Using your own irritability as learning

If you can process your own irritations, you have a quick path to wisdom. Photo by Mika Brandt on Unsplash

Irritability is natural.  Most living organisms have mechanisms whereby they repel the things that disrupt their functioning, or react against situations that get in their way.

If we did not have an ability to get irritated, then we would not be able to protect ourselves.  We would not remove ourselves from poisonous environments, or from people who intend to harm us.


However, we have a choice over how we respond to most of the signals of irritation in our bodies.  Quick, urgent messages (such as extreme heat) give rise to immediate reactions, and rightly so.  However, most of the sources of irritation are not direct threats to our existence, and can therefore be handled differently.  In these cases, a good first exercise is to receive the message calmly and easily, without turning away.

For instance, if you are surrounded by noise for some reason, and it is getting in the way of your thinking, then you have time to stop and listen to the noise.  It may be that taking in your environment with more awareness gives you some clues as to the best way to respond.  Perhaps someone is trying to get your attention, because they need help.  It is only by noticing, that you will be of any use.


There are maybe three main responses to any irritation:

  1. Repulsion – move away from the source of the irritation, or move it away from you
  2. Engagement – negotiate with the source of the irritation, and see what can be done
  3. Acceptance – simple accept the irritation, and amend what you are doing accordingly
Wisdom is needed to decide exactly how to respond.  All situations are complex, and the more aware you are, the more flexible you can be in your response.


Notice what irritates you today.

Once you have noticed, first accept the intervention in your life.

Secondly, notice what is going on.  Take it all in.

Thirdly, make a decision.  Do you move away?  Do you engage and negiotiate?  Or do you practice acceptance?  They all have their advantages and disadvantages.  Use each experience as a chance to become wiser in your responses.



Irritation is a natural response to threats in your environment.

However, assuming you are in a generally safe environment, you can choose to become more conscious in your dealings with irritations.

Try a 3-step process:

  1. Accept what is happening
  2. Notice the detail of what is happening
  3. Choose how to respond
By doing this, you can use irritations to develop your practical wisdom.