Noticing all sorts of things about myself today. I wrote to my cousin Riva today, (my father’s cousin actually) and in the message I wrote that “travels seem to give my mind a chance to expand and gives me fuel for self exploration and discovery, and to feel the edges of my life that haven’t yet been worn smooth.” I’m feeling that to be true for certain today, at least the “edges of my life“ part. What I’m noticing is how stubborn I can be and how quickly that can pop up. I just went to a coffee house with a Wi-Fi sign and after ordering and paying for my drink they told me there was no Wi-Fi available. Without thinking about it, I asked to have my money refunded. I was frustrated and acted on that. He agreed and I took my money back and left. The truth is that I would have preferred to have an internet connection, but mostly I just wanted to go out in public somewhere to do my writing. The issue here is that I over-reacted and I don’t like when I do that. I think that strong reactions are appropriate at times, so it’s not just that I reacted strongly, it’s just that a strong reaction wasn’t truly called for in this situation. So off I wandered in search of another option with a little time to think about what had happened.
My friend Eric wrote to me in a chat session today and suggested ever so politely that I may want to look at issues such as this where I have stronger reactions. I had asked him to help me figure out how to track my internet bandwidth usage because I am paying for it by the Mb instead of per day, and I was afraid of getting ripped off. He reminded me of negative interactions I had in India with an Internet place, and also with taxi drivers where there were issues that had arisen. Something just to consider on my “inner” journey.
I also had a strong reaction the other day in Bulgaria when I had been waiting for a taxi for a few minutes. When he showed up, I put my backpack in the trunk and then I placed my shoulder bag on the seat and prepared to get in. The driver was quite annoyed with me and I wasn’t quite sure why. He quickly pantomimed to me the movement of my bag from the ground outside the taxi to the seat and how that would transfer dirt to the seat. I quickly responded by having him remove my backpack from the trunk and canceling our appointed ride together. True he was frustrated and acting out of that frustration, but I responded with frustration of my own, in a temperamental way and it was not how I want to act in my life. I would prefer to act as a loving, understanding being, with my own petulance kept at bay. That’s actually a good word for my reaction in both of these situations, “petulant.” Quick web dictionary lookup reaveals: “ill-tempered or sulky in a peevish manner.” That’s about right. This is a place I’d like to grow. Or outgrow. Here’s another definition: “moved to or showing sudden, impatient irritation, esp. over some trifling annoyance.” Good one.
And here is one from Wikipedia which actually strikes at the heart of the matter for me:
“Annoyance is an unpleasant mental state that is characterized by such effects as irritation and distraction from one’s conscious thinking. It can lead to emotions such as frustration and anger. The property of being easily annoyed is called petulance.”
I say this strikes at the heart of the matter for me because it is a “distraction from my conscious thinking.” Petulance is really an ego-based response. Something in me must feel like it needs to defend itself I guess, but defending against “trifling annoyances?” So much of our behavior, my behavior anyway, is quite unconscious, and it is that unconsciousness that is the source of insincere behaviors and thus suffering. Petulance simply doesn’t exist as a conscious behavior, and I guess that’s really my point here. I don’t need to be acting unconsciously, at least not in ways that have a destructive nature, and petulance tends to have a destructive nature to it.
I’m certainly not always petulant. In fact, I think I let a lot of things slide off my back when others might take affront, but petulant is certainly not how I wish to act in my life moving forward.
I’m not entirely sure where petulance comes from in me. I think most children have petulance. For those of us who wish, one of our jobs as adults is to outgrow petulance and replace it with a more thoughtful, self-aware, perhaps poised behavior which is much more grounded in it’s capacity. That’s what I’m trying to do by exploring this here, to shine light on it so I can see it more and more clearly as it pops up again in the future in my life. Perhaps at some point I’ll see it coming and actually be able to cut off a petulant response before it happens, or at least be able to see it as it’s happening and apologize quickly afterwards and bring light to an otherwise darkened situation.
So there, another edge in my life that hasn’t yet been worn smooth, exposed for me and the world to see. Thanks Eric for encouraging this exploration.
One reply on “Shining a Light on Petulance”
I can really relate to how you felt about the way you acted and responded to those situations. Just returned from Chiang Mai where there were many, many confrontations of this type. First, about a songtao where the guy demanded three times as much as we knew the ride to cost. Often, I respond to Serge's reaction which is usually a little mean and too strong for me like when the guy did not take the money and demanded more he wanted to WALK and the driver could go to hell. There were many of those things within a short period of time. Times are hard and they are not making money enough.
Later a guy in a bar jumped up and attacked another guy for calling his shitsu doggie Barbeque (and Serge and I had been looking at the dogie and Serge was saying some funny things to me so he could have been the one the guy jumped instead). It was so ugly and just full of anger. The guy was a total asshole and follows the guy who made the remark hitting him and yelling like a jerk. I was totally nervous and wanted to leave immediately as Serge kept saying the guy was a total nut and I feared he would surely piss the guy off. I would go to great lengths to avoid any confrontation and will quickly give in unless I am being obviously ripped off. But it feels much better. The anger and getting in that ugly place where you say terrible things and react really sucks and hurts you more than the other person. Sandra Seymour