“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” – Carl Jung
When we don’t like someone, perhaps we find them annoying, unpleasant to be around, or simply believe them to be a person of poor character, we usually identify them as the source of our discomfort. However, if we explore this a little further we will find that they themselves are not the ultimate source of our discomfort. Instead, we will usually find our judgments and perceptions of them contribute more to our discomfort than do the people themselves.
It’s not that people are intrinsically annoying, as that would mean every single person would find them annoying all of the time. It’s usually that we get annoyed when people don’t act in the manner in which we think they should. While we find someone annoying, their friends find them fun and interesting. All the people we don’t like have friends who love and care about them. So clearly they, of themselves, are not the problem. Often, if we are honest with ourselves, we may note that we have also done many of the same things we find annoying in others.
Carl Jung’s quote reminds us of the valuable opportunity to learn about ourselves when we find ourselves emotionally triggered by others. When our feelings are triggered by others, instead of casting blame outwardly, we have an opportunity to explore inwardly and understand ourselves more deeply. We all know that many of the events that trigger our strong reactions are not actually the source of our pain. They are merely tapping into old wounds, belief systems, fears, or insecurities we have been carrying with us for years.
If we can remember that our feelings come from within us, not from external events, we can free ourselves of the habit of blaming others for our feelings. Instead, we can become empowered to take responsibility for and explore our feelings, healing old wounds and eliminating old belief systems that no longer serve us. Just as our physical pain tells us our body needs some attention, our uncomfortable feelings also have a purpose. They invite us to attend inwardly and adopt healthier attitudes, belief systems, habits, and tendencies so we can heal.
I invite you to be attentive to your irritations and other uncomfortable feelings. When they arise, instead of looking outwardly to blame, look inward and see if you can identify the true source of the discomfort and apply a remedy such as patience, compassion, or understanding. – John Bruna
The above is an excerpt from one the daily inspirations sent to the members of the Mindful Life Community.