The Upside of Complaining
Written on June 17, 2008 by Dr. Laurie
So who has had it with trying to be upbeat and positive?
Some days it feels like too much effort — you can't override the feeling that it is all too much. Coping with work, and joint pain, and relationships and medications, and not knowing what will come next is overwhelming.
You're tired of being a trouper — smiling, shrugging it off, making it all out to be No Big Deal.
Usually you push back the hot angry feelings, the whiner who lives in the back of your head. You tell them to hush — it's not that bad.
But today you want to let them out!
Well, sometimes it is better to vent than to try to contain. When you allow yourself to wallow in the awfulness, you may discover that it's not as deep a swamp as you feared.
There's lots to complain about, and it feels good to feel sorry for yourself — but it isn't an endless well of despair.
No, you can touch bottom.
That's the gift of allowing yourself to feel what you are dealing with. To tell yourself (and maybe someone else who cares about you) what it's really like and to remember how hard you are working to make it all okay. For you and the people you live with.
Some studies suggest that it is healthy and has a positive impact on mental and physical health when you make space to complain. It can help you feel better!
There are some rules that can help maximize the benefit.
The first rule is not to overuse it. If you don't ever complain, it's good to do a little.
But when you find yourself complaining frequently, then it has become a habit or a rut.
Like everything else in life, moderation is key.
A second issue has to do with the safe place or person for complaining.
Your journal, your blog, CJ message boards and your dog can all handle as much as you want or need to dish out.
Never stop yourself from using capital letters, red ink, or shouting as you sit with your favorite furry creature. That's what they are there for.
Your therapist, pastor or rabbi, and support group are also there to help you through. Use these resources!
It can be a little more difficult to expect your family and close friends to carry the load of complaint. Sure — they are the ones who are closest and love you the most.
But they also have their issues and problems to deal with. Your legitimate complaining may also trigger their negative feelings and experiences. You want to be yourself with them, but you may need to lower your expectation that they can help you reach the upside of complaint.
Dealing with pain and chronic limitation is frustrating, difficult, and depressing.
Don't require yourself to always put on a happy face.
Some days let yourself take a walk down the crabby side.
It will help you regain balance and energy.