Little things make us sane — a delicious pastry with coffee, a flowering vine on a trellis, a hug, a cat on our lap, the sound of small round pebbles rolling in a wave on a beach.

Little things also drive us crazy — a wood splinter in our finger, dropping a plate in the kitchen, an unanswered text, a sarcastic comment or unwanted behavior by a friend or family member.

It’s funny how much little stuff can make or break social equanimity, especially in our close relationships.

Someone makes a comment. It has a slight edge to it — we flinch. “What did they mean?”

We make a mistake, suffer an omission, toss off a negative comment, fail to do what was asked.

“Will they like us anymore?”

“Are we still okay with them?”

They fail us, in these same ways, or so we think.

Are we still okay with them?

It comes down to this: self-management, the management of emotion, the management of response, the management of behavior,  the management of our hearts, the management of each of our precious relationships — to wisdom.

Responding to small irritations is always a decision, a judgment — just let it go, shed it, process it by yourself (“It doesn’t mean anything. It is an isolated incident.”), or the other route — bring it up, talk about it, find out what is really going on, work it through with them or with someone we trust, “Hey, what’s really going on here?”

There is no formula, but a few things might help.

We need to ground our emotions in reality. Often the problem, our anxiety, our irritation is in us, in our own pickiness, our own insecurity, our family of origin issues, our friendship of origin issues. Our emotion is rising out of our previous conflicts and tensions with others. If this is the case we must identify the real source of our emotion.

If the emotion is coming from a past harmful or toxic relationship, we must be careful not to let that emotion contaminate our new relationships. What ruined one friendship must not be allow to ruin another. Toxicity from one relationship doesn’t belong in another. It has no right, no place there. The people who have hurt us in the past, how we responded, does not belong in our new, healthy relationships. We must bar the door.

But if the current irritation is the result of a persistent abrasive behavior that currently exists in us, or in our current friends, in or colleagues and is beginning to build up, to cause resentment, to fester, then we must bring it up, to the surface, with ourself, with others, and apply the talking cure to heal it. If someone is letting us down, failing us, hurting us repeatedly, we must be brave and bring this up to them.

This helps, this kind of analysis. We do well when we ask the question: “Where are these feelings coming from?” And, “What is reality here?”

We must identify relational and emotional reality, ground our emotions and our responses in reality, and proceed from there.

The proper handling of little things, our emotions, our specific behaviors, other’s emotions and behaviors, this is essential to maintaining mental health and good relationships.

Get this right, and we will remain sane, and connected — kind of, the best we can, okay for now.

I’m good with okay for now.

 

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