Know of someone, perhaps a friend, colleague or relative, who is always complaining? Perhaps you yourself have a tendency to share with the world how much you are suffering from the recession, or how badly your colleague’s breath stinks? Well let me shock you with what may seem like an exaggerated statement: complaining can literally ruin your life. To illustrate this, first we must delve a little deeper to the psychology of this phenomenon.
What is complaining?
In order to become aware of your own complaining, and stop, it is helpful to understand why it is that people complain. It is important to realize that complaints rarely reflect the situation or problem as much as the mental state of the complainer. Rather, think of it as an addictive emotional state – someone who is addicted to complaining will always be finding new things to stress about. For example, if you take an elderly couple that are always bickering and whinging for a free trip to Hawaii, this is what you will observe. They will land on Hawaii and for the first day or two (perhaps less) enjoy themselves. Then, when the novelty wears off, the old habit will kick in.
Stan: “Why is the hotel service so bad? They were 10 minutes late in delivering my luggage!”
Margaret: “Stop yelling, you’re ruining the taste of my pizza. I waited 15 minutes for this pizza and I want to enjoy it without you yelling in my ears”.
To not complain does not mean to not talk about your problems or discuss issues in your life. Rather, it means to not indulge in ‘bad vibes’. To illustrate this, let me introduce you to Will and Chris. Pay attention to the difference in the vibe of how they talk, and also take heed of how you feel internally as you ‘listen’ to them.
Will: Hey Julia! How are you today? I am feeling so tired right now. Like actually, I feel like I’m about to faint and roll over and just die any minute. I’m on like four hours sleep for the past three days. Four hours! The human body isn’t designed for this. And I have so much to do. Did I tell you about the massive assignment I have due this weekend? I think I’m starting to get white hairs because of all this.
Chris: Hey Julia! How are you today? Me? I’m feeling really tired, been surviving on four hours sleep for the past three days. But anyway, I have this huge assignment due this Sunday, can’t wait to finish it. Hey let’s go grab a coffee. Oh and I love your earrings today, they look kind of vintage!
Will: My parents keep nagging me for going out and staying out late to party. She just doesn’t understand that I need a social life. What you think I should move out? I wish, but I don’t have enough money. I’m not like those lucky kids whose parents pay for their rent to move out. It’s not my fault. My manager doesn’t give me enough hours. What? No I haven’t asked him, but I just know he won’t….
Chris: My parents keeps nagging me for going out and staying out late to party. I’ve tried communicating with her but she won’t budge, and I feel like my social life is being compensated for her values. Perhaps I should move out in three months, and work very hard to save up now, so then I can be more free and independent, what do you think? Yes there will be problems with money, but I’ve been proactively researching and educating myself on ways to make money, and during the mean time I asked my manager and he agreed to give me extra hours at work.
Can you feel Will’s bad vibes? Contrast that to Chris, who mentions the problem, but then either discusses a solution, formulates a plan of action, or moves on. Have the emotional self-control to remain positive, and you will draw people into your life.
HOW AND WHY YOU NEED TO STOP, STARTING NOW!
The problem with complaining is that it is a negative emotional state, which is often self-perpetuating. This results in a negative, downward spiral, where:
a) feeling stressed and negative, creating a need to vent and complain to release this energy
b) Complaining, which temporarily relieves some feelings of stress, but further enhancing and rewiring negative thought patterns reinforcing a negative world outlook.
c) Positive, motivated friends will, after a while, begin to distance themselves (reason will be explained further down), while other like-minded negative people will be attracted to your energy.
d) B and C help increase the likelihood of A occurring again.
The important thing to realize is this: people are typically attracted to uplifting positive energy. If you are going to burden your friends and relatives everyday with your negative whinging, they are going to feel dragged down and possibly even sick or irritated. That way, the next time they have a valuable 1 hour break in their busy schedules, you can be sure they will want to spend it relaxing with someone else that is able to remain positive and cheerful. In that way, when you complain all the time, you will likely end up attracting other negative people who are addicted to the same wavelength of thinking. Also, complaining encourages the mind to focus on the bad emotions and the problem, rather than thinking of a solution or plan of action. Therefore, if you are someone who wants to improve yourself and surround yourself with more positive people, be sure to read the three following methods to stop complaining.
Ever heard of the 10 day positivity challenge, where you must not indulge in negative thought for over 2 minutes at a time for 10 consecutive days? This is essentially an exercise in reframe. Reframe is the ability to give new meaning to something by changing the context. The master of reframe understands that there is no inherent meaning to anything; that the significance of something comes from our perception and interpretation of it. Compare the following:
Will: Why is basketball so hard? I don’t want to practice. I will never succeed.
Chris: I love how challenging basketball is. If it was easy, then everyone would be good at it, and I would not be able to feel the pride and rush of overcoming the opponent, knowing that I put in those extra hours during training.
Presence is another powerful tool, which is helpful when reframing becomes too difficult. Sometimes, rather than trying to contextually change our thoughts, it is easier to just ‘turn them off’, so to speak. When we complain, it is inevitable that we are thinking of the past or the future in some way or another. Learn to shift your focus genuinely and fully into the present moment, and your worries and stresses will go away. Just got robbed? Stop thinking about how hard you worked for that money. Stop worrying about how you are going to pay for rent. Allow yourself a few minutes to take in some deep breaths and to zone in on the present. Immerse yourself in your senses – the air flowing into your lungs, the feeling of your skin, the sounds or silence around you. Realise and be grateful that of the millions of sperm released, you were the one that made it, in order to be born on a blue planet that just happens to be the only known planet in countless nearby galaxies to be known to support life, at the exact period of time in history where life has evolved to allow not only for an intelligent species, but the creation of society and civilization. Do you really want to waste any more seconds of this precious miracle bitching about your ex?
After centering yourself into the present, you will feel calm. However, the problem or issue may still be there. This is where you learn to rectify or improve the situation without falling back into useless, distracting thoughts. Focus on what actions can be taken, what solutions are possible, and block out useless negativity. Realise you cannot control the universe, but you can control your own actions and your circle of influence. Instead of wasting your time complaining about your low wage, wouldn’t that time be better spent studying at the library to acquire knowledge and skills that would earn you a better job/salary? I mean, those countless hours of whining is definitely not going to make a difference – that’s for sure. And look, your time on this planet is limited - do you really want to waste even another precious second of your life in a land of butthurt?