“Everything That Irritates Us About Others…”

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
— Carl Jung

* A thoughtful reader sent me the link to the site It Made My Day. Lots of fun.

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  • Rose

    I’ve always liked this quote. I reject the facile interpretation of this means people who irritate us are just like us. More like other people’s irritating traits can act as LIGHT for us, and let us see things about ourselves we might not be aware of otherwise. For example, I have an individual in my life whom I dislike because I find them to be terribly controlling. It has taken some time, but I learned that I want my boundaries to be respected and that it is important to me to be treated as an adult, not a child or idiot who needs to be told what to do, say or think. I might not have realized this about me if I didn’t feel irritated with this person on a daily basis. They challenge me to find thoughts and reasons behind the feelings of irritation and violation I often feel in their presence.

    • alpha-raw

      in my opinion, you hit it on target re: the interpretation of jung’s quote…

  • Lexi

    Funny coincidence that today I should read this, the day after my girlfriends and I were talking about the same concept and the same day that the blogger The Last Psychiatrists says more or less the same thing “When you find yourself hating someone, with blinding rage, know for certain that it is not the person you hate at all, but rather something about them that threatens your identity. Find that thing. This single piece of advice can turn your life around, I guarantee it. ” (http://thelastpsychiatrist.com/2010/01/im_building_a_rape_tunnel.html#more)

  • ronlipke

    Gretchen, this quote reminds me of a line in Hesse’s Demian:

    “If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us.”

    It’s helped me understand some really tough times over the years and why I was just making things harder for myself.

    Just bought your book too. Can’t wait to read it!

  • Absolutely 100% true. Others are a perfect reflection of ourselves. We see our love or hate in the eyes of another human being.

  • I don’t know the history of Jung’s work well enough to know how this quote came to be interpreted as saying that we are irritated by traits that are similar to our own. I believe that emotional reactions like irritation or the stronger emotion of outrage are often indicative of a values clash. In many cases, outrage is the healthiest response, as in the case of injustice / harm to others. Interesting food for thought…

  • 423

    An AA quote speaks to this issue in the famous passage about acceptance.”And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation — some fact of my life — unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment….unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.”

  • Michael Yanakiev

    This is a truly timeless thought! Let us hope that better understanding of
    ourselves follows.

  • Lauren

    I love that website. I get on it all the time, especially when I’m having a down day and it gets me to thinking about things throughout the day that “make my day”

    Glad you like it too!

  • alexfayle

    Wonderful quote and so appropriate to my mood! I’ve spent most of the day thinking about this, so it’s good to have the quote to add to the thoughts.

  • Gretchen, this quote is such a helpful reminder to examine what is happening in our own head as we react to peoples actions around us…. to really question what it is that is bothering us and why it is pushing our buttons. The difference in how we then respond is amazing.

  • ooh thanks for the link. looks fun 🙂

  • flamingo79

    Several years ago, I realized that what I find irritating in other people ends up being what I dislike in myself. This isn’t always 100% true, but the majority of the time, it is.

  • Hi Gretchen – Love the quote. Love Jung. And I do believe that what pushes our buttons is about us, the things we don’t see. The things in shadow. It’s actually been quite liberating to realize that about myself. Thanks!

  • What a cheerful website (It Made My Day), and a great idea for people to share their little happy moments. Thank you for pointing it out. Wouldn’t it be a better world if people made more of a habit of sharing their small joys than their complaints?

    Norma Joy’s latest blog post: Are Women Happier Than Men? part 2

  • Jon P

    Maybe this is a sign that I’m making some progress. I’m not nearly as irritated by other people as I used to be.

    On another note: It was a pleasure to meet you on your book tour, Gretchen (in this case in Brookline, MA). I would liked to have taken you next door for a cup of coffee, but there were too many other admirers in line.

  • Love this! Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

  • Definitely! Projection is a key understanding with psychology. It’s always interesting to see what we see in others only to realise its us.

  • Mona_Lisa

    I heard a paraphrase of this quote a few weeks ago, and i’ve been ‘analysing’ my irritations about others, trying to figure out where they come from.
    My anger about my husband’s addiction is derived from my own inability to get a handle on my eating habits.
    My irritation about people’s lack of organization stems from my own inability to get myself together.
    These are just two of the things i’ve noticed, but i do believe that Mr. Jung had it right.

    • Faisal

      Wow! I read your comment and it makes so much sense. I have been looking for answers about this quote and similar writings and something makes sense to me when I read your comments. I want to share my thoughts on this and also have a question. Thank you.

      • Mona_Lisa

        thanks for replying to me! i had forgotten about this site. its been so long since i’ve been here.

        • Faisal

          Thank you. You wrote something that I have been trying to figure out myself. Is it ok if I ask or get your opinion.

          • Mona_Lisa

            for sure.

          • Faisal

            can i email you if that is possible. thanks.

          • Mona_Lisa
  • “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
    — Carl Jung

    My dad turned me on to Jung in the early 70’s. He’s one of the “fathers” of the popular “motivational” speakers who have taken his work and spun it into their own money making product.

    I found this quote to be most introspective, a rule to govern oneself to avoid the pitfalls of that which we dislike about others.

  • d.l.b

    I really don’t find that to be true honestly for me, our beloved son had a drug problem and went to jail in his teens, we are clean and sober in our h ouse and we had educated both of our children about the dangers of addiction being an inherited trait, and there were enough examples of people with drug or alcohol problems for them to see upclose and personal Maybe what it taught me was I loved him no matter what? But I already knew that, the abuse and thefts etc and his problems being a full time job for me were totally draining. My dad was an alcoholic, my mom an enabler and my sister abused drugs and alcohol, on and on. I hate the addictions and the abuse it heaps on the rest of the family and friends, so I am not sure what that taught me about me. I made a conscious decision NEVER to drink or use drugs. My husband and daughter do not also. I am happy that he is alive, clean and sober, 28 years old now with a lovely fiance. I’m the empathatic person with others and that has shown me at times that others only want to talk to me or see me when something is wrong. That is a trap I have a hard time avoiding. I always give reasons why a family member or person might be doing or saying what they did, age, medications, etc. I do hate being used. I don’t hate very much in others other than the obvious, lying, cheating, stealing. I don’t know what that would tell me about me. This is a hard one for me! Provocative quote though.

  • Aniket Shinde

    Let me tell you a story…
    This is a story about a wise man who was sitting outside his village.A traveler came up and asked the villager,”what kind of people live in this village,I am looking for new home where people act different?”The sensible man asked,”What kind of people lives with you presently?”The man said,”They are mean unkind and rude.”The wise man replied,”The same type of people live in this village too”.After some time another traveller came by and asked the same question amd man again said “What kind of people lives with you presently?”Traveller replied”The people are very kind,courteous and polite”The wise man said “You will find same people here too”
    Moral of the story is that we see the world not by the way it is but by the way we are.

  • Li Zhou

    Very insightful! I feel like we have lots of ways to know about ourselves. I once found some career quizzes (https://good.co/career-quiz/ ) online, I did the MBTI quiz, and found out that I am a ESFJ (https://good.co/esfj-personality-type/ ), which inspires me on my job searching. The result confirmed me on the decision of taking a job in a non-profit.