Where Irritation REALLY Comes From: Woken Up by the Family Dog - Part 1
A few weeks ago, I was woken up early on a weekend by our dog, which left me irritated, and thus providing me with an excellent everyday example of how life plays out for people. In these next few paragraphs, I’m going to suggest that the bother I felt wasn’t actually caused by getting woken up, but was caused by the thinking I did within my own head. I’m also going to suggest that’s true of all of the ups and downs we have in life, not just the trivial stuff, that the ride itself is actually being caused by the activity inside our own minds and is NOT caused by how life is unfolding around us.
So let’s start with this trivial example. The long and the short of it is that the family dog showed up in my room early on a Saturday morning, forfeiting the rare and coveted opportunity I had to sleep in. So right away I was bothered and pointing blame at my husband whom I assumed had left our bedroom door open. As I sat there and stewed, the thought crossed my mind that I often get awoken at all hours by my kids when they have nightmares, fall out of bed, etc., and yet I don’t get bothered in the least. That seemed reasonable, because in my mind, getting woken up by the dog really could have been avoided and was the result of someone’s negligence, so naturally I’m going to be bothered. In contrast, kids having nightmares can’t be avoided and isn’t anyone’s fault. By this reasoning, my bother at being woken up by the dog (due to my husband’s negligence) was perfectly justified and appropriate. But here’s the problem: as soon as it seemed justified and appropriate to me, I was basically stuck with feeling bothered and wronged.
As I sat there being the martyr, something didn’t sit well with me. I was conflicted by the fact that my husband never seems to be annoyed when I wake him up. I often go to bed after he’s asleep, and although I try to be quiet, I do wake him at times, and yet he simply doesn’t get bothered. He doesn’t think about whether I’m doing something negligent or avoidable. That’s always been a little puzzling to me, but I just figured he didn’t get bothered by things like that because:
- He’s more easygoing about a lot of things because he has that kind of personality
- Some people need more sleep than others so getting woken up is a bigger deal to those who need more sleep
- I’m always getting up with the kids so sleep is at a higher premium for me
But in a moment of honesty, I had to admit that right after the dog woke me up, I came up with what the cause must be, decided the incident was someone’s fault and could have been avoided, and then became annoyed. I wasn’t annoyed before I came up with a ruling.
At that moment, what I saw was that my annoyance wasn’t actually caused by getting woken up, or by how much I needed sleep, my personality type in contrast to my husband’s, or the fact that it was avoidable and due to someone’s negligence. I was annoyed because of what my thinking did and where it went in the moments after I was woken up. My annoyance didn’t come from getting woken up by the dog, it came from within my own head through my own thinking.
This is the way life works for us every moment of every day. When we look out at life, it looks like people get upset because of what happens in life – it looks like whatever situation we’re in at any moment causes us to feel whatever feelings we land in. But I’m using this example to point to the fact that our upset doesn’t come from outside of us, it doesn’t come from what happens in life, but rather our upset comes from whatever thoughts we have about what happens to us. We refer to this orientation to life as a new paradigm, an inside-out view of life, in which life as we know it comes from inside of us, not outside of us. This orientation explains why some people get annoyed by getting woken up and some don’t, and why sometimes I get annoyed by getting woken up and sometimes I don’t. It all comes down to what happens inside my own mind as I go through life moment-to-moment and the criteria I’ve made up about when to be annoyed and when not to. If my upset came from being woken up, I would have been upset instantly, but I wasn’t – I laid there for a moment, thought about the cause, came up with one that involved blame and righteousness, and THEN I became annoyed. In the heat of the moment, we get upset so fast it doesn’t seem like there’s a pause between what happens in the world around us and the reaction we have to it, but when you slow it down, there’s a moment when your thinking creates a reaction for you. The reaction inside of us is what causes our upset.
What do these Principles have to do with You and Your Life? Woken Up by the Family Dog – Part 2
On this website, we refer to a set of three principles as a way of talking about the inside-out paradigm or orientation to life. Let me explain what these principles are and what they have to do with you as you walk around in life every day. There are three principles that we point to that together are 100% responsible for how our lives play out every day in every situation. Each principle has a different role or function. In Part 1 of this blog, I used an example of how I got annoyed after being woken up by my dog. I’ll use the dog example to point to each principle so you can see where it fits into the grand scheme of things.
The Principle of Thought
The first principle we point to is the principle of thought. As soon as I got woken up, my head filled with possible causes behind why the dog showed up in my room, whether or not it was avoidable, whose fault it was, the fact that sleep is a big deal. We call all of that thought. In my head, I editorialize what’s happening at that moment, and I do that about everything that happens in life. It’s a constant and everyone does it all the time. When my husband gets woken up, his thinking comes up with something humorous, or he has the thought to go back to sleep. We all think something about everything that we experience.
