Why Do I feel Irritable and What Can I Do About It?

I awoke in an irritable mood this morning. My little toe hurt. A mosquito bit me between two other toes and it burned all night. My hip hurt. I was tired. It was my day to run and workout. I was worried about hurting my toe further. I didn’t want anything getting in the way of my hard-won workout groove.

I dragged my butt out and hit the trails. Pedro was being ultra slow with all his sniffing. I was being cautious with my toe. Something was in my shoe. I noticed my furrowed brow. I became curious.

Did I really wake up irritable? What is irritability? Can I parse out what’s happening here? Becoming more curious, I followed the irritation. I could see that I had certain sensations: itchy, burning, pressure. I could see that my energy was on the low end. Sensations and low energy. Is that irritability?

I could also see that it was a beautiful morning. Birdsong filled the forest. A lovely breeze played over the trees. I could smell a hint of salt in the air. Frogs ribbited. Turtles sunned. I was walking with my precious boy dog and my love but my attention was elsewhere.

It occurred to me that the irritation was nothing more than focused thoughts and the meaning I gave to the sensations and energy level. The sensations and energy were not a problem. They were neutral. They only seemed to be a problem when I attached a bunch of stressful thinking to them. “Here I’ve worked so hard to get in a good exercise pattern and my little toe is going to stop me.” “Why does something always happen to get in the way of my exercising!” “What’s wrong with me that I’m so irritable?” “My whole day will be ruined!” "Waaahh!" You could call that exponential thinking. Thinking upon thinking upon thinking. 

I could see clearly as I watched myself that the irritability was about my thinking, not about the sensations and energy. Once I saw it, I was able to take those thoughts less seriously and allow them to move through me. I was able to relax a bit and just be with the sensations and low energy without attaching all kinds of meaning to them. As I did that, the irritation began to subside. I could see that trying to positive-think my way into a better frame of mind wasn’t necessary. I could see that trying to “fix” the sensations and low energy wasn’t necessary.

As I removed the stories from the sensations and energy level, I could see that they were neutral. They weren’t a problem. Yes, I was cautious with my toe but I was no longer worried or stressed about it; I simply took care of it. Yes, Pedro was still trailing behind but it was no longer personal.

You see, we create our experience via our thinking. Sensations, energy, and draggy dogs are not a problem. It’s the stories, the meaning, the exponential thinking we attach to those sensations, energy, and draggy dogs that create our experience. I could not see this for decades. Now I can. Except, of course, when I can’t.

You may be thinking, OK, so it’s bad to be irritatable and I should try to stop it. Well, no, it’s not a problem feeling irritable, afraid, or low but you don’t have to make negative meaning out of it. You don’t have to feed it. You don't have act on it. And it is not you. But, guess what? If you do feed it, that’s not a problem either. It just means that you are going to feel it more strongly. If you feed irritability, you will feel irritable. That’s how the human system is designed to work. Your system is working perfectly.

As you allow the thoughts of irritability to move along, the feelings of irritability will flow with them. If not this moment, then the next. If not today, then tomorrow or the next day. I can't tell you when they will move along, only that they will. That's what thoughts and feelings do. There is no need to be worried about them. As you allow them to flow, you may notice that they aren't as sticky. You may notice that you can hear the birds singing from time to time or catch yourself smiling at your animal friend or child.

Like clouds parting and forming, parting and forming, so are thoughts and feelings. The clear sky of your wellbeing is always present despite the clouds. You can count on it.

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