Complaining…we all do it. Sometimes we do it a lot. Mostly we don’t recognize just how much we do it.
Personally I sometimes think that complaining is sort of like anger, but without real enthusiasm.
We complain about the weather (as if we could change it), we whine about the price of gas, we grumble about our bosses, other drivers, shoddy workmanship, poor service.
If you can name it, we complain about it.
A number of years ago while a presenter at a weekend wellness retreat, one of the other organizers offered all of us a challenge : Would we, could we, go without complaining for our time together?
For her model, she followed a program outlined in the book “Complaint Free World” by Will Bowen. The practice began with wearing a purple rubber bracelet on your wrist. Simple enough. Each time we caught ourselves complaining we were to switch the bracelet to the opposite wrist. Oh yes, if we noticed someone else complaining, we were to point it out to them so they could move their bracelet. And yes too, if we complained that THEY were complaining, WE had to move our bracelets as well.
And how exactly did Bowen define complaining? He said it was “expressing discontent, pain or grief with the way things are.”
The practice also included criticizing or gossiping.
In Bowen’s book, he would have us follow the program for 21 days, restarting the clock each time we found ourselves needing to “switch wrists.”
If you find yourself wondering what’s so bad about complaining you first need to take a step back and recognize the power that words have to shape the reality we experience. When we change the words we use, we can also change the way we think and act. This is an amazing concept I know, but just consider the following statements:
- “My life is so up in the air right now, so unsettled.”
- “My life is changing and full of possibilities.”
Bowen reminds us that complaining can become a habitual practice and lead to “focusing on what we don’t want.” In doing so we direct more energy and more attention to the negative than the positive.
When it comes to making changes which make life better, dissatisfaction is a necessary first step. But if we stay there, says Bowen, “we never move forward to brighter vistas. Were the great leaders of the United States also great complainers? I’d have to say no. These important men and women allowed dissatisfaction to drive them to great visions, and their passion for these visions inspired others to follow them.”
In dialing down the quantity of our complaint factory output, we go through stages:
- Unconscious Incompetence – We aren’t aware of what we need to change and how to do it.
- Conscious Incompetence – We become aware, and uncomfortable with how much we complain.
- Conscious Competence – We become aware of our words and intentionally try to change how we speak about things, situations and people. You might find yourself actually being silent more.
- Unconscious Competence – We have reprogrammed ourselves to “no longer produce the deluge of unhappy thoughts” we have once lived with...and you feel better, and happier.
Judith England is a yoga instructor and licensed massage therapist. She writes the Holistic Health blog for the Albany Times Union, and this piece appeared first on that site.