Why do we have pet peeves? What do our pet peeves tell about us? What can we learn from our pet peeves?
According to dictionary.com, a pet peeve is a “recurring source of irritation.” I’ve always been a bit entertained by my pet peeves…curious about why certain things drive ME up the wall, but don’t drive YOU up the wall.
My son Hank has a pet peeve that I find a bit peculiar. He simply cannot tolerate the noise of someone chewing food. It’s not the way chewing looks or chewing with your mouth open…it is the noise. Seriously…it is as if someone took a microphone, placed it in or adjacent to someone’s mouth, turned the volume up to full blast, and then projected the sound of chewing directly into his ear. I swear the kid can hear someone chewing, six tables over. Needless to say the guy has incredibly polite table manners, BUT expects everyone else to have them as well. Truthfully, I don’t know where this pet peeve came from, nor do I live up to his table expectations, but it does humor me a bit to see him correct his teenage friends on their chewing habits.
I would say that one of my greatest pet peeves is seeing someone drop trash onto the ground. This has been an “issue” for me since I was a child…particularly cigarettes. I can recall on a few occasions, I’m chagrined to admit, that I actually observed my parents lift their ash tray from its position in the car and, at a stop light, dump all the cigarette butts out onto the pavement, through the driver’s side window.
I could, even as a child, feel myself cringe…my belly literally getting into knots with a desire to say something or get out of the car and pick them up.
I honestly have no understanding of where our pet peeves come from, but I do wonder if they don’t tell us something about the stories we have in our head. I think generally across the board, at the root of what drives our pet peeves is this sense that others are being rude or somehow invading our notion of rights or space. I’m not talking about a critical violation of our rights…pet peeves are smaller than that. They are small nagging indications that something about the actions of someone else are just “getting under our skin.” My inability to control someone else’s behavior or make them understand how their behavior is infringing upon my sense of “what is right” (on a very small scale…again not to be confused with true social injustice) is what lies at the root of what makes it a pet peeve.
In most cases I can’t do anything about it. I also note that on days when I am off kilter, ungrounded and extraordinarily tense, pet peeves can send a charge up my spine that, if you were to observe me, you might think I had just witnessed a serious crime. Pet peeves and my level of reaction to them, at least for me, provide a quick on the spot view-inward, to determine my level of peace, calm and centeredness within that moment and more than likely for that day.
Today, I’m going to have some fun with my pet peeves and sit with them a bit when they drop in…use them as a litmus test to measure my level of inside-peace. I’m not going to let them take me over the top, but rather use them as an opportunity to take me under a few deep breaths…explore on a small scale how I can remain calm, in spite of their potentially nagging effects on me. I’m going to see them as opportunities to practice for when the really big stuff comes along.
What are some of your pet peeves? What lies at the root of their frustration for you? What do your pet peeves say about you?