How to stop being a grump?
March 2, 2012 1:30 PM   Subscribe

How to control irritation at work?

I get irritated a lot, and I don't want to be. It feels like I have an anger problem, really.

This morning I walked in to work to find a co-worker had left a piece of paper on my chair with no explanation and the paper did not make sense on its own. I was really irritated that I had to track down the person to get an explanation.

A woman called asking for some information, and I was irritated because why can't she use the internet like everyone else? (This is a common problem)

Another woman called looking for her daughter, and she rambled on and on about whatever she needed her daughter for, and this just irritated me because I was already irritated.

I know I need a new job, and I've given notice at the one I have now. I'm returning to a job I liked more. But I was also irritated constantly at the other job for different reasons. I can control it pretty well, but it's still there.

Outside of work, I am almost never irritated. People don't make me angry in social settings. I don't have road rage or anything like that. I am pretty patient and friendly. I have a wide net of acquaintances and friends that I really enjoy outside of work. I've often imagined that most people I know would be a little shocked if I talked about how angry I get at work.

I don't want to be a prick, really. I know I am upset over trivial things, so please don't hammer me with that. I want to stop being irritable, but I don't know how.

I've done MoodGYM. I've been in therapy, and I often described this irritation. I don't think anything much happened with that. I'd go back to therapy. My therapist retired and I haven't bothered. Besides therapy, what do you do? Do other people have this problem? I guess I'm wondering how normal this is, too.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (28 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't know exactly what kind of job(s) you have, but maybe your personality is not suited to your occupation. If your job is fielding calls from people about matters you consider trivialy and annoying, then it is quite understandable that you would become irritated from the constant aggravation.
If you want to stay in your current occupation, then you need to develop/find a system for getting the job done with less pain. Maybe embark on a project to document a FAQ list. Then, you can preface every answer with, "As documented in the FAQ..." and end every interaction with, "...would you like me to send you a copy of the FAQ?"
On the other hand, if there is no pattern, and you are just expected to be empathetic with every one you deal with... well, I don't know how to fake empathy.
posted by markhu at 1:41 PM on March 2, 2012


Reframing. Be empathetic. Assume that these people -- the poor explaining coworker, the woman who doesn't know how to use the Internet, and the woman with the lost daughter -- are all facing tremendous difficulties that apparently you aren't facing. Be thankful that you are cognitively and emotionally 'superior' to them and share your wisdom and skills to get a kind human being. Everyone is facing battles.

It does sound like you have an anger problem. Here are some ways to reframe this.

1. You're getting paid to be there. So, hey, that's better than not getting paid.
2. Your coworker didn't do a good job. You had to work with her on it. This is just part of working.
3. Not everyone is good at using the internet. "Everyone else" is really not everyone else. Older people, less educated people, minorities, those with lower income... are much more likely to have trouble using the Internet. If you want to reduce that individual from calling you again, help her learn how to use the Internet. If she may never call again, don't worry about it. It appears that part of your job is to give people information. Just do your job and help these poor folks.
4. Someone was looking for their daughter and perhaps was distraught over it. Maybe she has a mental illness or is elderly and rambles.
5. These tiny little problems that are irritating you are SO small compared to what many others are dealing with. Be glad that you're not being harassed every day or that you have to walk to work around a minefield. Or that you're not diagnosed with cancer. Or that your child doesn't have a terminal disease.
posted by k8t at 1:43 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I feel like I've been in your position before. It was like just the act of being present at the terrible job was making me feel trapped, angry, and frustrated, and so every single little thing that would have been a totally normal annoyance became this big, huge deal in my head. My tension levels were already pumped up just by being at Terrible Job, so even minor inconveniences became enough to make me ready to snap.

Maybe once you're away from Terrible Job, your stress levels will return to normal and you won't be having the same feelings at Better Job.
posted by erst at 1:43 PM on March 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


Actually, my counter-question is -- what do you do WITH that irritation? That's telling.

