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Monday, February 13, 2012

To complain or not to complain...

In his writing, Eckhart Tolle defines complaining as 'nonacceptance of what is'.  In other words, you are identifying with a victim mentality in the present moment.  Tolle teaches that rather than bemoan the situation you are faced with, you can choose to leave it, change it or accept it.  Bringing your mind (and thus your body) into a state of acceptance is essentially choosing to bring yourself back into a state of peaceful ease.  See the video below for more on the topic:

Complaining not only brings your own being into a state of discomfort, but it can also 'pollute' the world around you - essentially making your negative inner state contagious to others. 

I recently had an experience that clearly demonstrated this to me:
This past weekend was a busy one here in Stony Plain/Spruce Grove as our community played host to the 2012 Alberta Winter Games.  My brother Jace was offered the exciting opportunity of coaching one of the boys' volleyball teams.  He jumped at the chance and given that the tournament was so close to home, Chephren and I decided to check things out.  One of Jace's games was due to start at 11:15 am on Friday, and wanting to give myself lots of time to get there and park, I left home at 10:30.  I arrived at the the facility (where 5 of the events were taking place) and the parking lot looked pretty full.  The attendants waved me in however, so I began driving around.  This continued for 30 minutes before one of them finally stopped me and told me to head across town for the park and ride.  By this time, it was already 11:20, so I was less than happy about this idea, but I didn't really have much of a choice.  I arrived at the parking lot by 11:30 and we waited another 30 minutes for a bus (they weren't running yet).  Now 90 minutes into our 'adventure', I was starting to get frustrated, especially since I had likely missed most of the game that I was trying to go and see. 

Until this point, I had worked hard at staying patient and calm... for those of you cruising around with young children, you know that this can be even more challenging depending on the mood of your child.  Chephren was less than thrilled about all of the waiting and driving around, and I was working hard in my efforts to keep him and myself calm. 
As the bus was driving up I said (to no one in particular and yet really, it was to everyone waiting alongside me), 'Finally!  I sure hope that I didn't miss the game'.  This seemingly 'innocent' statement was all it took to unleash a sea of complaints/negativity from those around me.  One of the women in the group was so furious that she even chewed out the poor (innocent!) bus driver.

As soon as the words left my mouth and I watched the 'poison spread' I knew what I had done.  It was enough to put me immediately back into a state of ease and acceptance but the damage had already been done.

Going back to Tolle's teachings, I had a choice to make: leave or change the situation (which I absolutely could have done and simply returned home) or accept it.  Unfortunately, on this particular occasion I chose 'd' (none of the above)... not one of my finest moments.

How do you feel about complaining?  Does it serve you?  Have you taken the time to notice its effects on your mind and body?  Or the effect that it has on others?

Food for thought...



  1. I love this post!
    It's so true.
    I had the same revelation recently - that I bog myself (and others) down with a negative view of things. Not to mention that it's emotionally and physically draining to focus on the negative....
    I'm making a conscious effort to see the good all around me and it does make a difference. I find I'm more in control, smile more and I really enjoy the little things.

    That's a win

    1. @Rebecca: YOU are a WIN(ner!) Thanks for the encouragement! I was just visiting 'Just ask Crew' and it was great to read about what you and the family are up to. Thanks for stopping by and for your comments :)

  2. Well... I had to ruminate on this one for a while. Whining is one of my strengths, after all! :~)

    Seriously, though, I've got mixed feelings about this one. I mean, on the surface, I totally agree with the concept that spreading around a bunch of negative energy by complaining is really not a useful approach, but I guess it's the whole don't act negative and you won't feel negative premise that I take issue with.

    It's clear and obvious that many people in our society walk around just looking for something to be all bent out of shape about, but in my experience this isn't a symptom of "ego" or anything like that... the emotions are genuine, they're just misplaced. The problem is that we don't express the emotion (or even let ourselves feel it) in the situation where it really belongs, so it never gets a chance to resolve. Then it just sits there inside, so we're all walking around going "gee - I feel crappy" Then when a perceived "injustice" occurs we go "A-ha! That's why I feel crummy!" when really it has nothing to do with it.

