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.
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i think in the case of someone who is happy an unannoyed by people all the time is that they will likely be completely enlightened.. (unlikely) or else they will be annoyed by people who are happy all the time.
Good post and good question. When someone does something that annoys me, I usually ask myself why the person might be doing whatever it is. For example, I might be aggravated by a friend who constantly brags about how much she paid for things she owns. Sure, it would be easy to just criticize her for it, but by asking myself why she always does this, I might realize that she has some self esteem issues and perhaps the only way she can establish some sense of her own value is to connect it to her wealth. And I think that if I had similar issues, I might not be able to see that, as her behavior would bring my own unmet esteem needs into consciousness and remind me that I had no such handy way to satisfy them. Hence the irritation. But if I had found my own inner sense of value and wasn’t seeking to fill that need, I’d probably just feel sorry for her for having to resort to that behavior and accept it as part of who she is at this stage of her life. I don’t know if this is what Jung meant or not, but when I think about it, I can find other things that annoy me that are traceable to my own unmet psychological needs.
Hmmm, really interesting. I wasn’t aware that Jung had said this. My really wise Mom (who’d probably read Jung…I’ll bet money on it) taught me over 30 years ago that when something about someone bugs/annoys you, it is highly likely that you bear that trait, or at least some element of it, yourself. I’ve found her suggestion to be true more often than not. Maybe this is just her interpretation of Jung or an observation gleaned from some other source, either way, I think there is often something to it. When someone gets on my nerves routinely, I ask myself what it is that really bugs me…and then I ask myself if I do it too…I don’t always like my answer.
I think what he was trying to get at is the unconscious projection of those things within us that find an annoying hook in the other. What’s really hard to accomplish is the removal of the projection and owning it it. It’s really a lifetime’s work, but very rewarding if one can just integrate some of it. Not an easy thing to do. It all starts with the individual.