Because if you ACTED like a snarkpuss in all those situations, that'd be one thing, but if you just FELT irritated but kept it together, then....I wouldn't worry so much. Some things just bug the snot out of us (hell, the woman who rambled on and on about her daughter irritated me just READING about it), and that's just that. It's what you do WITH that irritation that's the issue.

If you're just feeling irritated but your'e controlling it, then I'd just chalk it up to your already wanting to get the hell out of there and not being quite able to yet ("gah! I'm QUITTING to get away from this madness, why are you subjecting me to more?").
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:44 PM on March 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


It may be a placebo effect, but I have the sense that I am less irritated by trivial things when I meditate regularly (even just 10 minutes a day). I feel like it increases my capacity to step back and view the offending item more objectively without my mind automatically running down a knee-jerk path of irritation.
posted by dfan at 1:45 PM on March 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


Just my own experience, but some basics:

Do you get regular exercise and sleep? Both things, if they aren't in moderation, really affect my mood.

How is your caffeine level? (I notice for me, excessive amounts of coffee = "why are you in my way today, world?!?!")

Do you play frustrating video games? (I notice I'm way more annoyed at work if I play online FPS at home.)

Now, some mental stuff. Please watch Shawn Achor's Ted Talk about happiness and work. This really helped change my own perspective about work and life in general.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 1:52 PM on March 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


One thing that my therapist told me that was very interesting, and so far life-changing, was that I am "addicted to my anger." It was as if I was finally exposed. I had no idea I was using anger like an alcoholic uses booze. I truly felt my anger was justifiable (it wasn't) and was damaging my relationships and life. And of course it goes without saying: the joy can't get in when you are walking around in a constant state of irritation. This behavior is a coping mechanism. For me, it was a codependent behavior, as much as I would hate hate hate to admit that I have any codependent behaviors.

I don't know if this is the case for you but for me, my anger was a way for me to remain a victim. Angry about my past, angry that this person in my life is doing this or that. Angry about things I had no right being angry over because they were out of my control. Anger is a way to stay stuck and make excuses for the state of your life. Anger is a way to push others away and to impair intimacy.

This might be a stretch for you because you aren't angry outside of work and get irritated with relatively minor things. I think it's normal to occasionally become irritated with people that are inconsiderate or clueless. We all have different irritation thresholds and what my irritating to you, may not be irritating to me.

Being constantly irritated and angry is a childish way to behave. I'm not judging, I have been there. The immature child in you feels like you deserve to be angry. Look at all of these idiots messing up my day and routine! Look at what I have to deal with! You made me angry! If it hadn't been for you, I would have...

So try being more adult it and taking responsibility for your feelings. You don't have to act on them -- they are only feelings. For me, I had to grow up, realize that people aren't out to get me. Realize that I'm not a victim and to stop getting pissed off and moody. Realize that you may be using this irritation as a way to cope. Explore that. Also, if you are like me, one of the reasons why I was so darn angry (besides feeling like I had a right! Ihad this horrible childhood, cry, cry, isn't that sad?!) was that I didn't value myself. I didn't like myself much at all. Start really liking yourself and you will notice how patient and kind you are with others. There is an easiness when there used to be such resistance and pain.

Good luck.
posted by Fairchild at 2:03 PM on March 2, 2012 [30 favorites]


Do other people have this problem?

Well, I can speak for at least one other person - myself. My "frustration" was mentioned in a recent performance review - thankfully it wasn't seen as a huge problem but no doubt it's something that could impact my colleagues' perception of me and possibly limit career opportunities for myself in the future.

I don't think that being frustrated / irritated at work says anything about you that is fundamentally bad or wrong or broken. You have A LOT of company. But you probably need to give some serious thought to the idea that your current arsenal of coping mechanisms, whatever they are, are not serving you. You need to develop some new ones. And that's going to mean (a) taking the chance on trying something new (and likely uncomfortable); and (b) lots of practice.

I've found that during the times when I'm most easily irritated / short-tempered / frustrated at work, it's because I'm feeling that my efforts or value are not appreciated; or that people aren't respecting my time or attention, are taking me for granted, are asking me to do stuff they themselves are not willing to do. ("Hey, how about I do all the thinking for you !!!?!")

