Several years ago I gave up complaining.
Really, I did. Mostly.
Lately I’ve noticed that in conversation – or sometimes in order to make conversation – I talk about what’s not working for me. A little warning bell goes off deep inside, sometimes so faintly that I don’t realize I’ve heard it until long after the conversation is over.
This week, I’m listening closely for that bell.
There’s a difference, I think, between acknowledging feelings around something being difficult or unwanted, and complaining about it. I’m not a fan of ignoring feelings, of pushing them down or to the side. I don’t believe in the “just think positively” spiritual bypass school of thought when we’re sad, angry, hurt, or grieving. I do believe in finding moments of kindness, compassion, gratitude, or joy in times of dark emotions. I also believe it’s important to watch our thoughts and keep them from spiraling out of control.
Our lives are emotionally complex and there many shades of gray, pink, orange, yellow and blue between black and white.
But complaining doesn’t serve anyone.
When you complain, you give your power away. You abandon your right to choose a different thought, perhaps a better one, or one that is more true and less colored by the story you’re telling yourself.
This week I invite you to listen to your thoughts and to your words, and when you hear something that sounds less-than-positive, ask yourself, “Am I complaining?”
If you are, can you stop? Can you change the thought or the story or the conversation?
And if you’re not, if you’re expressing an emotion and asking to be heard, that’s beautiful and I honor it.
Those two things feel very different. Can you identify the difference in you?
what is venting?
Is it complaining?
Often my son will call me to “vent”
To let out all the emotions around a situation he has no control over, or very little.
I found it fascinating that, that when A friend was “complaining to me, about the same thing over and over again, I asked her if she ever thought about how she would like to see it change? What do you think the easiest way to Not complain about somethings is?
What is raging? and what is whining? hmmm
Such good questions Sorrow. Hmm…
I think “venting” could be either acknowledging emotion or complaining. If it allows him (or anyone) to feel seen and heard and to let go of some of the repetitive thought patterns, then that seems helpful to me. If it’s the same story over and over and over again (like your friend) then that seems unhelpful.
I think raging is a different story. We are not often taught how to experience anger in healthy ways, to learn from it, to feel it but not be consumed by it. Rage – to me – has an out of control quality to it that goes deep and speaks to long unmet needs.
Whining feels very similar to complaining, with perhaps a little less “maturity”. I think we often complain to belong, to meet a connection need that we don’t know how to meet in other ways. I think it’s also a way of playing small and safe, when we are struggling to talk about other things – truthful things – that we are afraid will scare people away.
The easiest way to not complain? For me that involves taking responsibility for one’s life. Not necessarily everything that happens, but in how we react to it and what where we go next.
Like my trip to Vegas recently. Not exactly a place I was excited to go again (and I did find myself complaining about that a little – ouch) but then I took responsibility for my own experience and ended up having a lovely time. It wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t my dream weekend away. But I had no reason to complain once I began making the decisions that were right for me in the moment, within the larger framework of what didn’t feel like it was in my control.
I’d love to hear more of your thoughts on it. Or anyone else’s. 🙂