Why It’s Telling When People Irritate Us


Often times, when we occupy the space of “I’m right and you’re wrong” it keeps us from seeing our own responsibility in matters. When we judge others’ foibles and personality traits, what does it really say about us? What can we do to identify and get rid of judgment in ourselves and in our lives?


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

As human beings, we are constantly searching for self-definition by viewing ourselves in the context of our fellow “others” on this earth. One of the ways we do this is to be continually searching for the “sameness” or “difference” with the people we encounter in life. Often, the search to realize our own uniqueness leads being judgmental.

As a basic and primal evolutionary survival tool, judgement of the “other’s” intentions could enable one to move toward or away from a threatening encounter.

However, on an everyday basis, most of us are more likely to be judgmental as a means of elevating our own self-importance and/or assuaging our feelings of inadequacy.

There is an underlying sense of moral superiority and righteousness when we are being judgmental.

In this dynamic, whether we are judging ourselves or others, we lose the sense of tolerance, compassion and objectivity that is probably most required. Recently, I was in a car with a male friend who became irate and judgmental about another driver who cut in on us in a toll line. I laughed, as I had been in the car with him many times when he had done the very same thing to other drivers. This is a simple example.

Being judgmental can drain us.

Having compassion and empathy restores and increases our energy and our sense of well-being.

It helps us want to move toward others and allows others to move toward us. During this holiday season, when we are surrounded by family and friends, we should all try to be more tolerant and empathic to our differences and check some of our judgments both of others and of ourselves at the door. Be mindful of the tendency to be judgmental and find humor and acceptance the kaleidoscope of human foibles that make up our world!

Dr. Karen Binder-Brynes is a leading psychologist with a private practice in New York City for the past 19 years.