What I have to remember is that everyone has challenges and obstacles, the vast majority of which we never see. People have different approaches than mine for how to get things. Sometimes the reason they turn to me for assistance is because they're so frustrated themselves, or are unable to see how to move to the next step, and believe that I'm the one who's going to figure it out. Which I could take as a compliment, if I so chose to.

Or I can respond with the "It's not my job! ARGH!" mindset. Or be annoyed that I have to deal with someone else's shit (which I've realized is a mindset that comes from a belief that the only reason why I'm 'stuck' in a position where I have to be the one to deal with such annoyance is because I'm a lesser person / professional, somehow -- that it's only because I've somehow FAILED than I'm in the position to have to be the target of someone else's needs-expression.

I find that taking such an approach doesn't do anything to help me out. I don't get less irritated. Sure, sometimes, it helps to let people know how/what you're feeling, and it's important for people to know how their behaviors impact you - but if I do this when I'm *really* irritated, the chances are I'm going to do more harm than good.

Trying to remember that everyone's got shit that irritates them, and "we're all in this together" does tend to help out. Many people don't like their jobs. Most people would rather be doing something else. Many people have very little motivation to consider the impact of their actions on coworkers. Unfortunately, no matter where we work, there are going to be people like this.

I would ask yourself why it is that this irritation comes up only in Work situations. There's something there to be learned.... how you feel about your job, your career path, how your job reflects on you, or whether you associate your value as a person with your job.

Also:
http://ask.metafilter.com/207686/What-highperformance-jobs-have-a-surprisingly-boring-aspect-to-them
posted by armoir from antproof case at 2:06 PM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wonder if you're angry about the little irritations, or if there's an underlying cause of your anger. I think a lot of us allow the little things to pile up on us until we have a severe case of the GRARs before we attempt a fix like therapy or meditation.

I'm a super-driven type and little things grate at my nerves until they're raw sometimes. Then I lash out or become a snarkpuss, which I don't want to be. My Success Coach (yes, I have one instead of a therapist) tells me that the first step toward dealing with anger issues is to identify the emotion while you're having it. So instead of reacting, I'm supposed to pause and look at what I'm feeling. Success Coach also says that it's not my responsibility to control what I'm feeling. I'm just responsible for how I'm acting.

On preview, Fairchild said some things that hit super-close to home for me, so I'm going to go meditate on them. Wow.
posted by S'Tella Fabula at 2:08 PM on March 2, 2012


I did not preview. This is so true:

Because if you ACTED like a snarkpuss in all those situations, that'd be one thing, but if you just FELT irritated but kept it together, then....I wouldn't worry so much.

If you are keeping it together and not bullying others with your moods or walking around like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, you are fine. You may not relate to my experience but I thought I would put it out there anyway. Good luck and I wish you more lightness at work.
posted by Fairchild at 2:08 PM on March 2, 2012


Yes, normal. People get irked over lots of things. (Really, will a traffic jam or slow driver kill them?) There are a couple of common causes, I think, and then there's a possible cause which may be in operation with you.

The common causes are 1) people sometimes lose their sense of the Big Picture and get zeroed in on details, like someone leaving an unclear note on your chair instead of talking understandably to you; and 2) an inability to reframe as k8t suggests. The other possible cause is that something else is eating you and you are transferring your sense of anger and grievance to more controllable things in your world. I know a very sweet man who is always, but always, angry in traffic. That is where he puts most of his anger, yelling inside his car at people who can't hear him about their driving.

Think about whether something else is troubling you and consider dealing directly with that. And if that isn't what's going on, I'd suggest doing a thought exercise with yourself, where you first ask yourself - is this a really big deal? really? and then reframe by thinking about the situation from other person's point of view. It is easier, for example, to forgive your coworker if you imagine being rushed but needing to let you know about something, so having left an unclear note.
posted by bearwife at 2:09 PM on March 2, 2012


armoir: I've found that during the times when I'm most easily irritated / short-tempered / frustrated at work, it's because I'm feeling that my efforts or value are not appreciated; or that people aren't respecting my time or attention, are taking me for granted, are asking me to do stuff they themselves are not willing to do.

