Why do small things irritate us so much?

We may notice that our mood often gets spoiled when some small things go wrong. Why do we get so irritated by small negatives? Because that’s how our mind works — it laments losses far more than it celebrates corresponding gains. If we found ten dollars, our mind would be happy. But it would be far unhappier if we lost ten dollars. Undoubtedly, the mind’s negative sensitivity varies with people, situations and objects. Still, it is overall more sensitive to negatives than positives.

Why is the mind designed to have this imbalanced sensitivity? Possibly to help us survive in a predator-filled environment. If something sharp touched our feet, that could signify a venomous snake about to bite us. In contrast, if something soft touched our feet, that might not convey anything positive of a similar magnitude. Thus, our mind’s sensitivity to negativity can help in a danger-prone situation. But that same sensitivity can harm in less danger-prone situations — it can make us overreact to minor annoyances.  

How can we prevent such overreaction? By twin contemplations.

Remembering our distinct identity: Knowing that we are different from our mind, we can conscientiously prevent its designed reactions from becoming our default responses. Pertinently, the Bhagavad-gita urges us to take responsibility for managing our mind (06.06). 

Envisioning the opposite situation: To regain perspective amid our mind’s overreactions, we can flip the situation around. If we had gained something equivalent to the loss, what would be a valid response? If we gained ten dollars, would we celebrate for hours? If not, then why should we pout about losing ten dollars. 

By these thought-exercises, we can better moderate our responses. 

One-sentence summary:

Our mind hates loss more than it loves an equivalent gain — to not overreact to small losses, contemplate how we would respond to corresponding gains. 

Think it over:

  • Have you experienced your mind’s tendency to lament loss more than to celebrate corresponding gain?
  • Why might the mind be more sensitive to the negative?
  • How can we avoid overreacting to small negatives? 

***

06.05: One must deliver himself with the help of his mind, and not degrade himself. The mind is the friend of the conditioned soul, and his enemy as well.

 

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5 Comments

  1. BAD feelings always envelop the MIND

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    • Thank you for this post…I sure will try and use the ” flipping the situation around ” when faced with a loss/ negative situation.

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  2. Thank you for bringing up the nature of mind and the way it is designed. The explanation of why the mind is designed to react to negative impulses more intensely – for us to keep surviving in this predator-prone environment is very apt.
    The twin thought exercises, will help us modify the response.

    Thank you very much prji.

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