Whatever you resist will keep irritating you...and cause headaches & arguments
My husband has a silly, and extremely annoying to me, habit of putting his dirty dishes on the kitchen counter...right next to the sink. I, on the other hand, place my dirty dishes IN the sink.
I’m not saying one choice is better than the other. And trust me when I tell you that I DON’T have the perfectly organized, everything-is-always-spotless house, so I’m no saint in this scenario.
But I can honestly say that his choice of dish placement drives me absolutely nutty. It makes me so frustrated. C’mon, just put the dish in the sink where it belongs!
Correction: This habit used to drive me bonkers. Thankfully, it no longer pains me. Why? Because I accept it.
But let me be very clear – my acceptance in no way signifies my approval of what seems, to me, like a very odd routine.
When you accept something, it merely means that you understand the reality of the situation.
Now let me back up a bit...
Before I was able to truly accept my husband’s habit, I frequently had thoughts like: “Ugh, he did it AGAIN. Why does he always insist on leaving dishes on the counter?! Why can’t he be more like me and put them in the actual sink where they belong?? It’s right THERE! Now I have to move the dishes because I can’t stand to look at them on the counter. He’s so annoying. He never does anything I ask him to do. Why doesn’t he care about what I want?”
All the while, my body would tense up, my teeth would clench, and I would think some unpleasant thoughts about how annoying life can be. Sometimes, I would get a headache shortly after seeing the dishes. Can you see where this train of thought could lead? If you guessed petty arguments later in the day, you’re right.
I don’t want anger, resentment, and frustration to fill up my days. And I certainly don’t want to have constant spats with my husband.
Here’s the thing – whatever we resist, persists, as Carl Jung famously said. It doesn’t go away or stop happening, and it certainly doesn’t stop bothering us, because we get all frustrated and annoyed whenever a certain action happens.
Resisting actually makes our reality worse because it causes a ripple effect throughout our thoughts and bodies.
In fact, Jung also said that “what you resist not only persists, but will grow in size.”
That’s exactly what was happening in my case. I was resisting the reality of what my husband likes to do with his dirty dishes. I tried to push back and convince him to change. His explanation that he likes to reuse the cups and plates instead of dirtying more dishes (we’re an environmentally-friendly family) didn’t satisfy me. So I talked to him about it more often. I nagged him.
None of my tactics convinced my wonderful husband to change, yet I was persistent in my refusal to just let him be him.
At some point, I realized my efforts were a complete waste of my time and energy. I literally had a choice – I could either continue being angry, resentful, and frustrated that dear hubs wasn’t doing something that I thought he should be doing. Or I could accept his actions as reality, stop trying to change him or the situation, and let go of the anger.
Which one would YOU choose?
Once I considered the situation in that light, I easily chose Option Accept and Let Go.
So now, whenever I see dirty dishes on the counter, I simply note their existence: “He left his dishes on the counter. That’s where he likes to put them. It’s a longstanding habit. Since I like them better in the sink, I’ll just take two seconds to move them now. Or maybe I’ll even put them right into the dishwasher.”
Okay, so I don’t actually think out this entire line of thought, but you can clearly see the difference in my responses. One builds into anger and resentment – he always does this thing. Doesn’t he care about ME?! (I’m unworthy).
While the second scenario recognizes the reality of the situation, accepts it, assumes the power to change it, and stops thinking about it (I’m in control). It doesn’t build tension in my body or make me resentful.
So whatever that pesky, bothersome habit that your partner, friend, parent, boss, coworker, family member (soooo...anyone) does, try to accept it as it is. You don’t have to like it, but you can let go of the anger.
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