Annoyance: Looking at Difficult People

mmmkkkk_broken_glasses_1dygoqhneA Course in Miracles says something to the effect that annoyance is actually thinly-veiled rage, that there are no levels of discontent. If this were empirically true in your experience it could be seen, at the very least, that this gnawing feeling is an opportunity to look at annoyance in a different way.

So if there is a “difficult” person in front of you (and another clue to the depth of dissatisfaction is that they are not in front of you presently, but continually popping up in your head as a source of annoyance), you can look right at the person, or the image, and see that the reaction is happening within you. The person, or their image, is just doing what it’s doing, but the physiological response is in you. This is where the conflict is going on, not out there. This is easy to see, if you look honestly.

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This Shouldn’t Be Happening…But It Is.

hhcuffedsigSo this sticky wicket we call life-gone-wrong seems to go something like this:

There is a circumstance that does or does not happen, a someone or somebody who does or does not do something. We don’t care for the circumstance or the behavior. Sometimes this not-caring-for turns into rage, desperation, or deep hurt. This is the recurring theme of life. I want this; I don’t want that. A tight spot, indeed. This is the dynamic called suffering.

Regardless of all our attempts to explain, whether from a psychological, moral, or practical perspective, it all boils down to “This shouldn’t be happening.” None of the explanations change a thing. No matter how smart we are, or how many justifications we come up with, or how many witnesses we gather to bolster our argument, the thing simply did or did not happen, and there you have it. This is the only possible realization. Explanations are simply attempts to dress up the pig. The only humane response: “Ah, but it is.”

The next order of thinking is the attempt to change the situation. “It shouldn’t be raining on my wedding day,” changes to moving indoors. Problem solved? Or does the “shouldn’t” persist, the rain continue to be cursed, and the day inevitably ruined? Or, sometime after the wedding day, we could, and often do, try to change the person who did or did not do what they should or shouldn’t have…and so there is the “Something must change; this is unacceptable; we need to talk,” pronouncements. Sometimes it works, for a short respite, oftentimes it does not. Attempt to change situations and people all you want, and we all have already  done so many times, but sooner or later, the next thing always arises, and there it is, again: “Wait. This shouldn’t be happening.” It’s a constant; it is the first noble truth in Buddhism; it is the first sentence in M. Scott Peck’s seminal book, The Road Less Traveled: “Life is difficult.” It is difficult because life just happens and not always according to our plans or expectations.

So where and how does peace, the deepest peace, come in? There’s a good chance you already know the answer, and equally possible that there is some resistance. There may be a “no” in there somewhere. But we can get to yes, to the smile, to the peace just underneath the surface of all this tumult, toil, and trouble.

And one way to get to that peace is simple and readily available—here and now. Can you see it? If not, it can be pointed to, and when recognized, thus begins the recurring chuckle in light of how we all have made so much ado, literally, about nothing. Chains come undone; we are no longer bound up in our expectations of the way things should be. Peace is found in events, people, and circumstances, just as they are.

Anger, grief, and all the rest may still happen, but they are grounded in, and received with noble equanimity by, that all-emcompassing peace that passeth all understanding. It is a way to live that surpasses all our vain attempts to create the right kind of world. And so we are humbled and comforted in untold hours.