Do you have a friend who is always complaining? Are you that friend? Why do we complain?
Life can really throw you some interesting (aka challenging) curveballs. Sometimes when you think it’s just pausing and you get to rest, it starts all over again. Maybe it’s flare-ups or it’s another episode with your child. Or it’s a last-minute deadline at work. It can feel non-stop and overwhelming. Staying out of fear may just be too much to ask for, especially since our oldest brain is wired for it. Sometimes just being able to breathe is enough.
We’ve all had situations like that. Some of us seem to be constantly chasing down good information from our doctors on the merry-go-round of diagnosis. Some of us keep breaking a bone or just are accident-prone. Some of us are going through trying times that make us question/re-think everything.
The world today is also much different than even 10 years ago. Gregg Braden reminds us that the cell is engineered for immortality, if its health is not disrupted by toxin and malnutrition. We are faced with both, aren’t we? To say people are under stress is an understatement.
So is it any wonder that many people complain? It can get to be too much. Now, we are told to feel our feelings and talk about them. We were unfortunately not taught how to do it constructively.
If you are going through something, you may find your circle of friendship shrinking fast or dissolving completely. I once heard a practitioner say that she gives people three chances. If they keep complaining, without doing something about it, she cuts off their friendship. I thought that was a bit harsh.
I do understand. I too have experienced what a drain on energy it is to have a friend who is constantly complaining, especially when crap is hitting the fan in your own life.
Mostly, we can empathize with both sides. We have likely been both at some point in our lives. The complainer and the sympathetic ear and the shoulder to lean on.
Research shows that a reliable and robust social network is one of the most important factors in good health and well-being. That social network looks different for everyone and friendship is a key relationship in our social life.
The question we often ask is how to be authentic and have true friends?
Why do we Complain?
It’s said that there are three types of complainers –
⋯ someone who complains just to vent, uninterested in a solution
⋯ someone who complains and wants to be comforted
⋯ someone who is a chronic complainer and that is how they approach everything. Complaining is their pattern.
Knowing which type of complainer a person is helps you to choose the appropriate response. It can be a little trickier if that person has an ongoing challenge that is just taking time to resolve, like a divorce, and who in fact is not a chronic complainer. Their resilience and natural optimism is on the rebound.
Knowing which type of complainer you are helps you to choose the appropriate people to talk with.
The Brain and Complaining
Research shows that the brain is hard-wired for the negative. It is natural and the default to go to the worst-case scenario mindset. This, they say, is a remnant of our evolutionary survival instincts to distinguish between danger and safety, friend and foe. It was better to err on the safe side, being skeptical and suspicious of the rustling in the tall grass, than to be dead.
While this is a neat bit of info, we have to change the narrative around it. Our environment is not like that of 200,000 years ago when our ancestors the Anatomically Modern Human showed up. We also now know that the brain is “plastic” and the brain can and does create new neural pathways.
What we default to becomes a more entrenched way of thinking. The more entrenched way of thinking becomes the default. This means that to have a different way of thinking, feeling, and behaving, we need to choose differently. The more we diverge from the constant groove of routine and autopilot “thinking”, the more we lay down new neural pathways.
Suggestions for the Complainer
① Know why you are complaining.
Are you looking for solutions or comfort? Are you looking for it in the right place, with the right people?
Telling and re-telling your story of victimhood reinforces it for you as well as traumatizing yourself and those you tell it to. Studies show that complaining only encourages the downward emotional spiral, rather than allowing the person to feel better. This is not to dismiss, disqualify, or minimize our experiences. It is not about keeping quiet. It is about finding the healthiest and most constructive way to move forward, while perhaps instilling awareness and bringing healing on a bigger scale. The priority, however, must be your own personal wellness.
② Know what you are complaining about.
Often we complain about the surface events, the symptoms, circling around what is truly ailing us at a deeper level. Dr Rudiger Dahlke who teaches and practices Transformational Medicine reminds us that what we ignore in the inner world manifests on the outer world. It’s one way things are balanced. It is also one way we are alerted to what is going on at a deeper level. Being open to explore what is the underlying imbalance can lead us out of the wasteland.
