Saturday 27 July 2013

On being irritable


I am an irritable person, easily irritated, prone to flashes of anger - as commenters to this blog have good cause to know, as well as my family and colleagues, I'm afraid!

This seems to be the way that I am set-up, my nature or character - and it is a double-edged defect, in the sense that I would not be blogging, and would not have written what I have (including some of the best things), nor would I have steered clear of some of the bad things I have steered clear of, unless I were irritable.

At one time, I was one of the columnist/ pundits (of whom there are many - in the Mencken tradition) whose stock-in-trade is irritability - whose writing is an extended rant about things which irritate them.

I realized that this was not a good thing to have as a life project, and that irritability needed to be absorbed into the context of a positive and constructive goal if it were not to eat-up the soul. And, fortunately, this has happened - being irritated is no longer my prime motivation for writing, merely a significant motivation and one that is embedded in a larger context - progress of sorts, I suppose...

Yet of course, irritability is a sin, and although it cannot wholly be avoided without leading worse consequences - a kind of inert zombification - it does lead to significant harm to other people as well as to myself.

As an example, an explosion of irritability in an interview led to my not being offered a job for which I wanted and needed, where I was a shoe-in - the best qualified candidate by far, and for which the interview was intended as merely a formality. But, for all my disappointment, I could not complain that the interview misrepresented my true nature - it was very much the kind of way that I do in fact behave!

As irritability is a sin, and as it cannot be avoided without worse sin of other types, the only answer is repentance (as usual...) - and to ensure that momentary explosions of insufficiently-justified anger are not allowed to fester and become permanent resentments. Not to allow irritability to tip-over into grudge.

And luckily, I am not set-up to be a person who holds grudges - indeed, I have a tendency to forget resentments (whether or not I truly forgive the person - forgetting is not itself a virtue, in the way that forgiving is a virtue/ necessity).

Anyway, this posting is intended as an apology for those commenters who have been at the sharp end of my irritability; an explanation for why this unfortunate trait is - if I am honest - not likely to change; and reassurance that it is quite likely I have forgotten all about whatever it was which irritated me.



dearieme said...

I can see it's a defect, but is it really a sin?

In the Old Testament God comes over as irritable, to put it mildly.

Bruce Charlton said...

@d - Well, it's not a virtue... It's a question of proportion - I don't think over-reacting to minor annoyances equates to divine righteous anger!

cantillonblog said...

Is irritability not the shadow side of intolerance for mediocrity and a drive for excellence?

Irritability is not the same thing as the divine intolerance Lazare spoke of, but it seems to me there is a connection.

"All those on the contrary who labor, all the daring ones, the innovators were fanatics and intolerant; all those who want to innovate and create must be intolerant and fanatics. They must chase far from themselves any idea, any vision hostile to their dream, any dogma that negates the ideal they want to pursue and that they hope to reach. They should fight for the existence of their idea the same way they’d fight for the preservation of their energy, the same way they’d fight for life. They shouldn’t listen to the indifferent or fools, and they should know that the day they renounce their attitude, the day they renounce the defense of the ivory tower in which they’ve enclosed their dream, they will lose any power of seeing it succeed.

Whoever you might be, young people: atheists or Catholics, conservatives or anarchists, naturalists, psychologists or symbolists, if your faith is sincere, if you haven’t chosen them for reasons you can’t confess to or that are low, but rather freely and in keeping with the natural disposition of your spirit, be intolerant!"

The Crow said...

Ah a subject close to my heart.
I am an intolerably irritable git, or so I am often told. It may be true, and the fact that I was often accused of it, used to make me feel inadequate and bad.
Now I don't care. There are far worse things a person might be. And I find the same people who accuse me of irritability also accuse me of those far worse things.
I become intensely irritable at displays of incompetence and stupidity, and actually, that hardly seems surprising.

Agellius said...

I shall appropriate that apology, thank you. : )

I tend to be irritable too, in person, though it only manifests itself at certain times, in certain circumstances. It's one of the mysteries of my life: how to figure out what triggers it and how to avoid it. Is it things that I eat? Medicines that I take? Alcohol? Sugar? I have definitely noticed a correlation between irritability and caffeine or Sudafed (pseudoephedrine) and try to avoid those.

Online I avoid showing it by making myself take the time to calm down before posting. That's much harder to do in "real life".

Bruce Charlton said...

You're welcome!

My irritability is too long lasting and deep rooted to be explicable by any environmental cause. Clearly it is my character. Also, if I were not irritable, I would not blog regularly (and indeed many people's favourites among my postings were those done in a white heat of irritability!).

So this is what we find...