Frustration and impatience — they come up all the time in both personal and professional relationships.
I experience both. I do my best not to express them, but I often do, in spite of my attempts not to. Sometimes I am just not able to restrain myself, and sometimes I think I am filtering myself but really I am kidding myself — like a child who hides her head under a blanket and thinks she cannot be seen. I think I am keeping my feelings under wraps, but it is quite obvious to the person on the receiving end how I am actually feeling. It shows up in a curt email or a stern comment. My kids have been particularly good over the years at giving me feedback about this. They sense the veiled or covert pressure in my comments even when I am blind to them. While my perfectionism is invisible to me, it is still obvious to them.
I do not write these blogs posts as the enlightened expert saying that I am beyond all these foibles and here is how you can be, too. Instead, I take the path of sharing where I struggle, with the hope that my shortcomings and reflections will save you some suffering and stress along the way.
I don’t like to think of myself as an angry person, and I rarely have explosive outbursts. But I am realizing more recently how my anger often shows up as a mild simmer or slow boil, an unhealthy normal where frustration and impatience often go hand in hand.
In the past, my becoming more aware of this slow boiling anger would have perturbed me and been something I immediately endeavored to reduce with the intent of eliminating it entirely. Now I see my awareness as progress. I am not regressing. I am actually waking up more to something that has been an invisible norm. My greater awareness of the slow boil inside of me is the result of me being more sensitive to when my mind and feelings are unsettled. I am now able to notice the simmer of upset, rather than it being an unhealthy part of my normal. Now it is standing out, and becoming more uncomfortable, less tolerable. This is a good thing. It means I am experiencing more internal peace and wellbeing so that the slow boil is more obvious and noticeable — even to me.
Because of this greater inner awareness, I am more cognizant of when it feels like my okayness is threatened by things not being done according to my preferences and expectations. When I see this, I understand that my reaction is a reflection of my feeling destabilized rather than the result of what is going on outside of me.
That does not mean there is nothing to address outside of myself, but I know for sure that I can’t be clear about that while my internal safety is feeling threatened. And I am amazed, and now, more often amused, at how often my internal safety can feel threatened by innocuous things. Some examples include:
A check not being deposited when agreed
Dirty dishes left in bedrooms
Directions not being followed
Mistakes of almost any form
My husband Angus says I like to blame, usually him. It is not that I like to blame. It is just that blame is a habit I can go to when I feel destabilized. I look to find whose fault it is that I feel this way and try to address it externally. Of course, it can never be anyone’s fault. My internal instability can only come from within. I remember this more easily when I am settled.
I am not saying that my safety feels threatened every time I am confronted with the above situations. When I am in a good mood and feeling centered within myself, the above items and others far worse do not faze me. But when I am not connected with my wellbeing, I am easily frustrated and often impatient. Those are the times when it looks to me like my wellbeing is dependent on whatever it is out there being different from how it is in the moment.
Sometimes, I act as if that is true. I shoot the email off right away, or I shoot my mouth off in the moment. I am doing the best I can at those times, just as the other person is. So, I am grateful for more sensitivity and understanding arising within me. Then, I feel healthy guilt about my past behavior, and gratitude for the deeper experience of peace within myself that allows me to show up in the world, and particularly with Angus, with greater empathy and kindness. Not always, but more often.
My identification with my anxious thoughts had me quite tightly wound. Of course, I married someone whose anxiety manifests in different ways. Thus, my tightly wound, perfectionistic tendencies look crazy to him.
“What’s the big deal?” is a common refrain in our household.
I am so grateful for that. Rather than feeling misunderstood or disrespected, I am so lucky to have someone in my life who often maintains perspective and sanity when I have lost my bearings and am acting like a controlling lunatic.
Of course, I have come a long way!
The understanding of the Principles has changed my life. I am far less anxious, controlling, impatient, and demanding than I ever used to be. Of course, I still get caught up at times. But now I have more of a sense that I am acting crazy when I am doing so.
The other day, Angus and I were leaving on a trip, and I felt compelled to wash everything in the sink before we left. There is nothing wrong with that, and it is common sense when you don’t want an ant invasion. However, I could feel my internal rigidity. I could feel my compulsion driving me. I could feel my irritation that it had not been done already and that I was now the one doing it — even though Angus washes up my dishes 100 times more often than I do his.
The good news is, I knew I was crazy!
Knowing this didn’t stop me from feeling upset. It didn’t stop me from using a frustrated tone with Angus. But I did have some perspective. I was able to notice myself in my frenzy. And because of my awareness, I was able to take myself less seriously. I knew I was not in my right mind, and I could not trust my thoughts. This allowed me to settle more quickly because I left my thoughts alone. I didn’t rev myself up with more thinking about what I was thinking. This allowed me to apologize to Angus sooner. I was also able to have compassion for myself while I was suffering.
I am hoping this helps you to see that rather than judging yourself for giving voice to your frustrations and impatience, you can relax and understand that noticing your imbalance means you are learning. That is enough! And the noticing is an opportunity to love yourself in that moment. The deepest need behind the feelings of frustration and impatience is the need to feel safe and secure. Fear is always behind reactivity, and the antidote to fear is always love.
What is most helpful is for you to have room for your humanness.
There is nothing wrong with you. You do not need to fix yourself. Reactivity is feedback about how scared we are in the moment, and it is an opportunity to look in the direction of your true nature during those times so you can be reminded of the love that is at your core and is unchanging.
That is the only place where real safety and security lie — in the formless essence of who you are. And in the midst of psychological meltdowns, that is the best place to look. It is always there! Always guiding you — ever-present!
Rohini Ross is co-founder of “The Rewilders.” Listen to her podcast, with her partner Angus Ross, Rewilding Love. They believe too many good relationships fall apart because couples give up thinking their relationship problems can’t be solved. In this season of the Rewilding Love Podcast, Rohini and Angus help a couple on the brink of divorce due to conflict. Angus and Rohini also co-facilitate private couples' intensives that rewild relationships back to their natural state of love. Rohini is also the author of the ebook Marriage, and she and Angus are co-founders of The 29-Day Rewilding Experience and The Rewilding Community. You can follow Rohini on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. To learn more about her work and subscribe to her blog visit: TheRewilders.org.