictability. I want people to tell me in advance, say a week in advance, whether appointments we made are going to be kept. I prefer things to not change at the last moment.
With less and less social constraints, planning, how we respond to people, what’s considered ‘normal behavior’ are all becoming less and less fixed. These things vary by the social circles we travel in and the practical circumstances in our lives.
My planning example for instance is very different for people with full agendas than for people with lots of time on their hands. Those are practical constraints. What matters however is how you deal with such things emotionally. Do you get annoyed or can you let it go easily? That’s the emotional factor.
Differences in style can be difficult to deal with. The easiest sollution is, of course, to just drop that person that has a different style from yours. Whether that is too high a price to pay is another question. In many cases it’s wiser to just learn to live with the small annoyances of daily life. If it’s an important issue for you, communicating it clearly is vital. That way the two of you can figure out where you stand on the issue. Perhaps the other person can accomodate you, make appointments in advance more, for instance.
The bottom line is to only make a big deal of the things that really are a big deal to you. Perhaps it’s a form of wisdom not to have too many things you consider ‘big deals’. Or is that too simplistic?
6 thoughts on “What annoys me in others is what I need to look at in myself?”
I pick up on two things in what you say:
2) Big Deal
I think I basically agree that people mirror back to us what we project to them. So if we feel annoyed by someone, then we should think what is it in me that annoys myself. But isn’t the next step to let go of that annoyance? Isn’t being annoyed just some manifestation of the ego? In this case the ego saying something like: “I do it the right way and they do it the wrong way.” But wouldn’t Spirit say something like: “There is no way.” Or: “Every way is the right way.” Or, even: “There is only The Way.”
My feeling is that I would try to focus on the emotion of being annoyed and try to understand where it is coming from. So the mirror aspect of this isn’t so much to see some behaviour in myself that is wrong, but to learn how to let go and project something more like love or acceptance.
The “Big Deal” question is harder for me to write about sensibly. It is more emotion right now, than words. But I think your point that:
Perhaps it’s a form of wisdom not to have too many things you consider ‘big deals’.
is very close to the mark. It is not too simplistic. In fact it is exactly the point. Don’t you think? Big Deals imply Big Disappointments or Big Arguments or Big Negative Energy. Why allow that to happen? To be part of humanity we should all learn to accept and to love. When we do that, doesn’t the issue of Big Deal just dissolve away? Now maybe I’m being too simplistic….
I think being annoyed and thinking things are a big deal go hand in hand. Perhaps when we finally figure out that nothing in life is a “big deal” then we’ve hit the jackpot. When’s the last time you saw Eckert Tolle or Mother Teresa be annoyed? 😉
I don’t know about Eckart Tolle, but I think Mother Teresa probably knew very well how to get people to work together. And how to get rid of people who were there for the wrong reasons. Perhaps the ideal is to bypass the annoyance and get to the proper response directly.
But for most of us the annoyance is a sign – hey, something is not right. It may mean we need to look at ourselves, how we’re dealing with things. It may mean we need to communicate better. It may mean someone else is being passive aggressive.
Whatever it means, there’s something that is asking for attention. Merely saying ‘I should not be annoyed’ is not going to work.
I think re-evaluating the situation and trying to look at it from a different angle helps. I used to be the queen of getting annoyed. What has helped me: taking a lighter view of the world, choosing not to care so much about a situation, focusing on other things rather than constantly putting so much attention on the things that annoyed me.
As for other people being annoying, there is really nothing you can do except change your reaction to them. I don’t seek to change these people, but rather focus on my own inner peace. Also, I think if one’s own sense of inner peace is strong enough, that in itself will have a strong influence on others.
Looking at what annoys us in others is a very good method of discovering ourselves and the negative emotions that we carry within which is part of our spiritual growth. Once we know the negative emotions and why, we can release them and move forward.
You said, “I’m annoyed at someone who doesn’t schedule very well.” The point is how you feel inside, what is underlying the annoyance, and why.
For example, does it make you feel rejected, or not important? If so, it’s important to look at the underlying emotions. It really has nothing to do with the one who schedules badly, that person is merely the trigger for your negative emotion.
If you are carrying “rejection” for example, it could be from something that happened in your past, as a little girl. Once you know what caused the “rejection”, you can release it, forgive yourself for carrying it, forgive the other person who made you feel “rejected”, and then move forward. Once you have released the underlying negative emotion(s), you will not have the same reaction of annoyance when someone schedules badly.
This is part of your own spiritual growth.
Hm, interesting topic! I agree saying we are annoyed by our own projection is too simplistic.
I’ve come to see it this way: when we have an allergic reaction to someone’s behavior, an overreaction, it’s often because that other person is displaying a trait we do not allow ourselves to express healthily – and they mirror it in the extreme. Which really pushes our buttons. And tells us something about ourselves. It’s like looking in a carnival mirror.
For instance, I get really, really annoyed by aggressive drivers – especially when they take up all the space on the road and nearly drive me into the ditch!
After some soul searching I found some fundamental doubt at the bottom of my soul about the right to BE – to take up space like anyone else. When I am ticked off by aggressive drivers I know I have to look at my own sense of worth and assertiveness – the right to my own space and boundaries. When I feel firmly rooted in my right to BE, aggressive drivers magically take themselves elsewhere.
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