This. I can be doing a job I love more than anything but if I'm working with douchebags or for people who don't value my work whatsoever then that will make me into the most irritable person in the world.

My solution has been to leave and find somewhere else to work. Mainly because life is short and no amount of mindfulness, meditation, exercise, or me-time will make up for having to work with people who don't respect me.
posted by mleigh at 2:13 PM on March 2, 2012


This may sound completely ridiculous, but something that helps me manage that kind of irritation is chewing gum. There is something about the ritual of unwrapping a pice of gum and chewing it that feels like it vents the stress.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:13 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


My point being that constant irritation over very minor, trivial things is often indicative of irritation of larger, less specific things.
posted by mleigh at 2:16 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


mleigh: my experience has been that, although my feeling in the moment tells me otherwise (quite loudly), very infrequently is it actually the case that those bringing said irritants my way are doing so out of disrespect for me. more often it's because they themselves have hit a wall and are either unwilling or unable (or too frustrated) to figure out how to get beyond it. i.e. they are stuck, and need help. sure, it's "not my job" to help them, but maybe their boss is unavailable, or is a dick, or is useless, etc.

when I realize & acknowledge this, I start to empathize with them, and then my level of irritation fades or disappears.

before I'd developed the capability for said realization and acknowledgement, I'd job hop. Sure, that brought some temporary relief, and some situations are definitely better than others. But it's also the case that your coping mechanisms (or lack thereof) travel with you.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 2:24 PM on March 2, 2012


buddhism deals with this pretty head on as it's entirely about being mindful of the present moment and being compassionate WITH YOURSELF and with other people. Thich Nhat Hanh's Anger or Charlotte Joko Beck's Nothing Special or absolutely anything by Pema Chodron will work.

This is a godawful webpage but just copy it to notepad or something: the practice of metta [lovingkindness] meditation. Again, it's about developing compassion for YOURSELF first, which goes a long way towards relieving anger and irritation, imho.
posted by desjardins at 2:24 PM on March 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm coming straight down here to say I am ALWAYS irritated at work too.

It has been getting a little better lately maybe because I've been going to acupuncture, maybe because my schedule has changed a little bit or maybe because I deal with approximately 3/4 of the people I used to deal with...anyway, I just started thinking "my god this is so dumb' when anything ridiculous happens (which is all the time) and then I just think "that's why this person is freaking out/so annoying/pissing me off". and then I think "I don't want this dumb situation to have any power over me. If I am pissed off then it's like I'm losing. Screw that. I'm just going to feel sorry I'm witnessing this and I'm going to hope I move on to better things eventually.

Actually also I went to see a nurse-practitioner for meds for maybe depression and she said 'you don't seem depressed, you just seem to have an irritable personality'. Which is sort of true when I am in annoying situations.

You just have to realize that when you are irritated, you lose all your power. In work situations. In social situations, usually for me it means time to spend less time with that person or in that place.

Actually I'm not a great person to answer this, I may end up unemployed and friendless in the end!! Due to my irritable personality!
posted by bquarters at 2:25 PM on March 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


This might not be relevant because I don't know your job, but: I remember reading somewhere that people who are involved in operations work - that is, work where what they do is help other people do what they need to do - experience stress at a higher rate than those who are involved in non-operations work.

The difference is autonomy. If you can set your own deadlines, etc., and/or have other people - admins, etc., to either help you or buffer you from mini-trivia, then it doesn't feel like your entire day is being dictated by other people's skill level or emotional/social intelligence. All three of the examples you mentioned fit into those two categories. For example, a skillful approach to work with someone is to leave documentation with explanation (not doing so is just thoughtless, and inefficient). Also, unless it is specifically your job, noting that a person doesn't use online resources could feel like they are giving you more work because they are being lazy (rather than perhaps they don't even have internet access). Lastly, the emotional intelligence to read your audience and not spill over a long winded story about their daughter when you clearly don't want to hear it is also a skill, and they are also being thoughtless.

