How to overcome feeling irritated with others

There is an old saying in Buddhist folklore whereby if we point a finger at someone there will be three pointing back at us. When we are stressed, anxious or afraid and things are getting under our skin it can be tempting to be on alert for the shortcomings of others and this can feed our irritation. This can be particularly evident when we encounter special occasions, perhaps family events such as weddings, graduations, birthdays or even funerals, when we have expectations around how people should behave in the proceedings. Feelings of irritation can arise when the behaviour of others do not match or meet the expectations we have set for them.

If you find yourself becoming impatient, annoyed and angry with people for no particular reason or obvious cause then it may be time to look within yourself. If you are always looking at others to get it right, then it might be time to look inwards.

The key is to try and keep the focus on ourselves and ask ourselves what is within our power to change our own feelings, behaviours and emotions. This can help us to find the patience and compassion for others so that we can avoid feelings of irritation. It may be that we are feeling envious of someone else, or we might be sore with someone from past arguments or events for it is entirely normal to have ambivalent feelings, even at supposedly happy family occasions. Such events have the potential to trigger old memories and ways of being and the risk is that we fall back into our child state or our old outdated position in the family such as playing the victim. These feelings belong to the past and should stay in the past. 

There are some practical steps that will help with feelings of irritation. Try to breathe more deeply, and concentrate on breathing from your diaphragm. This will reduce the degree of anxiety and stress that your body feels. Try to think the best of a given situation rather than the worst. The person annoying you may not have the motives you think they have. Avoid being a people pleaser. Trying to please everyone will further aggravate your annoyances.

Remind yourself that disdain, contempt and fear can be contagious so try to avoid inflicting your opinion on others about why a person is so annoying to you. That might only compound your feelings of irritation and worsen things. After all, a gang mentality is not a pretty sight that soon switches to bullying and scapegoating whether it is in a family situation, workplace or in the school playground. 

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Written by Noel Bell MA, PG Dip Psych, UKCP

Noel Bell is a counsellor/psychotherapist based in London who has spent the past 20 years exploring and studying personal growth, recovery from addictions and inner transformation. Noel draws upon the most effective tools and techniques from the Psychodynamic, Cognitive Behavioural (CBT), Humanist, Existential and Transpersonal schools.… Read more

Written by Noel Bell MA, PG Dip Psych, UKCP

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