Complaining is commonly considered a negative act to be avoided, and for the most part, I agree. However, if the choice was between complaining and bottling up your hurt inside, then complaining is definitely the lesser of two evils. Below, let me tell you how I use complaining to let out my steam.
I didn’t post for over a week because I’ve been dealing with some sickness in my family.
Nothing major, of course. Just a common cold.
This has been happening several times a year for us since becoming parents. And every time it happens, I feel very grateful — not because we’re sick but because common cold has been the extent of health problems we’ve had so far.
Now, if you are the type of person who never gets sick because you live a truly enlightened life — low stress, good outlets (exercise, hobbies, arts), sound diet and sufficient sleep — then this post won’t apply to you.
But I’m not there yet, so I’m glad that whenever there’s a build-up of negativity in our lives, we have these minor breakdowns.
Not everybody is like this, I know. Do you just tough it out by taking Aspirin or something? Thinking to yourself, “I can’t afford to get sick right now?” And when someone asks you how you are, you lie and say “I’m fine?”
There are occasions when this is a good practice, of course. But if you’re putting up a perfect face every time, it can build up to a greater trouble.
Tell It Like It Is
I don’t know about you, but in my family, when we’re sick, we tell it like it is. We talk about how awful we feel, how painfully it hurts, how uncomfortable we are. As I said above, I do mention that I’m grateful it’s nothing serious, but we don’t “beautify” our pain — it sucks, and we say so.
When we are sick, our resources are low. Pretending, lying and putting up a façade all take great energy. So, in the trusted company of our own family, we just simply speak how we feel. It’s not pleasant, but there is a sense of comfort and freedom in that.
Complaining as in Letting out Steam
My mother was always my biggest cheerleader. Whenever I was down, she would usually fix me something good, sit down and say “eat, and tell me about it.” And I’d do that.
It wasn’t pretty, by any means. I was basically wallowing and sulking. But I would always feel better afterward.
Recently, I really hadn’t complained much. And apparently, my inner rage was built up more than I realized, and I had a rare moment of losing my temper. Badly.
It was a split second of giving in to white flash of rage, and I did something that really hurt my loved ones, and myself. And I do regret it.
I’m still dissecting and drawing my lessons from the incident, but one of them definitely is that I need to do more spewing of the venom I intake.
I grew up in a culture where they look down upon whining and complaining strongly, even more so than Americans. We are really supposed to bear our troubles silently. Letting out our anguish to others is disgraceful.
But you know what? We’re not all so pretty. Won’t it be nice to have friends and family with whom you can let your hair down and just be yourself, warts and all?
Holding in and Bigger Breakdown
Several years ago, I lost one of my dear friends to cancer. She was the type of person you never see complain. Always positive, always going. It was a shock to us all when we learned that she had a cancer that was the size of a large grapefruit. Doctors gave her 3 months. She fought and fought, but passed away 3 years later, in her early 40s.
I was close enough to her to know that things weren’t always as positive as she made it seem. But even on occasions where she complained or got sick, she always made it seem like it was not a big deal. I couldn’t help but wonder if it really wasn’t that way, or if she was pretending.
Obviously, I don’t know what caused her cancer. But to this day, I wonder if she was concealing a greater pain inside, beneath the cheery veneer. I wished if she would complain more. I wished if I could have been a person with whom she could really let her hair down and be honest. Perhaps that may not have changed the outcome. But I do know that stress contributes to illness.
Habit vs. Reset Button
Now, I am aware that you can develop a rather nasty habit of complaining. Chronic whining doesn’t lead to any healing — rather, it perpetuates the condition in which you have reasons to whine about.
My sulking session with my mother was not something we did often. It functioned more like a reset button that you push only when you absolutely have to. When practiced with proper mindset and protocols, I do believe it can help you let steam out and purge venom from your system. Below are several pointers on how to effectively complain:
6 Keys to Complaining Effectively
- Be honest. Drop all pretense and say it like it is. Otherwise, the purging doesn’t happen. Don’t skirt around the issue, just let it out.
- Be truthful. There’s no need to exaggerate, inflate or distort the truth to justify your need to complain. Just stick to the truth.
- Set limits. In order to prevent it from becoming a habit, create yourself a structure in which complaining is allowed. Specify time and space, in which you give yourself permission to speak your mind. But don’t go overboard.
- Choose your company carefully. Obviously, complaining is an ugly and vulnerable act. You’re not presenting your best aspects. Choose a trusted friend or family member with whom you feel comfortable, so that you can tell the truth about how you feel without fear of rejection or judgment.
- Choose your occasions. Similarly, be sure to confine your complaining to appropriate occasions. Doing otherwise can negatively impact your relationships, reputations, and self-esteem.
- Focus on your feelings and nothing else. Don’t shift blames, don’t try to prove something or win arguments. Just talk about how you feel. You can explain why you feel the way you do, but be sure not to indulge in excessive bad-mouthing or blame game.
Let me reiterate that the ideal is to have no need to complain — live your life in such a way that little negativity enters your mind and what enters are purged out through good habits and outlets.
But if you’re not there yet and if you feel your frustration bottled up inside, then by all means, grab a confidant and engage in a sulking session. Heck, do it in a grand style — order your favorite food and drinks and go to town. If you’re going to commiserate, might as well do it loudly! 🙂
Seriously, I firmly believe that this manner of complaining is an effective method in preventing negativity that builds up over time. Don’t make the mistake I made — allow yourself occasions to really speak your mind — hurt, anger and all.
Do you complain? How often? Do you think you shouldn’t? Has there been any occasions when you were glad you complained? Please share below.