In general, when my group gets like that, what they are is kind of burnt out - or more to the point, they aren't taking care of themselves, and they are annoyed that they have to take care of other people, who seem not to be interested in taking care of them. They are angry becayse everyone is 'selfish, or thoughtless', etc. They have boundaries that perhaps have been pushed, and they don't know how to reinstate them - like asking the person to leave a note with the paperwork next time, or ending a non-relevant conversation about someone's daughter. There is a sense that they have no agency to stop it from happening, but they don't have the emotional or actual resources and attention to give to others.

So I say see it as a message where you might need to care for yourself more, and realize that you have some unenforceable, but not unreasonable expectations that people would be more considerate and tuned in. Since they aren't, how do you limit them sucking up your time (because empathy really is only half of the picture)? What skills do you need to learn to protect and care for yourself at work (since you might have more autonomy outside of work)? There are tips and tactics to do so - maybe, if this isn't about you just needing a break - this is about you brushing up on them.

Or maybe not. Just an idea.
posted by anitanita at 2:27 PM on March 2, 2012 [12 favorites]


It sounds like you have a pretty good handle on WHY you are irritated, from "short-timer's disease" to "being forced to deal with people who are, objectively, annoying."

So, having spend years and years working in various tech support and customer service positions, here are some of the tactics I have used to cope with irritation:

* The best advice I ever got: Don't give a shit. Seriously. I once asked my most zen-like coworker what his secret was, and that is the wisdom he imparted to me: just don't give a shit.

I like to imagine my psyche as a train, and I uncouple the "give a shit" car. I like to imagine it dwindling in the distance as the rest of the train chugs on, free of the weight of that car. Goodbye.

* Reframe the irritation as being part of your job. You're not being paid to do X, you're being paid to cope with irritating situations. Being frustrated at the irritating parts is like a surgeon being frustrated with all the blood.

* A silly tactic: imagine a picture frame. Imagine you are holding a picture frame up to this annoying person. Imagine that you are viewing them through a picture frame. It provides you with a soothing level of abstraction.

* Understand that these are all just the pecks of pigeons, pecking at your ankles. Peck peck. Sure, it hurts. But it's not a fatal wound. Annoying, sure, but that's life. Peck peck peck.

* People are stupid and frustrating and don't listen and don't communicate well. That's just how it is. Why be frustrated with the rain or the tides? Ommm...
posted by ErikaB at 2:44 PM on March 2, 2012 [21 favorites]


I have a low tolerance for certain irritations. I understand where you're coming from, because I work in a school, where every one of my buttons gets pushed. Sometimes stress is largely environmental, and reactive. One of the saving graces is that every day is a fresh start, right?

But, if my day starts out with something annoying, like how there were two cats fighting outside the window at 6:30 this morning and the dog then barked at them, waking me out of a sound sleep - and I awoke startled, pounding heart and an almost immediate throbbing headache - there is actual recovery work to do. I need to actively find something to make me feel better - tea, videos of baby sloths, my favourite cashmere sweater... But if it's an okay day, and things just creep up, it's like a rising tide of constant, low-level irritability. Can you find things that restore you, and remember to keep them handy? Or wear them like armor?

I find the extremity of my reactions depends on factors that have nothing to do with the actual botheration sometimes - if my feet are cold, I'm grumpier. If I'm hungry, I'm grumpier. If there's a noise like humming, noisy crappy cartoons, whining dog or buzzing from lights, I'm grumpier. Scratchy tag? Hair in my eyes? Forgot to floss? It all adds up. If the house is messy, I'm grumpier. So I work really really hard to control what I can, so that I'm better able to tolerate the things that are part of my job (and my day as a parent), such as upset or mean kids, obnoxious behaviours, needless bureaucracy and personality conflicts. Every single one of those things sends a tsunami of irritation over me on a good day - on a bad day with other things having snowballed: Look Out. Can you keep things from snowballing by minimizing small constant irritations?

