I came across this quote by Psychoanalyst Carl Jung recently: "Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves." This is something that seems easy to understand, but for the most part it’s an elusive truth.
There are people out there who are constantly annoyed by things, people who have a largely negative world view. Jung’s statement certainly applies to that situation, but that’s not the most interesting example. What about someone who is largely happy, always socially cheerful? Even that person will have things that they find irritating about other people. Why?
I can’t know because I’m not that person. All I can know is me. Why do the things that annoy me, especially the ones that are recurrent annoyances, bother me? Can I avoid them, or am I more comfortable with the annoyances and the opportunity that they provide? Where are the negative patterns in my life and how do I break them? What are the negative habits of my mind, and how do I escape them?
One thing that helps is to look at how I approach other people. My inclination is often to criticize them because that’s less painful than examining myself. So why do other people sometimes annoy me? Is it because of something within me, and not them? That’s the question that Jung was raising. It’s a good question, and not one that’s easily answered.