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Namah Journal


An answer to irritation

James Anderson


In the integral context, every detail leads to the whole. This short article looks at irritation but not in isolation. Working on one blemish can open a door to changing our entire nature. Life-review in full consciousness is an effective solution but that same consciousness needs to be poised and vigilant through all the interactions of day-to-day life.

Integral Yoga begets transformation in detail so even the little things in life are swept up in its embrace. As our nature is so interlinked, no weakness can be addressed in isolation. For most of us, irritation is regarded as just a minor aberration and so it largely passes through almost unnoticed. But our work is not complete until every crease in our nature is completely effaced. So these little details truly matter in the integral context. In any case, irritation may start in a small way but expand drastically given sufficient provocation. If the right trigger is found, irritation can easily get whipped up into a fury. Irritation is something which breeds and lies underneath the emotion of anger.

If irritation doesn’t transfer to anger, it will inevitably become dormant and suppressed and so piles up, leaving negativity to accumulate in the nature. Over time it may leave a sour sense of discontent which is totally inimical to our well-being. It becomes another ingredient in this malaise we call life. A bitter heart will always lead to irritation. Sometimes it is something we feel we have to live with, as there appears to be no obvious solution.

We all go through life with varying degrees of irritability. It is taken for granted: ‘nobody is perfect’, we rightly say. Therefore very few make an attempt to resolve this particular affliction in their life. Maybe it is because the demands are too great. It is something that sits below our more violent outbreaks. It is evident that we have to dig much deeper to rectify something like this. A cosmetic approach is usually adopted but a piecemeal solution will not work if we look upon this problem from an integral perspective. If total eradication is the aim then nothing less than a complete overhaul of our being will be required.

Irritation bases itself upon bedrock of dis-satisfaction. So often we are not fulfilled and don’t precisely know why. We live in a haze of unanswered questions; nothing is clear. It seems just to follow us around wherever we go. It follows us to our workplace; it hovers over us at the family table, it breeds on interchanges among those in close proximity. There is an enormous connection between irritation and emotional attachment. One gets irritated when someone doesn’t behave in a way we expect; one gets irritated when our counterparts won’t do what we want. It will simmer when the other person won’t fulfil our desires. It picks at faults in others and conveniently ignores one’s own. There is often a feeling of superiority behind irritation. I find it sometimes arising whenever I attempt to take the moral high ground.

Wherever there is familiarity it intrudes, particularly when that familiarity has become stale. Certain people have the knack of arousing our irritation. There is also an evident connection between irritation and boredom. It breeds on common milieus or situations. Because of this, irritation can easily become a habit. It is a vicious circle: irritation becomes habitual and the habit itself induces irritation. It is a sign of vital dissatisfaction, distaste for acting along familiar tramlines.

The solution

These are just some of the instances that are familiar and common to us all. Which of these situations particularly provokes you? What arouses your displeasure? The first step in finding a solution to this affliction is to become aware of it. So what are the situations and who are the people who particularly affect you?

Close your eyes and call the Divine. Allow your mind to be calm and quiet. Give yourself permission to resolve this problem. Be confident that the consciousness will do its work. Put yourself in the Mother’s hands. Feel the connection and be conscious of it in your heart and throughout your body. However, never lose your connection and poise. This may take some time, so make sure you won’t be disturbed.

Next put all those situations and people on a cinema screen before your inner eye. See what comes to mind. If you premeditate, choose an everyday scene and not something unusual. This is not imagination but day-to-day life. Watch the screen in a disinterested way, as if you are viewing actors in a film. Watch your own reactions. What is happening in your body as you do this? Is your body trying to speak to you? Maybe there is some hidden displeasure or irritation that is articulating itself through pain. Persistently enquire into every distortion that appears in your body. Ask it a question and see what happens. If you are truly connected an answer will surely come. Your irritation may be buried deep below the surface. In the integral context, all this has to go.

Above all, watch your role in the play. Observe your interactions with the other players. Don’t rack yourself with guilt and, if necessary, give yourself forgiveness. Do not get entangled in the dramas that you witness. You need to be involved and feel the experience. However, at the same time, you have to be detached and not lose touch with your soul. If you don’t feel a connection with your psychic being or soul, don’t worry, this practice will bring you closer to it. Take it as part of your learning. We are all growing, so feel the presence in the heart instead. Observe what is happening to you inside.

See what happens with the scene and the actors when you observe them in full consciousness. Is the image not melting as love begins to rise up in your heart? What has happened to the triggers? Have they not disappeared? The state of Truth is simply not allowing it to arise. There might be a feeling of illimitable peace. I find this happens when the Truth settles inside. It automatically resolves any anomaly. It harmonises our being. This exercise is really about changing our nature. Resolving irritation can be a catalyst for complete change. Take it as a panacea for living.

This exercise needs continual repetition because initially it is not easy to maintain this poise for long in the Truth. There are times when the Truth seems very elusive. There are times when our nature hides from the soul. Life is a constant examination and provocation is sure to come, particularly when our watchfulness is shelved. If we are serious about resolving our nature we have to develop our stamina. This comes through practice. We have to be prepared to go to the very end. How else can our ‘dog’s tail’ ever be straightened? This work amounts to much more than clearing away one little blemish. Done sincerely, it can resolve our entire nature.

Therefore for the work to be complete, everyday life has to become our field of work. The Mother spoke of being in a state of “attentive observation” and having “antennae (1)” to bring light to every moment of our life. It is only in everyday life only that these wrong movements can be truly transformed into right. Keeping the presence of the Mother is our best safeguard. This is a beautiful and infallible way of negotiating and resolving the contours of our life.

Truly the work never ends. The personal effort gradually eases and finally grinds to a halt as something greater takes over but, the work will always continue. I’m sure that there will still be work beyond transformation: truly it never ends.


1. The Mother. Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 4. 2nd ed. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust; 2003, p.35.


James Anderson is a member of SAIIIHR and coordinating editor of NAMAH.

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Cinema screen


The Mother