I'm also an introvert, and it takes me time to recharge after certain or constantly draining interactions. Are you? Today I had to approach someone about something, and where she could have just acknowledged and walked off, she became confrontational and outright lied. And whereas my normal reaction would have been to say "BullSHIT" and stare at her until she withered, I had to get creative and respond reasonably and that actually made me feel good, saying instead "Oh, dear - that's a load of hooey now, isn't it? If you had been doing that every day for five years to this point, you would have been told well before this and wouldn't be doing it now. So now that you have been reminded, please never do this again, so that I don't have to escalate it." I was downright giddy! Perhaps if you can make your responses creative, you can take pleasure in them. Another example: As someone who's irritated by interrupting phone calls, I'll say "Let's see if you can tell me what you need from me in fewer than ten words." Then it's a game, and it's fun.

One other thing I do is to take Madamina's excellent suggestion of "What Would a Robot (Nanny) Do?" and apply it beyond motherhood. When someone is spouting crazy sh*t, I detach and think "What would a robot x do?" and it works. Kid is trying to steal the only recess football out of my office and it just fell out of his coat and I worked my butt off to convince the principal that his group would be responsible with it and I am irritated that my good nature's been taken advantage of? I push the knee-jerk reaction aside, put on the robot brain and it's all "*Sigh.* Well now, what do you think we should do now, young man?" Beep Bork. Then I'm proud of myself, and that's a reward.

So, TL:DR to stop being irritable: I pro-actively protect myself by trying to stay well-rested, well-fed, physically comfortable and getting lots of daylight and fresh air outside of the soulless, chaotic, buzzing fluorescent box that is the school. Then, when the inevitable occurs, I challenge myself and either get creative or detach. Then I reward myself for handling tough situations well (be it a wander through a favourite store on the way home and not necessarily buying anything; a cup of tea; a loaf of extra nice bread; a phone call to someone I like) - but I give myself the time after the upset to figure out what will really work, rather than applying "band aid" solutions. But it would also be unfair not to mention that I also take medication for anxiety, and I call it "patience in a pill", because every day's edges are smoothed a little by that too. Sometimes having a break from myself is what I need as well.
posted by peagood at 3:07 PM on March 2, 2012 [8 favorites]


I have OCD, so you experience may be different, but when I am off my meds I feel this way most of the time. I go to soooo much trouble to make other people's lives better, so when they do something without thinking or that impacts my day negatively, I get really pissed.

The prozac really makes a difference. The first time I took it, I had this conversation with myself:

"That idiot just cut you off! Honk your horn!"
"Yeah, I don't need to honk. It's all okay."
"But he needs to know what he did! He'll just keep doing it!"
"Maybe he's having a bad day. Maybe he doesn't even realize he did it. Honking is rude."
"But he CUT YOU OFF!"
"Yeah, but he didn't really slow me down any. I still made it through the light...

Pretty soon the "nice" version of my personality took over and the angry part went away.
posted by tacodave at 3:19 PM on March 2, 2012


anonymous, I have this problem too. In fact, I was writing an AskMetafilter question about it in my head, just this morning.

Reading over the answers you're getting, I came to anitanita's and it's like s/he has a a window into my soul.

My work is almost entirely helping other people do what they need to do. I have long term projects that need to get done, but am also on-call to a large population by phone, email, or drop ins. I have to help all these people right away, so I never get to determine my work flow for myself. I'm also an introvert working in a people skills job. I have great people skills, but fixing emergencies and screw-ups all day exhausts me.

Recently, I've been incredibly stressed, and over-taxed, and thereby honestly frustrated with incompetence and inaction of other coworkers. My problem is not a lack of empathy as some have implied above - my problem is stress, burn out and therefore a lack of resiliancy.

Stuff that I could usually take in stride just breaks me down right now - I get so frustrated and angry because I just don't have any resources left to deal with extra crap. I wish I had some amazing curative advice for you, but I'm just now facing the problem (trying to find solutions) and I wanted to chime in that I feel your pain.
posted by Squeak Attack at 3:44 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've often imagined that most people I know would be a little shocked if I talked about how angry I get at work.

Any chance work is the only place you allow yourself to react this way? Doesn't sound like it, but worth considering.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 3:50 PM on March 2, 2012


I have worked in a field where my job involved helping fairly clueless people use technology. Often they would ask me for help with things that I actually had no background with at all, but I was able to help them through the power of google and general critical thinking, and it would really irritate me that they would basically force me to do for them what they should be able to do for themselves.

