Friday, 27 December 2013

Irritability and Its Discontents

Sometimes I feel I’m too irritable.  I was thinking this at the airport this morning as I made my way through Security and the passenger behind me let her tray slide down the rollers and bang into mine.  Or rather I was irritable then; I only thought about my irritation (meta-irritation?) later, resolving to try and be less irritable.

Instead of muttering to myself, I thought (at least I didn’t mutter loudly enough to be heard), I could have said something light-hearted, like “It’s just like bumper cars here.”  Maybe this would have provoked a fist fight.  But more likely a smile, even a conversation.  But I was silent and irritable.

I was less irritable on the plane itself, though the situation was much more dire.  Well, okay, not dire.  But the plane was full, the carry-on luggage that I foolishly kept with me at my seat so filled the space in front of me that there was no room to stretch my legs, and my knee hurt.

And yet I did not feel irritable – more philosophical, impelled not to mutter but to draft this blog post.  Is it because there was nothing that could be done?  Do I get irritable only at avoidable irritations?  An interesting notion, but I am wary of such sweeping generalizations.

In any case, the main thing is to deal with this irritability when it does strike.  It can’t be good for me; it probably will lead to an ulcer or something – except we’ve learned now that ulcers are caused by bacteria (or was it viruses?).  Still, probably not good.  Cheerful people who can say, “Oh, bumper cars” when somebody bangs into them are surely in a better frame of mind, which conceivably could affect one’s health.

I’m fear I’m getting too utilitarian.  Irritability seems bad in itself, never mind its potentially bad effects on one’s health.  So what to do about it?

I will ponder this …

Some years ago I heard someone interviewed on the radio (back when I listened to the radio) who advised against complaining.  Complaining is just a way of being irritable, I think, so it’s applicable here.  He advised wearing an elastic band on one’s wrist and shifting it to the other wrist whenever you made a complaint.  The idea was to see if you could go 21 days without complaining.

I did this for a while.  It even seemed to work.  It didn’t get me to the stage of saying, “Oh, bumper cars,” but it did stop me muttering.  The only problem was that at the time I was in a relationship with someone who didn’t buy into this technique.  Since she kept on complaining (even while praising me for not: “You’re a rock,” she said), I eventually fell back into complaining too.

But perhaps I should have persevered.  Perhaps I should find myself an elastic band.  Don’t see one on the plane, though.

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