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Thanks for Pissing Me Off

Relationship is simple. That’s not to say that relationship is easy. Actually, I’ve found it to be among the hardest paths to follow effectively on a consistent basis, perhaps because the relationship path involves other people, and while you can share wonderful moments with other people, you also go through occasions that can be irritating, frustrating, intrusive, and challenging from time to time. The most irritating people tend to be the ones you are closest to. Typically, the most irritating person in your life will be the one with whom you enter an intimate relationship, a fact of life that often causes people to believe that they have chosen the wrong person to be their life partner. But this blog is not solely about intimate relationships or marriage; it’s about the relationship dynamic itself, regardless of the level of intimacy in that relationship.

Through years of study, but more importantly, through years of direct experience, I have discovered that although the people with whom we are in some form of relationship (i.e., partners, offspring, parents, siblings, colleagues, bosses, etc.) can often seem to be the cause of grief, the discomfort they seem to bring into our lives is an important aspect of our potential for happiness, peace of mind, and fulfilment. In other words, discomfort is a doorway to True Happiness, and our relationships lead us to that door!

I am suggesting here that relationships are not the source of any of our problems, but rather that our relationships can be the mirrors to reflect where inside of us the dynamics of the outer problem exist.

The presence of irritation and conflict friction in relationships is a good sign. It’s life’s way of signalling that it’s time to grow in recognition that we are greater than we think we are. It is only our fear-based reactions to conflict and irritation that cause us unnecessary suffering. Therefore, an attitude of acceptance is essential on this path; acceptance allows us the peace and clarity to respond to the aggravations of relationship in a healthy, fruitful manner, and also helps us see that we really are doing the very best we can—as are those with whom we share the relationship journey.

Irritation brings you to a fork in the road, where the answer to this question determines in which direction you will go. Are you going to react to the external situation or are you going to accept it?

If you react to the situation, you will attempt to control the other person in order to get them to stop the behavior that you find so irritating. This generally leads to arguments and power struggles. You must make the other person wrong, and convince her/him that it is she/he that must change. If the other person does alter his/her behavior, you get a temporary reprieve, until some other irritation comes along. Life wants you to grow and will keep sending you the opportunities to do so. If you do not want to grow in awareness and emotional maturity, my advice would be that you consider becoming a hermit—on another planet!

If you accept the situation and the other person’s behavior, you will instantly find peace and joy, while you grow in wisdom and love.

NOT!

Well… you might experience all of that instantly, but generally people find that when they don’t reject the apparent source of the irritation—that is, the other person—they feel even more irritation and discomfort. This is because they are feeling, rather than suppressing their feelings. So, if you don’t react to your irritation you will move toward the tipping point of complete acceptance. As you progress to that point, you will face a number of forks in the road, whereby you will be repeatedly tempted to push away your discomfort and run back to the illusory safety of control, manipulation, and/or righteous anger.

Rejection of irritation and the discomfort beneath it is compulsive in nature, so you will find yourself reacting without conscious awareness of your motivations, or even of your actual behavior. When we look back on our compulsive behavior we often wonder “what” made us act like that, and feel so guilty or ashamed that we go into another reaction to control that discomfort (rationalizing, justifying, or blaming the other person for making us act that way). Besides being compulsive, there are also elements of obsession, fixation, and even addiction in our reaction to anxiety, irritation, and discomfort, so that the reaction looks virtually the same each time it comes up.

People often think that acceptance is exceedingly difficult and requires so much effort to achieve, when actually the opposite is true. It is reaction and rejection that require the effort and expending of energy. Just look at how strenuous and tiring it is to fight and hold on to your righteous position, compared to how relaxing acceptance is. It’s just that we seem to be constantly in a state of unconscious alert, ready to protect and defend ourselves, that we don’t notice how tense we actually are. It’s only when we move toward acceptance that the release of that stress into a state of relaxation seems to require some kind of force.

As we grow in emotional maturity, we tend to recognize that rejecting our discomfort produces the same circuitous results every time. At some point, wisdom begins to creep in, and we catch ourselves reacting compulsively, take a deep breath, and back up inside ourselves. We pay attention to our discomfort and notice the correlation between the other person’s behavior and what we are feeling.

More wisdom infiltrates our awareness and we recognize that the other person is there to support us as we face our vulnerability and accept it, because it is only through acceptance that we can see the Truth about ourselves, that the vulnerability is a facade that obfuscates the joyful, loving, magnificent being that we are. It is at that point where we begin to accept the other person’s behavior and stop trying to change them.

We might even say, “Thanks for pissing me off; keep doing it so that I can grow up!”

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