Complaint – When does it become destructive?

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.

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Shades of complaint

There are different communication forms and levels of our offences.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

  1. 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…”
  2. Analyze the situation! What is exactly happened? Critical way of thinking!
  3. 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.

Picture: http://www.ca4wellbeing.com

Our fears and inhibitions are surmountable, the key is “Be brave!”

Most of the people are not dare to live a life what they desire to live. We have fears and inhibitions which mainly don’t have any objective background but make our daily life so difficult. So often we form an opinion about situations incorrectly and becoming a victim of our own consideration distortion. There are several books which talks about positive outcomes of living our life bravely. What can influence our bravery? Can be learnt fears, fear of failure, lack of confidence etc..

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Consideration schemas are evolutionary heritages. Helped ancient human to survive and still help us to see the world more organized. If we have lack of information about something with the support of consideration schemas we can fill information gaps. The disadvantages of using them are kind of a same, they can be the origin of overgeneralization and eliminative prejudice. We might have schemas which are not adaptive – they do not guide us where we want to move – but to recognize them is not so easy.

Cognitive distortions like:

– All or nothing way of thinking: those situations belong to here when we evaluate a situation like; if it is not 100% then it’s worthless. (I got just the second place, I am worsted again);

– Exaggeration or disparagement: when we have no great opinion of our results but exaggerate our defectiveness. (I did the final exam, not a big deal but surely I am not enough good for to get that job);

– Non-observance of certainty: when we consider our success as just luck. (I was the first but just because Nicole got sick);

– Emotional logic: when we explain others’ manifestations with our own distortions. (I know a lot of people speak highly about me, but surely because they feel sorry for me and want to encourage me);

– Personalization: when we blame ourselves for something what we do not have view of. (If I was a better child my parents wouldn’t had got divorced);

– Premature induction: when we thinks that we know why the other behaves or acts like. Like we are a kind of oracle. (He is grumpy obviously because I am unpleasant.)

So often we project our own fear onto the world but in the meanwhile we believe the root of problems are in external elements. Like:

– Negative filtration: when we recognize just negative sides. (One student didn’t pay attention to my presentation therefore it didn’t go well);

– Overgeneralization: when just from one single happening we conclude that it will happen like this all the time. (This boy didn’t call me too after the date yesterday, he doesn’t want me too, like nobody does);

– Labelling: when instead of a single action we describe the whole person. (He was cold and kept distance with me, bumptious fellow);

Fatal future view: when we have very negative and exaggerated view about future (Surely I will fail the exam, I will never get my degree and all of my friends will laugh about me);

Our life can narrow by our distorted way of thinking (thinking-consideration schemas). The line of misconclusions can be connected with certain situations and can have a role in a development of panic disorder or social anxiety. At that time the fear and anxiety appears even if there is no real threat or danger.

A cognitive therapist can help clients to recognize and realize the root’s distorted way of thinking. Helps to realize that happening which are generalize similar situations but on a maladaptive-defective way. After realization the therapist and the client analyze together what prove or what question that. The therapy is always personalized and complex, takes time but definitely makes client life’s quality much better and more successful. One technique what I often use is the thought diary or though examination. It can give a picture to the client about the anxious situation, after writing down in the diary or thinking through. The client can see more objectively the situation and able to divide the situation to facts and emotions and cognitive distortion is becoming more visible. The diary or re-thinking supports to “set up a case” against those distorted reactions and wrong conclusions. It is a kind of debate between the public prosecutor and the counsel for the defendant. The diary or re-consideration process’ main points:

  1. Outlining the situation; (Example: I saw my colleagues being unsympathetic attitude with me on the brunch yesterday.)
  2. Make a survey of mood, emotions; (Example: I was anxious, sweating, I felt fear of being ridiculous.)
  3. Automatic thoughts which come when you try to understand the situation; (Example: I am ugly; I am worthless; I am an outsider; Nobody loves me.)
  4. Consider the facts which can prove those thoughts above. List them! (Example: Nobody talked to me; I was standing mainly alone; I saw others were laughing and telling jokes.)
  5. List circumstances which disprove your explanations. (Example: They greeted me and tried to talk with me in the beginning but I became so nervous and were not able to talk, They asked me what I would like to drink; Some of them were curious about my new project but I wasn’t in the mood to talk about it.)
  6. New and more realistic understandings instead of automatic thoughts. (Example: Others mainly are opened to me but my fears not being acceptable limits my personal relations; I am so shy and not able to start a conversation.)
  7. Re-considering emotions. (Example: This explanation is more realistic and comforting, my anxiety decreased as well; I am not able to read other people’s mind so how should I know what they think of me, maybe they like me.)

