Dealing with irritability

When we feel irritable, the mind is restless and dissatisfied: anger is never far from the surface. In this state, we react unreasonably to the slightest provocation, and our lives are generally miserable. Clearly it is important to deal with irritability and to stop it from arising. How do we do this?

Irritability arises when 1) we have some idea of the way that we think events ought to be happening, and 2) events are not happening that way. It is essentially a problem of not accepting situations, and to fix this problem we must learn to go with the flow and to take things as they come. As said by the Dalai Lama in The Art of Happiness, “If the situation or problem is such that it can be remedied, then there is no need to worry about it….Alternatively, if there is no way out, no solution, no possibility of resolution, then there is also no point in being worried about it, because you can’t do anything about it anyway.” This sound logic simply states that we must learn to accept whatever happens unless it can be changed. Furthermore, if it can be changed, we should focus on changing it rather than being irritable about it.

Why are we so bad at simply accepting unpleasant situations? For some reason, we have the mistaken belief that life can and should be perfect. This belief must be challenged. We need to realize that things will sometimes “go wrong” and that others will sometimes disagree with us. Life is not perfect. Just as sickness and death are an inevitable part of life, so are mistakes, disagreements, and all those other causes of irritation. If we want to accept imperfect situations, we need to realize that life was never meant to be perfect in the first place.

Thus, when we find ourselves becoming irritable, we must remember that life is imperfect and that we must accept whatever happens. Furthermore, we can question whether the situation really warrants such misery and agitation, and why we would want to spoil our mood for it. If we are still unable to dispel the irritability, a final option is to simply laugh. Laughing at life is a wonderful antidote to irritability that goes straight to the heart of the matter and recognizes that none of this is that big a deal. This realization is an important realization to make if we wish to lead a relaxed and peaceful life.

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  1. Irritable woman said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 3:38 am

    You clearly do not understand how difficult it is to THINK when one is irritated during their period. Much easier said than done.

  2. Another Irritable Woman said,

    November 30, 2010 @ 3:32 pm

    Agreeing with the woman above - it doesn’t sound like you have had to deal with much PMS. The hormones steal your energy and override any normal, calm demeanor which you may have had. It’s not a just matter of accepting, it becomes a matter of surviving.

  3. Jen said,

    January 21, 2011 @ 6:00 pm

    DITTO! About a week before I begin my menstruation. It is VERY diificult for me to deal with my husband or my father (whom I work for). This is especially noticeable during the winter months, I’m not sure why (maybe because it is too cold and windy to be outside). Anyway, the smallest little comment can set me off. It’s almost as if during this time I have the same symptoms of someone who is bipolar…this is the only time. Once I start my cycle, and the rest of the month, I’m fine — calm, happy, easy to please. However, for just a few days before I start…if you are male…GET OUT OF MY WAY!

  4. Philip said,

    February 9, 2011 @ 5:31 pm

    Thanks, this article helped me get some perspective. I tend to have an idealized view on how life should go and I can get very frustrated when unexpected things happen. Usually I just suppress my frustration but over time it is really unhealthy and it ends up with me being angry with people with whom I would otherwise have no reason to be angry.
    All in all I’m still frustrated after reading this, and I’m still quite irritable, but I’m going to try to be a bit more accommodating to those around me while I sort through my issues.

  5. Jenni said,

    October 29, 2012 @ 2:35 pm

    I get very frustrated when people do not do what is supposed to be done, or if they promise to get back to me and then don’t. It makes life very challenging when you are relying on these people to help your clients, client service no longer seems to be a priority and then it looks like I am not doing my job properly. How do you deal with this type of frustration.

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