Bother, the pebble in our shoe

On the continuum between a calm mind and feelings of anxiety and upset there are many signposts, many lookout points, which offer perspective on the world around us.

There’s everything from mild concern to full blown panic. Along the way, however, are incremental gradations of signals which point to our state of mind in the moment. One of these signals, which is familiar to most of us, is the experience of “bother.”

This frequent pebble in the shoe of our well-being is often experienced as mild discomfort in the face of some perceived inconvenience or disturbance, whether it’s an unexpected lineup at the checkout or a delayed departure at the airport. We may feel at the mercy of outside events, victims of incompetence or that our needs have been disregarded.

But what are we really the victims of? To understand the true origin of our bother we must first observe some interesting inconsistencies in our logic. We’ve all noticed that not everyone is bothered by delays or changes in scheduling. There are people that seem to just “go with the flow” and seem unruffled by the normal ups and downs of daily life. It may also occur to us that we ourselves aren’t always bothered by events which are outside our control. If we’re having an interesting conversation or reading a good book we may welcome the unexpected gift of additional time. If we’re in a particularly good state of mind we may have a laissez-faire attitude towards the day’s events and might even find it amusing that our best intentions are not always the achieved outcomes.

As we recognize the variability in our responses and in those of others we may have an aha moment. We may realize that we have a choice in our response. We have, in every life situation, a virtual palette of choices available to us. A second aha may point us to the truth that life is, in fact, an inside-out affair. We are the creators of our moment-to-moment experience. We’re the script writers, directors and cinematographers of our own personal 3D movie called life.

Although it may appear that we’re living an outside-in experience we can soon recognize that it’s not the event or person that decides how we feel at any given time. It’s rather our own perception, our own thoughts that create how we respond in each moment.

This profoundly freeing understanding is relevant to every aspect of our lives. Whether it’s personal relationships, travel or creative endeavours the same law applies. Our only experience of life is through thought. We cannot have a feeling without an accompanying thought.

And so when we have a feeling of bother we know we are having thoughts of bother and herein lies the choice. We can recognize it for what it is, simply a pop up thought that may in fact be our habit. The more finely tuned we become to our feelings the more quickly we can catch ourselves and decide “not to go there.” We can step back and gain perspective, see the bigger picture and decide that our own peace of mind and good feeling is more important than whether we get the best service, the best seat, or the smiling clerk.

About June Earle

June graduated from Antioch University with a Masters in Counselling Psychology. She is a graduate of U of T in Physical & Occupational Therapy and has a B.Sc in Rehabilitation from UBC.