Of course the main internal work comes just after. To achieve an effective behaviour change, there must be an emotional switch after the intellectual comprehension. To change emotions takes more time than to change thoughts. Cognitive re-framing can get us closer to a conscious behaviour-change which through we can get more and more positive experiences. The re-consideration process or diary can help re-write negative automatic thoughts which appear in situations causing anxiety.

Be dare making decisions!

General occurrence is we think mainly just in short-term. We focus our attention on the most beneficial and less painful choice in the present. Main motive of our decision is the fear of loss. We are not able to see, but with choosing the easiest way after the other, we scarify our distant goals.

We are unwilling to invest energy into something what from we get benefit just later. People generally tolerate frustration difficultly and not feeling well to step out from their comfort zone, and if they do so, they want to be sure their investment will generate profit. However there is no guaranty for it usually. People do not like decision making situations and try to avoid them. If they must make a decision they try to do it on the way by no means but this is inexpedient. If we run away for so long from small inconveniences they are susceptible to grow irretrievable problems. Often is useless to hope difficulties will disappear by themselves, very rare cases they do. Pays to be brave, take a deep breath and take (or endure) the temporarily inconvenient situation to avoid having more serious problems. Why? Because you can take it! You will not die, you will survive!

Facing with ourselves

Often we are the obstacle of our own prosperity. Self-knowledge helps us to disclose what is behind our repetitive behaviour patterns or failures, hereby help us to find solutions for them as well. But not always we are prepared to face with that knowledge. We must disclose those which are able to be changed or repaired, otherwise the knowledge will be just the source of desperation. This happens usually after serious traumas. Though there are blocks, where from we are able to move on (release them) just if we face bravely with the situation or problem. Facing with all those which we feel shame or afraid of is not easy especially when we must undertake in front of other people too. It is noteworthy to consider to whom we are opening up because if we choose the wrong person and his/her feedback is negative our anxiety can even worse than before. If we feel we are not able to face with our problems and difficulties alone, share it with someone who supports you. If we are able undertake our weaknesses that gives power to win on them and we are able to experience that, other people accept and like or love us with all of our weaknesses as well.

“And so what?”

I often ask this question from my clients when I feel their negative thoughts and wrong conclusions (myths) are holding them back from doing what they would like. This question highlights to them, there is no catastrophe or extinction of human kind or death happens even if that thing what they are so afraid of happens or come true in that particular situation. But if they don’t start because of their fears, they don’t even give a chance to themselves to succeed or being happy. Seems easier if we leave our thoughts or feelings unsaid if we don’t become resigned to act. Because in this way we don’t surrender ourselves to other people’s criticism or refusal. But in our strong defense it’s easy to seal ourselves off from a life what we dream about.

There are people who are so afraid of the experience of failure, they try so hard to avoid every difficulties. Those people also miss opportunities as well and they are masters of self-justifications and they can explain their lack of actions perfectly.

Worthy to act like seeking for success rather than afraid of failure. To change our view we can start with a simple technique, like instead of saying “it doesn’t work” or “ I can’t do it” we should say “not yet”. Not important where we are now, the importance is where we are heading if we believe in the success of our efforts, if we believe in growth if we do or go for it.

I often use a slogan from Nike: JUST DO IT

Without over-thinking, without excuses….

Our way of thinking and our actions are able to be changed and the change can give us an amazing experience of freedom.

If you realize you have negatively working way of thinking or self-destructive behaviour patterns, ask for help. You will experience your well-being and the quality of your life becomes just much better.