I don’t know about you, but I am sometimes guilty of exaggerating the scale of an irritation. Something quite trivial can annoy me disproportionately.
For example, consider a married couple with different views about using the dishwasher…
Jeremiah, a curmudgeonly so-and-so, would argue that it’s a labour-saving device. If it’s mostly full and you don’t run it, and you then have to hand-wash dishes for the next meal, then that’s a bit silly. And irritating. Grrrr!
Eve, a committed environmentalist, would argue that the dishwasher consumes electricity and water. If you run it and it’s not full then that’s wasteful. And irritating. Grrrr!
Obviously, there are merits to both points of view.
I suppose it would be possible to do a rigorous calculation of waste, and devise some way of assessing lost convenience. I wonder if that would make any difference to either of them, though…
The much more interesting matter is why we find a small thing like this so aggravating.
Perhaps it comes down to habits of thought, and the rules that we make for ourselves.
Jeremiah looks at why they bought the dishwasher, and his expectation is that this nice machine is going to save him time and effort. Not running it because it’s not full goes against his expectations; it breaks his rules.
Eve looks at the impact on the environment and on their budget, and her expectation is that they must use the voracious machine as efficiently as possible. Running it when it’s not full goes against her expectations; it breaks her rules.
Interestingly, the fact that it’s a small issue doesn’t matter; in fact, it may even make things worse. There are so many things in life that we can’t control, aren’t there? Wouldn’t it be nice to feel that we can at least control the small things?
Of course, Jeremiah and Eve work out that they can solve their difficulty by being considerate of the other’s point of view. (Phew! Marriage saved!). Over the years, they resolve many similar differences. (Congratulations on a long and happy marriage!).
Mindfulness helps with issues like these. Living ‘in the moment’, you practise being aware of your emotions as they happen. You feel, and recognise, the prickle of anger as one of your rules is broken. Because you recognise it, you can deal with it. Jeremiah might find himself thinking “Aha! I’m feeling anger from Eve breaking one of my rules. Hey, you know what? Do I have any right to make rules for her? She’s entitled to her opinion, isn’t she?”
And, even better – it’s not a million miles from there to the position where Jeremiah welcomes Eve’s idiosyncrasies, as being a valuable part of the woman he loves.
‘Amor vincit omnia’ (love conquers all) – when you let it!