Each of us has a factory-installs compass, often called instinct. Tuning in to and listening to your inner compass is often the most important directive you can follow.
Squire Rushnell, Divine Alignment
③ Be grateful for one thing or one person every day.
Some people find it difficult to be grateful at all, especially when their world seems to be disintegrating or lit on fire. If this is you, start with a few deep breaths and look for any opening where there is a pause. Then bring to mind someone or something you are appreciative of. It does not have to be a huge mountain-moving revelation. That comes later, maybe much later. It comes. For today, just for this moment, start with one thing or one person to be grateful for. Nothing is too trivial.
④ Spend 3 minutes a day and focus on one positive emotion with a slower breath.
If bringing a positive emotion to mind is challenging, try a happy memory. Some people feel a swell of love when they think of their furry friends.
Decades of research at the Institute of HeartMath has yielded tremendous insights into the heart and heart intelligence. One of these is that positive emotions that are intentionally generated can change the information and coding contained within the heart’s electromagnetic field. This information is transmitted both within and outside the body. These emotions also elicit the release of a cascade of positive chemical hormones.
HeartMath tools can also help reset a baseline.
Think of a positive emotion such as appreciation or ease or your happy memory while breathing through your heart area. Slow your breath down, to five counts, if possible.
⑤ Seek professional help if you are looking for solutions.
If there is trauma, some modalities to try include EMDR, Jin Shin Jyutsu, Nutripuncture, Somatic Experience, integrative counselling, Theta Healing, and Reiki. Perhaps some energetic healing and healthier energetic hygiene practices are needed.
It is important not to re-trigger the trauma (or traumatize those you complain to) by re-hashing the past. Integrating the parts separated by trauma and seeing the event in a more wholistic light are crucial to moving on. Shamanic journeying can help with the retrieval of lost soul parts.
⑥ Start a self-care practice.
Doing something for yourself is empowering. It builds self-confidence and trust that you can take care of yourself and know when to seek appropriate help when you cannot. Self-care also helps develop the inner feeling of when something requires your attention before all hell breaks loose on the external. This inner ear will, for example, let you know to rest when you need rest, rather than keep working. Wonderful things happen when we sleep enough and sleep well enough.
Central to Jin Shin Jyutsu, an ancient art of healing and living, is Self-Help. You can start by holding your thumb and each of your fingers for several minutes a day. This simple and powerful technique brings harmony and inner peace.
Building resilience can be done in many ways, including the techniques from the Institute of HeartMath. Available is technology such as Inner Balance, available as Bluetooth version for both iOS and androids and with the Lightning connection for iOS devices or the portable handheld device emWave to help measure your heart-rate variability (a good indicator of health) and to track your practice over time. The technology is not necessary as you can gauge your progress by how you feel in general and how you deal with adversity. The Inner Balance technology, however, provides many insights and a visual record of your HRV and coherence, as you train for greater self-awareness, making it an effective tool.
⑦ Consider a brain scan.
Dr Amen is a vocal advocate of brain health and using SPECT scans to see what is going on inside. Different areas of the brain may be affected, making complaining or being oppositional the default. This can happen when the cingulate gyrus is “hot”.
Final Thoughts on Complaining
① Understand that we all have our own drama. This isn’t always obvious on the outside. We also deal with pain, suffering, and adversity in different ways. Have compassion for those who may not be as skilled or energetically available to deal with what is going on in their lives.
② Do not underestimate the power of a simple hello by text or a phone call for someone going through a hard time. Do not underestimate the pain of exclusion. Having community and a strong social network can make the difference.
③ Read articles about deleting “toxic people” from your life with a grain of salt. We are pretty self-centric and we see that other people are toxic or that it is “their karma” rather than the role we play in other people’s lives. We may need to distance ourselves from some people in our lives; do it for the right reason and take responsibility for our own actions.