Sometimes I struggle with annoyances and other unpleasantries (who doesn’t?). For example, I’m highly sensitive to loud or shrill sounds. Noises made for the sake of making them put me in a state of sensory overload, and the result is a combination of annoyance and a strong need to escape.
I live in a home with young children, so this is something that I contend with regularly. My responses almost always involve some form of escape – I’ll wear noise-cancelling ear plugs or headphones, go to my bedroom, or even leave the house. This is often the most appropriate response (which has the added benefit of mitigating irritation before it arises), but there is something uncouth about wearing my 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 [affiliate link] – 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). Rather than go to war with ourselves or others to make this yuckiness subside, Pema essentially advises us to:
- Acknowledge it;
- Ride the wave by simply letting it be; and then
- Relax and move on.
This is some powerful, do-nothing advice. It freakin works. While it doesn’t touch the sensory imbalance element, it does change my response to it. Rather than feed my irritation, I acknowledge that yes, I’m feeling annoyed but that it will pass. And, I allow myself to feel this way without using mental gymnastics 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.