In one of my counselling training session a couple of weeks ago, we did an exercise that still has me thinking about it now.
The tutor asked us to think about someone that we struggle to get along with and write down in 5 minutes all the things that drive you mad about that person.
Wow I thought – what a breeze this is and I wrote a whole A4 sheet without any real issue, the words just flowing out of me as my irritation with that person fell out onto the page.
As the five minutes came to a close I looked at the page and felt a bit sad that I can have such strong negative feelings towards a person, but I put it aside while the tutor spoke to us about the next part of the exercise.
“Right now turn over your paper and write about how that person see’s you”
and at that my jaw dropped
I’ve never considered that before
I started falteringly, trying to see through his eyes how he see’s and perceives me
It was really hard, and I wrote down all the aspects of myself that are at complete odds with his personality and it made for very uncomfortable reading.
My constant busyness, my need to learn, progress, do better, try harder, a whirlwind, seemingly not content, not focused on my family, no stillness or inner calm, prickly independence and so it carried on
It was a real insight into how I could be perceived and the positives and negatives within that, but also about what it is that can cause irritation about someone.
She then asked us to consider for a few minutes what about that persons personality might be needed in your own life, the thinking being that often the things that irritate us the most are actually what we most need in our life, and that stopped me dead
To think that actually my irritation is a reflection of the things I am missing in my life
When I think about that person and those qualities that drive me insane - dependance on others, always needing help, lack of ambition, not wanting more for themselves, perceived laziness – I can see that those are EXACTLY the qualities that are missing from my life – I’m too independent, not wanting to rely on anyone, too driven and perfectionist, and constantly busy and I certainly need a dose of the other person’s inner peace and calm.
So then can it really be true that things that irritate us the most are actually those we need the most?
Uncomfortable thinking isn’t it?
Try it with someone who drives you insane and see where it gets you, I can honestly say its having a massive impact on my relationship with this person and I’m seeing him through new eyes. I cant say he will ever be my best friend but it gives me a real insight to look harder when I’m irritated by someone and try and understand why and what it is about that person that irritates me.