This is what happens when you get angry at a stranger

Why do the actions of others make us feel so annoyed?

This is what happens when you get angry at a stranger

We’ve all been annoyed at strangers. You know what it’s like: the woman walking far too slowly on the street in front of us, that man who decides to merge into our lane without indicating, the child in the café who interrupts our morning coffee by throwing a tantrum.

Yes, it’s easy to become frustrated by the actions of other people. During the course of your day several things can happen that can make you feel unfairly targeted: the waitress forgets your order, you run for the train but the driver has closed the doors, you always seem to end up in the line with the slowest cashier at the supermarket. But why do they make us feel so annoyed?

I used to be a serial street dodger. In a crowded street, I would be the one weaving around and between people, trying to get ahead. Slow walkers frustrated me no end. When I ended up behind a slow-moving person I would become unnecessarily angry. One day, I mentioned this to a friend and I said: It’s like, move! Don’t these people realise I’m trying to get somewhere? I laughed, trying to get him on board. But my friend wasn’t having any of it.

He turned the situation around and made me see through the eyes of the other person – this person was probably happier than me because they were in less of a hurry. In taking their time, they allowed themselves to see more detail – products in shop windows, the other people on the street, cars zipping by on their way to wherever. It wasn’t their problem I was mad. And where was I going in such a hurry? Most likely nowhere of any great importance.

What happens when we allow ourselves to become angry in this way? For one, we fail to remember that those on which we are pinning our frustrations are just people too, and that we are not the only ones trying to get around. Second, and most importantly, we actually give them our energy. In becoming angry we lose control of ourselves and we allow these strangers to affect our emotions – and sometimes our entire outlook on the day.

It’s a bit ridiculous, isn’t it?

Much of Buddhist teaching centres around the notion that true happiness comes from the individual alone, and inner peace begins the moment you choose not to allow another person or event to control your emotions. Whether you’re a believer in Buddhism or not, you can’t deny there’s some real truth in this.

You can be pretty sure that woman isn’t walking slow on purpose – despite how you may feel – she’s not doing it to make you angry. The same goes for the screaming child. Children have a hard time learning how to be ‘people’ and we should forgive them for not knowing all the rules yet. As for that man veering into our lane – our lane – without even indicating, are we really going to let him make us hot under the collar?

The important thing to remember is that these things aren’t happening to you, they’re just happening. How you choose to react to these situations is the only thing that matters.

At least, that’s what I think. How about you?





    COMMENTS

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    28th Jan 2016
    10:43am
    Avoid crowds and you will have no problems like above.
    biddi
    29th Jan 2016
    11:58am
    Agreed. Nuff said.
    Sundays
    28th Jan 2016
    10:59am
    This sort of thing rarely annoys me as there is no point in stressing. Deliberate rudeness is another thing
    Polly Esther
    28th Jan 2016
    11:44am
    Take the time to observe and notice the things in your town when driving around that you have never seen before, but when doing so make sure that you are the passenger not the driver. I have been doing this lately and have been amazed by the many things I have ('not seen') not noticed before, but of course they have obviously always been there.
    Slow down, take it easy, and enjoy your life. Remember it is not a rehearsal.
    Rosret
    28th Jan 2016
    11:52am
    Ah yes - if you live in the country and you go to the Australia day festivities in Sydney, we as a family started to suffer people phobia - 1 metre space bubbly is required at all times! Due to stress overload we took ourselves to the quiet airconditioned Westfield complex and enjoyed the wonderful opulence of choice and no queues.
    However, I wonder how many remember the days when the city streets were so busy you were jostled along, making sure you kept to the left unless trying to get into a department store. Window shopping was virtually impossible and the queues for the cinema were long and well out the door of the building.
    Bookworm
    28th Jan 2016
    12:33pm
    Great article, especially about the Buddhist teaching. I must try to remember this when waiting for a bus. There ALWAYS seems to be a little old lady who has been at the bus stop for quite a while, but does she get her money or ticket out before boarding? No.. she gets on the bus and THEN starts rummaging around in her handbag for the bloody fare. We all wait, and wait, and wait....so frustrating and so avoidable. The driver is looking at his watch because he is on a tight schedule and sometimes says "oh just go and sit down love". So she gets a free ride and we just grit our teeth. Yes, these are minor annoyances I know, so I will try and see the funny side of things.
    Polly Esther
    28th Jan 2016
    3:23pm
    She may be all knowing and be getting off by making you all irritable, who knows? and anyway why deny her having her day and her free ride? You could catch a different bus, yes?
    Bookworm
    28th Jan 2016
    3:36pm
    Polly Esther, yes I could catch a different bus, but this wily old woman has cloned herself. True! She is everywhere, in every suburb, at all times of the day or night, just waiting to board. She is a master of disguise. I am sure that many reading this will have come across her at some stage and recognise her modus operandi.
    Polly Esther
    28th Jan 2016
    3:43pm
    Sorry Bookworm, yes I get you now. Thought you were referring to one in particular. LOL I'm slowing down. LOL again.
    Bookworm
    28th Jan 2016
    6:12pm
    Polly Esther, don't apologise! I could have phrased my post better. Anyway, it took me a while to appreciate your name - very clever!
    Anonymous
    28th Jan 2016
    8:42pm
    Bookworm, I have seen this same old bag, er, I mean lady a couple of times in the past few months. My wife and I were on a cruise and I was the first one in line waiting for a gold and silver chain sale to open on the prom deck. Finally the salesgirl opens the door and this old sheila comes up to me and says "Do you mind if I go ahead of you as I am not feeling well and can't wait very long?" What a hide! I told her "You'd better see the ship's doctor right away as you look prey crook!", leaving her behind and making my purchase. Last week she was just ahead of me in the same supermarket queue. After her items were bagged she was told the bill she opened her handbag and started to count her coins - must have robbed a bubble gum machine. After pulling out more change than what's in a wishing well she got to $3.20 less than the total bill. "What am I going to do, what am I going to do? I'm on the pension!" So who's not!? Knowing that her ranting would continue, as she did, I paid the remainder, as she knew I probably would, and off she went without even a "Thank you". This parasitic pretending pauper will surface again, as sure as God made little green apples, to prey on innocent, good-natured Samaritans until the day she dies when everyone will find out she was an eccentric, reclusive millionaire who still had the first dollar many, many other people had made and donated to her.
    Happy cyclist
    28th Jan 2016
    12:52pm
    None of the things you mention worry me but I find it very hard to stay calm when people talk loudly on phones in public spaces. One-sided conversations are so dreadfully boring yet most are conducted so loudly you just can't help hearing them. Browsing in a shop where someone is yakking loudly on the phone makes it very hard for me to "be Buddhist-minded". Usually I just walk out of the shop in disgust.
    CindyLou
    29th Jan 2016
    9:50pm
    Strangers bother me-irritate me when their inconsiderate behaviours impinge upon me.
    Examples
    People talking about on an on to the teller at the bank when others are waiting and waiting.
    people stopping in small groups talking and blocking the walkways at shops etc
    People in car parks too lazy to walk their shopping trolleys back yo the pro private bays
    CindyLou
    29th Jan 2016
    9:51pm
    Correction 'back to the appropriate trolley bays.
    CindyLou
    29th Jan 2016
    10:07pm
    More irritation...queue jumpers, classic observed scam recently whilst travelling, 'strangers' use various techniques to jump queue. At sydney airport recently observed a huge line for non Aussies waiting to go through customs, a clever couple tricked the security guard to allow them to jump to head of queue. Not nice.


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