What helped me was to imagine that they were my mother. I love my mother, but she is sort of technology-clueless and -phobic. I would just keep telling myself that this could be my mother asking this question, or doing this thing, and how I would want the person who was helping my mother to treat her as kindly as possible. I can make excuses for my mother that I can't make for strangers. I try to remember that this person is probably someone else's mother. I try to cut them some slack. Thinking about them in the frame of my mother helped me to cut them more slack than I could as just another clueless person who can't use google or apply any basic critical thinking skills. My mother is sixtyish and we have a good relationship, so substitute kind-but-clueless older person if needed.

I also try to think back and remember times where I needed help, and someone went out of their way to help me when they did not have to do so. And how grateful I was for that, or how I didn't realize that I was asking more than I should have. Or times when I needed a simple thing, an easy thing that someone could have done, but didn't do, and how that impacted me. In general I have no shortage of empathy and patience, but some jobs wear on you. And sometimes I have to sort of pause and try to re-summon my empathy, or I'll grind my teeth down to nubs.
posted by Arethusa at 4:51 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fairchild: "One thing that my therapist told me that was very interesting, and so far life-changing, was that I am "addicted to my anger." It was as if I was finally exposed. I had no idea I was using anger like an alcoholic uses booze. I truly felt my anger was justifiable (it wasn't) and was damaging my relationships and life. And of course it goes without saying: the joy can't get in when you are walking around in a constant state of irritation. This behavior is a coping mechanism. For me, it was a codependent behavior, as much as I would hate hate hate to admit that I have any codependent behaviors.

I don't know if this is the case for you but for me, my anger was a way for me to remain a victim. Angry about my past, angry that this person in my life is doing this or that. Angry about things I had no right being angry over because they were out of my control. Anger is a way to stay stuck and make excuses for the state of your life. Anger is a way to push others away and to impair intimacy.

This might be a stretch for you because you aren't angry outside of work and get irritated with relatively minor things. I think it's normal to occasionally become irritated with people that are inconsiderate or clueless. We all have different irritation thresholds and what my irritating to you, may not be irritating to me.

Being constantly irritated and angry is a childish way to behave. I'm not judging, I have been there. The immature child in you feels like you deserve to be angry. Look at all of these idiots messing up my day and routine! Look at what I have to deal with! You made me angry! If it hadn't been for you, I would have...

So try being more adult it and taking responsibility for your feelings. You don't have to act on them -- they are only feelings. For me, I had to grow up, realize that people aren't out to get me. Realize that I'm not a victim and to stop getting pissed off and moody. Realize that you may be using this irritation as a way to cope. Explore that. Also, if you are like me, one of the reasons why I was so darn angry (besides feeling like I had a right! Ihad this horrible childhood, cry, cry, isn't that sad?!) was that I didn't value myself. I didn't like myself much at all. Start really liking yourself and you will notice how patient and kind you are with others. There is an easiness when there used to be such resistance and pain.

Good luck.
"

Wow, Fairchild. Mind = blown. I'm going to print your post out and carry it with me every day.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 5:07 PM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


I quit coffee and switched to tea and 99% of my road rage, etc disappeared completely.

Some foodstuffs make me come unhinged. (It wasn't the caffeine, because decaf did it just as much, as does Dr. Pepper and a handful of other wierd things. Low blood sugar will do it most of the time, though. Or high blood sugar. Whatever it is that happens when you eat pancakes with syrup for breakfast.)
posted by small_ruminant at 5:12 PM on March 2, 2012


I used to be pretty much exactly the same. In my case, it turned out to be depression.
posted by triggerfinger at 9:46 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Go to the doctor and have your blood tested for 1) triglycerides, 2) HBA1C, 3) vitamin D levels, 4) cholesterol and 5) testosterone. What is happening in your blood could be an indicator of what is causing your extreme temperament, as it did in my case.
posted by tra at 11:41 AM on March 15, 2012


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