It’s no secret to people that know me that I am a cat lady. In fact, I think I am one cat off having a bit of a problem. I love nothing more than to relax and enjoy a book with my two cats curled up at the end of my bed. It’s my quiet, recharging time.
There is something that can turn my zen time with my adorable cats into torture to my senses. The sound of a cat washing its fur.
That licky clicky icky sound they make with their spiky little tongues drives me near mad. The sound, or even the sight of them doing it, does to me what a fingernail down a blackboard also does. It is so grinding on my nerves that for a moment or two, I would consider selling my usually beloved cat on the black market.
Petty you may say, but I know there are equal irritants in your life.
Little annoyances that don’t cause full-blown anger, but cause a sort of pre-anger or warning to you that if you don’t do something about the irritant then you might reach full-blown anger later on. Irritants that make your shoulders rise, eyes squint, jaw clench and perhaps make you walk right out of a room.
Up there on my list (we all have one) of irritating things, are slow walkers not keeping to the left, people that smack their lips together when eating, and individuals that talk with globules of spit in the corners of their mouths. Oh and that little coloured circle thing that comes up on my computer when it freezes. I think that is it.
All these things leave me reasonably distressed if I can’t do anything about them nor escape them.
Oh c’mon I am sure I am not alone here. You’re not telling me that there is not a certain pitch of a child’s voice that nearly sends you screaming? How about a certain co-worker who chews their morning tea in a particular way? Non-toilet roll changers? Scratching dogs? Kids whingeing? Neighbours who crank their music when you have just fallen asleep?
In all seriousness, none of these triggers are life threatening, and no one is going to die because of them. But these irritants get in the way of us doing what we want to do. The annoyance creeping in is telling us that we had a purpose and now it has been interrupted.
From an evolutionary perspective, this is important. We have a series of jobs we need to do on a daily basis and it is not good to be shoved off track all the time.
Maybe our purpose in a particular moment was to relax and regenerate (hear that, cats), maybe we were trying to focus on completing that report to get our job done (hear that, annoying crunching co-worker) or get some place fast (hear that irritating slow right hand lane drivers).
Other times, our purpose might be less important, but it still doesn’t mean we need to be interrupted doing it (TV flickers, listen up).
Another thing about irritants is that they have a cumulative effect. They build up over time. We might overlook little annoying things at first, but after a while we become less understanding. Something that once was funny, can now be not funny at all. Particularly once we discover that it might not go away.
Being annoyed by certain things is a near-universal experience.
When you get irritated your brain is telling you to pay attention to it. If it was super serious then you fight or flight response would have made you act a lot quicker.
Irritation is there to warn you that you should probably change your behaviour.
If we didn’t get annoyed or if we didn’t feel irritated then we wouldn’t avoid those people or situations that might waste our time, or cost us money, make our lives worse or threaten our survival. So let’s be grateful for this feeling. It serves us a purpose.
So next time you feel some irritable twinges and when running from the room screaming might be too inappropriate, there are some steps you can take to alleviate your pain.
Firstly, recognise what it is that is annoying you.
Secondly, investigate it a bit more and try to figure out why it might be annoying.
Thirdly, see if you can learn to accept it or perhaps you need to take action to change the situation. In doing that, you can leave your environment, change your environment or do something about inside yourself to change. You are in control here.
Deep breathing also works a treat.
In my cat fur licking case, a swift shove of a cat off the bed also works well. For the time being anyway, until they flipping jump back on again. #annoying