I confess that I can be an irritable person. More precisely, I often find my sought-after and occasionally found good mood being wrecked by some minor aggravation or another. It could be a computer problem. It could be a traffic issue. It could be the tailgater breathing down my bumper on the Colorado freeway (Grrrr!). It could even be one of my shiny happy friends having an annoying moment.
But, you protest—channels and other spiritually ‘evolved’ types are immune to such trouble, no?
So after another, recent round of really showing myself how snitty I can be, I decided to ask The Shower Team about irritability and the recurring aggravations that we often call our “pet peeves”. Why, I wondered, haven’t I left those buggers behind in the wake of my hard-won evolution?
You have named them well, for in fact you tend to treat these recurring aggravations and frustrations with the same persistent and devoted attention that you give to the beasts you call pets. You nurture them through your focus upon them, you feed and shelter them and you even take them out in public and parade them around like a proud owner, saying to anyone in the vicinity, “Look at my frustrations! See how they follow me around so reliably and consistently?”
We’re making fun of you just a little, partly because we enjoy it but also partly because we want you to see the humor in the way that you treat yourself with regard to these kinds of experiences. We would actually prefer to see you treating them in a somewhat more lighthearted way and so calling them a “pet peeve” is a choice that serves you better than calling them “problems” or “issues” or “baggage” or some of the other labels you give to ways you can trip yourselves up.
Given a choice between bursting a blood vessel or hitting someone over the head—and sort of jokingly chiding yourself for some “pet peeve” we would much rather see the chiding. But of course the real question for you is how to be freer of such aggravations altogether. When you notice yourself experiencing the irritation or annoyance that you feel as a result of certain stimuli on a regular basis and you note the preference for a calmer or cooler reaction, then you are responding to the contrast of your experience and genuine desires are being launched on your part to align more with a less reactive and less stressed, more relaxed and more joyful you.
Some of you seem to actually enjoy banging around in the contrast of such experiences and even seem to get a kick out of your own peevishness relative to certain topics. You will even start poking one another with a stick in order to stir up a certain kind of stimulation, much the way a child might throw a rock at a hornet’s nest—just to get things moving.
But when you are observing your reactions to certain experiences and finding them to be different from what you want . . . when you are feeling upset and you want to feel at peace . . . when you are feeling annoyed and you want to feel soothed. . . . when you feel the prickle of irritation on your skin and what you want to feel is the cooling breeze of comfort, then you must begin to give more of your attention to the way that you are choosing your responses—and to begin to carve a different terrain in which your river can flow.
When you are in the middle of a response to something that has become habitual for you . . . when you are staring at the stimulus that always gets your goat and feeling the familiar rise of frustration in your gut . . . there are not as many choices available to you for a redirected response. Your best bet in those situations is to quickly and convincingly divert your attention. Basically, it s best that you drop that hot potato as quickly as you can . . . give yourself a time out . . step away . . . take a breather . . . remove yourself from the reliable stimulus that is provoking the predictable response . . . until the tide of irritation has gone back out. Distraction is your best friend in those moments. Many of you know this, even if you seldom act on it.
However, an even better approach is to try to avoid those moments altogether by beginning to teach yourself other ways to approach those stimuli. You can always predict which way a river will flow by observing the terrain where it is flowing. So observe the terrain that you have created. Notice your ‘geography’ . . . and then begin to ask yourself how to create a different sort of terrain. By that we mean, begin to offer different statements to yourself about those stimuli that typically get to you.
It doesn’t matter what the stimulus is . . . It could be traffic or the way people behave when traffic is heavy . . . it could be mechanical failures or computer glitches . . . it could be erratic behavior on the part of your physical body . . . it could be erratic behavior on the part of your physical family and friends. . . it could be the weather. No matter what it is, begin to take note of the statements you make to yourself about those matters. Notice both the wording and the feeling of those statements. Particularly notice statements along the lines of “This ALWAYS happens to me!” “Nothing EVER works out the way I want!” “Just when I’m feeling really good about things, something ALWAYS goes wrong!”
The river that is the current of your life can only flow in the directions that you allow and that you have created by the habit of your thought. So notice what those habits look and sound like. And if you want the river to begin flowing in a different direction. . . an easier and calmer direction . . . a less irritated and more relaxed direction . . . a more joyful direction . . . then you must begin to carve out that terrain that is hospitable to that intention . . . to amend or make up new statements about the events of your life. And in this as in all matters pertaining to getting what you want . . . you must—must—MUST—give more attention to what you want than to what you are observing. You must care more about how you feel than about what is . . . you must decide that feeling better is more important to you than accurately observing and recording what is “real” and in front of you.
In short, you must stop “telling it like it is” to yourself and practice telling it like you want it to be . . . otherwise, you can only continue to get more of what you’ve been telling yourself. If you are parading your pet peeves around and taking every chance you get to boast about how confounding and aggravating your world is to you . . . then you cannot profess to be surprised when you get more and more reasons to feel confounded and aggravated.
If you want to feel less aggravation . . . if you want to tame your pet peeves . . . then get the lay of your land . . . figure out why your river is flowing in the direction that it is . . . and then get busy making a new map . . . Begin to re-shape the terrain of your expectations and we promise you, there will be a new and sweeter and far less irritating flow that will follow and that flow will feel freer and calmer and more comfortable . . . with fewer and fewer pet peeves to house break along the way.
I can honestly say I never thought of myself as proudly peeved. I can sure think of more appealing parts of myself to parade around in full view. But no question the terrain that I’ve carved for myself is often a gravelly one . . . I could go for a smoother flow.
Just the other day I heard myself say to myself (The Team had left the room for a moment), “Why does something ALWAYS go wrong when I buy a new computer?” My brand new laptop has been more than happy to agree with that statement and behave accordingly.
So maybe it’s time for some landscaping. Clearly some of the things I say to myself now about the routine aggravations in my life are just carving out a deeper and more jagged rut for the river that runs through it. I kind of like the idea of being a river god . . . it makes me feel larger than my sometimes pissy life . . . and that leaves me feeling a lot less peevish—and for the moment, complete.