I have been battling for a solution to my life-long irritation towards sounds, and recently, I have grown intolerable to the sound my co-worker makes in the cubicle next to mine. The sound of chewing, slurping and clanging on the bowl of cheerios has urged me to flee from the building while pulling the hairs out of my head. This is not a new irritation to me, for I had always been bothered with various sounds others make ever since I was a child, always prompting the same feeling of discomfort and need to run away. Now, I have forced myself to take a deeper look at what the root of this problem has been all of these years because it is beginning to make me have disdain for people I like and impedes my ability to focus.
What I found to be the deeper issue is, not my resentments towards my co-worker or the pitch of the clank on the bowl, but it is my fear of losing control (of my life). You may be asking yourself, “What the heck does that have to do with people making annoying sounds?” right? It does sound far-fetched but let me explain with a more obvious example. Why do we get so irritated and impatient when we are stuck in traffic? It is because things are not going our way, or as we planned. If it was up to us, we would never sit in traffic, and since we have no control over it, we are frustrated when we find ourselves idling on the parkway, sitting bumper to bumper. In applying this scenario to the one I am personal struggling with, I find that if it was up to me, there would be silence in all situation and everyone would have perfect food etiquette (like the one I would be so delusional to think I have ;P). Since this is a situation I do not have control over, this same impatience, irritation and need to change circumstance grows and grows as I continue to recognize how much I am losing control over the present. I urge you to think about the times you have felt irritated by something just as trivial, a fight you got into with your partner, or quitting something when things change and became more difficult. Did you ever consider these reactions to be your fear of losing control in some way? The fear of rejection and judgment can even be under the fear of losing control, for we cannot control what people think of us or if they will like us, so this worry and frustration causes us to act in ways we would not if we did not have this need for control.
Now that I know the irritation towards my co-workers cereal chewing, for example, is an indicator of my fear of losing control, what can I do to ease this burden? Can I stop him from eating cereal every day? Can I throw a blanket over my head in an attempt to block out the sound? OR, do I have to change something within myself? Since this is an external irritant, our only viable option in conquering this trigger long-term is to change something within ourselves.
My first step in conquering this irritant was identifying it as a trigger for my fear of losing control. Next, I began to breathe throughout the duration of this occurrence and focus solely on myself and the present moment. Then, I began to affirm that my co-worker is a good person and does not deserve the disdain I am feeling towards him, so I thought of him positively. Finally, understanding that I will NEVER have control over the actions, thoughts and feelings of other people has provided me with a peace which I can apply to other aspects of my life, from my fear of being judged and rejected to my fear of losing control.
Next time you are annoyed with someone or something, take a deeper look to find out if it is because you cannot control it. Instead of acting from a place of fear, recognize it as so and let it go with actions similar to those I took on my own. My co-worker’s cereal chopping is still a bit irritating but to a MUCH lower intensity, so I call that progress.