The Principle of Consciousness
The second principle is what we call consciousness and here’s how it works. At the very instant I had thoughts of blame and negligence, or that I got deprived of valuable sleep, those thoughts put me in a feeling through what we call consciousness. For every moment that I’m thinking my husband was negligent, I feel a degree of righteousness and bother and getting woken up feels to me like a big deal. As soon as I think something, it gives me a feeling. When I wake him up, he has humorous thoughts about how loud I’m being. He editorializes with a completely different flavor, and consciousness brings those thoughts to life for him and he feels humorous, casual, and light, and getting woken up does not feel like a big deal. My husband and I each have a very different feeling or reaction to getting woken up because we have different thinking that gets kicked up for us, and that thinking gives us each a different feeling. Consciousness makes you feel whatever your thinking does.
The Principle of Mind
We use the term Mind to describe the source and the intelligence behind the forces of thought and consciousness that give us the ability to take part in life and to be awake to what’s going on around us. Mind puts a constant stream of thoughts in our heads 24/7 and then makes each thought appear real to us. Mind is basically the energy behind our internal lives that creates all of the content and gives each of us life as we know it. It’s the power behind all of the technology.
So why use the technical jargon at all? Your life will be the same whether these terms are in your vocabulary or not — the terms themselves won’t do anything for you. But each of these principles points to a force that operates inside of every person, and we’ve discovered that when people step back and take a good hard look at each of these three forces, they get a grasp of how the whole system works. When people have a grasp of how their thinking works, they do better in life across the board. Using concepts or terms to describe something is one way of isolating each individual point and talking about it more simply and concretely. Our thinking happens so fast and affects us before we even realize it, so we have to slow down and ponder the anatomy of how our thinking really works in order to appreciate the logic and intelligence behind this system that we are all under the influence of at all times.
In Part 3 of this series, I talk about how this inside-out system works the same way for the bigger, more significant things that happen in people’s lives and not just the trivial things like getting woken up early on a weekend.
What about the Bigger Problems in Life that are Outside of Your Control? Do those Work the Same Way? Woken Up by the Family Dog – Part 3
In parts 1 and 2 of this blog, I showed how people’s irritation or bother over trivial events comes 100% from what goes on inside the person’s own mind, and is not actually caused by whatever it was that happened to them. In the example I gave, when I got woken up by my dog, my irritation came from my own thinking, not from the fact that I was woken up. I made the point that our ups and downs come exclusively from inside our heads, not from what happens in life around us, which explains why my husband and I get affected differently by being woken up early.
Now I’m going to suggest that this is true of everything that happens in life, not just in the trivial matters. For example, when people lose their jobs, you’ll see some people who have excellent prospects, savings they can use for the time being, and a 2nd income in the home, yet they live in a state of angst and insecurity about the future and are desperate and discouraged in their efforts to find work. And you’ll see just as many people who lose their jobs, have very few prospects, little or no savings, they’re the sole source of income in their household, yet not only aren’t they panicked, they’re actually philosophical and grateful for whatever they do have in life, and they’re creative in their job search. As people go through life, the internal or emotional state they live in day-to-day is not caused by having lost a job, what their finances are like, how their future is likely to play out – everyone’s internal state in any given moment does not come from the physical or secular world outside of us. Regardless of the circumstances we’re in, at any given moment, our internal state is caused by the thinking we’re having at that moment. If we’re jobless, the feeling we have about being jobless comes from whatever thinking we’re having. To say it simply, whether we’re up or down about life at any moment comes from thought. We feel our thinking. We don’t feel life, we feel our thinking about life in that moment.
This can be seen every day in life. If you watched the news after the hurricane in Alabama, there were people who’d lost everything they owned and were happy to be alive and felt blessed, while others who’d lost everything were devastated and grieving, both perfectly reasonable responses. In this example, one person’s thinking has to do with the fact that they’re still alive and there are others that were not so fortunate, and through the force of consciousness, that thought gives them a feeling of gratitude and humility. Someone else has thoughts of what they’ve lost and how they have to start all over again, and consciousness gives them a feeling of sadness and desperation. The force of mind gives them each a unique personal experience of the effects of the hurricane, independent of the variations in each other’s circumstances. This paradigm explains why we can be hopeless and desperate about a situation one day and calmer and more big-picture the next without the situation changing at all.
There’s nothing to do, nothing we need to change about ourselves, the way we think, or the way we live our lives. Somehow, to the degree that a person understands that their feeling in life comes from their own thinking, they take their own thinking less seriously, are less alarmed by the upset, anxiety, insecurity, and arrogance, because they see that it’s all up for grabs. That’s what happened to me in a way. I was stuck with being habitually annoyed and put out by the same kinds of things, and for whatever reason, I stopped to take a look at my annoyance, knowing it must come from my made-up theory about getting woken up. As soon as I looked in that direction, it all started to unravel. But even better is the fact that even when it doesn’t unravel or get better for us, just having the sense that whatever struggle we’re in always comes from within our own thinking, and as soon as our thinking changes, we’ll feel better no matter what happens in life. Ultimately we’re never really stuck with what we have.