How to Transform Feeling Irritated Into Kindness and Compassion

2023-01-01T14:04:27-07:00June 2nd, 2018|

Even though feeling irritated is a normal part of being human, it prevents us from having the peace of mind that many seek.

What if we were to use feeling irritated as fuel for our personal growth and development rather than as a feeling state that leaves us drained and resentful?

As Carl Jung said,

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” 

Perhaps, if you’re like me, you’ve noticed that your first reaction when someone ticks you off is to think to yourself, “If they change, or didn’t do this or that, then I wouldn’t feel irritated with them.”

It can be tough to know what to do when feeling irritated. As a result, we most often try to stuff uncomfortable feelings away. Unfortunately, when you hold on to your feelings, you are the one that suffers.

If you’re at that place and have noticed that feeling irritated by others is robbing you of your peace, here are a few suggestions:

The first step is to identify those qualities that tick you off.

For example, I get irritated with judgmental, controlling, self-absorbed, and entitled people. Whenever I’m around someone, and I sense they are exhibiting these qualities, I can feel myself get tight and constricted inside.

The next step is to finish this statement using the qualities we identified: “I don’t like myself when I’m ________.” From my example above, I would use judgmental, controlling, self-absorbed, and entitled to finish the sentence.

This is a real eye-opener.

By doing this exercise, we realize that we often possess those very same qualities that irritate us in other people. Yikes!

Does that mean I’m judgmental, controlling, self-absorbed, and entitled? If I’m being honest, there are times when I’m all of those things. The saying, “if you spot it, you’ve got it,” applies here.

If we continue to pay attention, we will likely notice that we can be hard on ourselves for possessing these irritating qualities.

The truth is the harder we are on ourselves for being human and for not being “perfect,” the harder we are on others.

The realization that we get irritated by people who are judgmental, controlling, self-absorbed and entitled is more about the fact that we possess these same qualities and respond habitually by being hard on ourselves instead of being self-compassionate. In short, we’re hard on ourselves, AND we’re hard on others.

How do we mindfully deal with feeling irritated to shift things within ourselves and our relationships?

First, we reflect on what the underlying needs are that aren’t being met that have triggered the irritation. For example, when we’re feeling judgmental, it’s because, at some level, we feel like we’re not good enough. When we feel the need to control things, it’s because, at some level, we’re not feeling safe and are anxious about the future. When we’re self-absorbed, it’s because we’re feeling disconnected. And when we’re feeling entitled, it may be because we think there’s not enough to go around.

Then we reflect on the person who irritated us and wonders if they are experiencing some of these feelings and needs. We begin to see how we all possess many of these same qualities due to being imperfect human beings.

How do we become kinder and more compassionate with ourselves, which will, in turn, increase our kindness and compassion when we’re feeling irritated?

We can spend 5 minutes personalizing a loving-kindness practice from the Buddhist tradition to shift from irritation to compassion.

Here’s a summary of how to do it:

  • Bring to your awareness the underlying needs and feelings you’d like to cultivate in response to those qualities that triggered you. For example,
    • May I love myself just as I am?
    • May I feel safe?
    • May I feel connected to the universe, others, and myself?
    • May I know I live in an abundant universe?
  • Now close your eyes and take some long, slow, deep breaths as you allow yourself to relax your body. Now bring your awareness to your heart and let your breath return to its natural rhythm. Notice your chest rise and fall over your heart. Get a sense that you are breathing in and out of your heart.
  • Begin repeating the phrases of kindness that you have created based on your desire to be compassionate with yourself. Start with focusing on compassion and empathy towards yourself.
  • Repeat these phrases as you breathe in and out through your heart. Allow whatever feelings arise to be present without trying to push them away.
  • After you’ve repeated these phrases several times, now turn your attention to the person that also possesses these same qualities. Repeat these exact phrases with that person in mind:
    • May you love yourself just as you are.
    • May you feel safe.
    • May you feel connected to yourself, the universe, and others.
    • May you know that you live in an abundant universe.
  • Repeat several times and notice how this feels in your body. Allow whatever feelings arise to be there without trying to push them away.

This practice will water the seeds of compassion for yourself and others who irritate you.

As you soften and open your heart to yourself and how you are imperfect, you will also begin to open your heart to others.

 If you feel called, please leave a comment below. Our community would love to hear from you!

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About the Author:

Bev's a former nurse turned certified meditation teacher, coach and author who serves clients in Calgary, AB and beyond who need tools to be resilient and live healthier, happier and more fulfilled lives. Bev's taught and coached individuals and groups a transformative and holistic approach to meditation and mindfulness since 2014. Bev's on a mission to share knowledge, inspiration and practical tools to alleviate the widespread unnecessary stress and suffering so many are feeling and to support human flourishing. Bev's the author of Awakening a Woman's Soul: The Power of Meditation and Mindfulness to Transform Your Life.


  1. Maree January 24, 2021 at 8:43 am - Reply

    Thank you for this

    • Bev Janisch January 24, 2021 at 3:53 pm - Reply

      You’re so welcome, Maree!

  2. Dana Hergott July 23, 2018 at 8:32 am - Reply

    Wonderful article. I am Kim Buchanan’s Mom.

  3. Dana Hergott July 23, 2018 at 8:30 am - Reply

    Wonderful article! I am Kim Buchanan’s Mom and she speaks so highly of you.

    • Bev Janisch July 23, 2018 at 9:38 am - Reply

      Thank you so much Dana! It’s wonderful to hear from you. I’ve been thinking about you and your family and sending you all lots of love.

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