I’m not always all love and light and sometimes shit gets to me. For example, I’m highly sensitive to certain sounds, and noises made “just because” turn me into an irritated stress ball. When this happens, the “flight” part of the “fight or flight” response kicks in, and I’m outta there.

I live in a home with young children, so this is something that I contend with regularly. My toolbox is filled with various flavors of escapism, and I’ve been known to wear noise-cancelling ear plugs or headphones, go to my bedroom, or even leave the house when the chaos is too much.

This is often the most appropriate response (which has the added benefit of mitigating any irritation before it arises), but there is something uncouth about wearing ear plugs at the dinner table. What then?

I’ve been rereading Pema Chödrön’s Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears – a book that is pretty much dedicated to dealing with shenpa (a Tibetan Buddhist term for getting “hooked” in a negative response pattern that feeds and breeds yuckiness).

When shenpa takes hold, rather than go to war with ourselves or others to make this yuckiness subside, Pema essentially advises us to [paraphrased]:

  1. Acknowledge it,
  2. Observe it, and then
  3. Relax and move on.

This is some powerful, do-nothing advice. And, it freaking works.

While it doesn’t help with my sensory imbalance issue, it does change my response to things that trigger it.

Rather than feed my irritation, I acknowledge that yes, I’m feeling annoyed but that this annoyance will pass. And, I allow myself to feel this way without using mental gymnastics or self-shaming to mitigate it. Can I soften into it? Can I relax? Holy shit, I can!

The sensory overload issue is a whole different beast. Sometimes I may still have to leave the room. But, I can do so without the charge of shenpa. In other words, I can leave without mentally griping about it.

It sounds so simple, and it is. Try it.