Coping with life’s little annoyances can be a real challenge. Traffic jams, neighbors who don’t pick up after their pets, cell phone conversations in elevators, people talking in movie theaters, long lines at the supermarket, useless customer service, general lack of regard…the list goes on and on.
As a rule, we can generally deal with one or two of these petty irritations. But when they begin to pile up, we often become agitated and angry. We complain to anyone who will listen, and at some point, we react by lashing out at whoever has the misfortune of being in our path.
Of course, by the time we express our frustration, the source of our malcontent is a mere memory, and essentially, we’re lashing out at ghosts. Once the victim of bad behavior, we are now unconsciously dishing it out. Essentially, we’re caught up in a vicious cycle that’s actually amusing—once you realize what’s going on.
While it’s easy to recognize annoying behavior in others, it’s more difficult to see it in ourselves—and even more difficult to stop before we jump into the fray. The trick is to watch how we behave and avoid becoming part of the cycle. In other words, we must become aware of what’s going on before it sucks us in.
The next time you find yourself in a situation that makes your blood start to boil, try the following:
- Notice the trigger: the person, place, or situation that’s fueling your desire to react.
- Take a deep breath and see if your reactivity decreases a bit. If so, continue to breathe deeply.
- Remind yourself that this situation won’t last forever.
- If you have the option, walk away.
- Turn your attention to something more productive.
If all else fails and you find yourself caught in this crazy loop, don’t be too hard on yourself. Life will always present lots more opportunities for you to practice.