    So in my experience, gritting your teeth and putting on a happy face is really not a helpful approach in the long term. I think that the ONLY real choice is to feel the feelings... but feel the REAL feelings... the uncomfortable ones, the painful ones, the "societally unacceptable" ones. That way, when the waiter serves you cold soup you can react with "cold soup feelings" rather than "my mother didn't love me and it's not fair" ones.

    Don't know if that makes any sense or not, but that's my take on it. :)

    1. @ECL: I am GLAD to hear your perspective... and I actually agree with you as well (to some degree)...

      I want to address your comment on 2 different fronts: things that are merely 'irritating' and things that are truly 'painful'. In my post, I was speaking of the 'irritating' things... your soup is cold, your son throws a tantrum in the grocery store, the bus is late and it is -20 outside, you get the picture. I feel like my 'no complaining' take on these types of situations is useful. You either stay in the present moment and accept that 'it is what it is' or you CHANGE IT (send the soup back, leave the store, got back home, etc.) To stay in the situation and complain about it is pure madness...

      For the things that are truly painful -- the 'my mother didn't love me', 'my husband left me', etc. that is a whole different ball 'o wax I would say. There are real, deep feelings associated with these types of events that absolutely need to be expressed. I totally believe in 'shining the light on the dark' so to speak, which often means talking about your feelings and especially, your *fears/thoughts* associated with them... I am AFRAID to be alone, I am UNLOVEABLE, etc. Once you get past the event and being the victim of the situation, and you can get at the thoughts/fears that the situation has created, you can begin to do the 'work' and heal. Yes, it is work, and no, it's not easy-peasy... BUT, it totally works. We are all walking around with a story that we are telling ourselves in our heads. It is up to you to figure out what that voice in your head is saying and if needed, change the story. In this way, we are getting at the root of the 'negative' thoughts and can get rid of them for good.

      Does this resonate with you? If not, what is your take?
      Thank you for your insight -- I am grateful for your honesty and I love it that you always have something meaningful to contribute!

    2. Well... I totally agree that one should either deal with the little stuff or let it go... I guess my point it that I think the little stuff and the big stuff are all connected, so no amount of trying to "not sweat the small stuff" will ever work unless you also deal with the big stuff.

      The best example I can think of is my mother. My mom was the angriest person I ever met - well, she probably still is, but she and I don't really interact anymore so I don't really know. But my mother could never come to terms with any of her anger so it just sat there festering under the surface.

      She spent pretty much all day every day trying to control the rage that was just waiting to erupt. But inevitably she'd reach a point where she couldn't hold it in anymore and then she'd just snap. For me, it was sort of like growing up in a minefield, and I grew to despise the gritted teeth phony smile because it generally meant that I was about to get it with both barrels in the face.

      Despite all of that, children learn from example, and I learned to never express anger and "be cheerful," and as I got older I could just see the pattern repeating itself. I could go on and on, but the point is that I used to spend most of my life tying not to feel all of the anger etc, while simultaneously looking for things that I could feel "justified" in complaining about. And even when I KNEW that my reaction was way out of proportion to the situation at hand, trying to control it all the time was exhausting and ultimately futile.

      But as I started to work through all of the deep dark ugly stuff, a funny thing happened. I no longer felt annoyed by the little stuff. And it wasn't that I was trying not to react to it, it just didn't bother me anymore. I'm not saying that I'm now some perfect example of emotional health or anything like that... lord knows I have my moments - as evidenced by my recent blog rant about fucktards with snow blowers. :~)

      But at least these days when I'm feeling out of sorts I'm usually able to sit myself down and go "OK... what's really going on here?" And more often than not it turns out that the thing that has me all hacked off has tapped into some "issue" from my past, and that's really the source of my emotion. And when I deal with the root feeling I find that the annoyance with the small stuff pretty much just evaporates. It's sort of magic actually.

      OK... that's probably more than you wanted... sorry if I'm guilty of "over sharing" but I hope that helps.

      Rebecca (AKA "Cat" - harder for my crazy mother to find me if I use a pseudonym on my blog) :~)