Can you recall a situation when you had to listen somebody’s complaint in the last few days? Or you just got into a negative spiral and saw everything negatively? Time by time we all tend to see negatively everything and express it. It’s a good feeling to send forth our sadness, disappointments and hurt. However there is a point where from the continuous complaint can become destructive. Absolutely an unaffected reflex that if we experienced something unpleasant we would try to share that with somebody to easy the caused tension. If we complained to somebody about our problem, that would cause a temporary relief but by itself just rarely helps to find the solution. Always nice to tell to somebody what hurts because it’s kind of a tool to process negative experiences but also has different meaning when we talk about complaint as an attitude. Complaint is mainly autotelic, nothing happens, nothing is going to change by its effect and what is worse it has a negative effect on people around and also strengthen the negative emotions in the person who is complaining.
Shades of complaint
There are different communication forms and levels of our offences.
- Notorious lamentation: They are the permanent malcontents, they are always able to find a negative focus or negative point, doesn’t matter who with or what they are talking about. It’s not so difficult because people are not perfect and we always can find what we don’t like in something or somebody if we make an effort looking for it. But these people actually don’t have problems with the others, generally they are unsatisfied with themselves but it’s not easy to recognize and admit it.
- Who look for a cover: These people are like asking something from us but not even waiting for our answer launching his/her own complaint. They try to release a strong internal tension, so they start a conversation with others just looking for a cover for ventilation. The topic of their complaints mainly are the same and the repetitive worry doesn’t give any relief rather strengthen their anxiety.
- Who look for confirmation: In this case the aim of the complaint is looking for confirmation from others about a planned idea or something what they have done. They try to become more confident by external feedbacks and confirmations. They use complaints to get support, understanding and confirmation by other people around. They look for the most empathic people who listen and encourage them.
The main reason of complaint often is not about the subject itself, mostly it comes from the dissatisfaction with ourselves.
In the background
The basic characteristic of destructive complaints is it has become part of the behaviour, has become a habit. The focus of our perception is on the negative sides and in the meantime our schemas of experience are becoming fixed, so we concentrate on how that particular situation is so bad. The motive behind complaint – mainly the notorious form – is exaggerated self-centrism. In this case we see the world just from our point of view and that’s why we are able to understand people’s action and happening just from our standpoint. Chronic complaints always connect with distortion of the understanding the relation between the self and the world and we are not able to interpret properly the connection between them. This improper interpretation can cause a strong internal tension and dissatisfaction. The expression of the dissatisfaction can trend towards the outside world however in the background there is the dissatisfaction with ourselves mainly. This ambivalence can cause unbalanced self-image and doubtful negative self-estimation. In this case we experience our complaints well established. We feel that the world is hostile and we are unsuccessful and tied.
If we “practice” this habit for a while and we get use to it and later we can get stuck in it. If the aim was to get other’s sympathy consciously or subconsciously till now, we would become timid and sceptic with ourselves. Our self-confidence and initiative can decrease and we can feel more and more helplessness, become depressed and less motivated. As a result our performance declines, we can become unsuccessful in real. We can invest so much energy into complaints which can pay off unfortunately. What we were complaining about can become truth. This attitude also can change our brain because it has an effect on the connection between neurons. When we are complaining the cortisol (stress hormone) level is increasing in our body, which is increasing our blood pressure and the level of blood sugar. If we wiped out complaint from our communication channels, the flow of communication would be clear and we would find solution for our problem easier.
Instead of lamentation
To avoid lamentation we don’t need anything else, just to improve our self-knowledge and effective knowledge of reality. It’s a result of long time process and deliberate work. Some tips as a first step.
- Change the way you are speaking! For instance Instead of saying “I hate this, that or being like this or that…” Say “Would be very nice this or that…”
- Analyze the situation! What is exactly happened? Critical way of thinking!
- Action! What can I do to change the situation? Usually chronic complainers never reach the action step, they don’t even think there are things which can be changed.
If we become a target of a chronic complainer, which can be very exhausting, use positive communication. Like “What did go well today with you?”
The center of our complaints usually are automatic negative thoughts but if we can manage to be aware of them and making an effort to rephrase and break them down, we can get close to our goal. We also can start to keep a diary with positive things, which things went well or what positive things happened with us daily. Keeping a gratitude diary can also help and change our continuous dissatisfaction mood. It doesn’t need to be a diary but at least a short daily summary what we are grateful for. When we feel that we are slipping back to the negative thought spiral, just open your diary and see, positive things happen as well.