When you complain, you make yourself a victim. Leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness. – Eckhart Tolle
Want to change your miserable life? Stop complaining. You will be amazed at what happens next.
In the October 2007 issue of O magazine, Martha Beck wrote a life-changing article about complaining. This article was part of a larger ‘Anti-Complain Campaign’ but that unfortunately that campaign completely slipped under my radar, as I only discovered this article many moons later. I am trying not complain about it.
I was at an awful diner trying to distract myself from an equally awful rice bowl by reading through lunch. The magazine choices were as aged as the defeated lettuce garnishing my side plate. At hand were antiquated National Geographics or an Oprah that, while outdated, was a relative infant compared to its companions.
It was not a tough choice. Oprah triumphed and thank goodness she did, because if not, I would still be married.
In the article, Martha Beck calls complaining ‘venting’ and says that
The effect of emotional venting is to sustain an unsatisfactory status quo. Most people think the opposite, that complaining is part of an effort to change an unsatisfying situation. Nope. Complaining lets off pressure so that we neither explode with frustration nor feel compelled to take the often risky steps of openly opposing a difficult person or situation. Keeping emotional pressure tolerably low doesn’t change problematic circumstances but rather perpetuates them.
So…stop complaining and you will either explode or take action (or both; the first may precede the second).
This truth resonated with me. In the eighties-era feminist lingo of my toddler years (ahem), ‘CLICK’.
Or, in contemporary Oprah-speak, I had an ‘a-ha moment’.
For eighteen months, I had been incessantly whining, complaining, whingeing, moaning, bemoaning, suffering out loud, shaking my fist at the heavens and raging at the machine over the state of my relationship.
We went back and forth. I begged him to leave. He stayed. I changed my mind. Repeatedly. Nothing changed – which is to say, I did nothing except complain.
Moments after I read this article, I stopped complaining about my relationship. Within six weeks the path was clear and within two months we finally and irrevocably parted ways.
Now, by no means am I suggesting that the end of a relationship is a success story.
My point is that I was in a miserable situation and complaining allowed me stay in it. Complaining allows the steam to escape. When you stop complaining, or as Martha Beck calls it ‘going on a vent-fast’, there is no release. All of that misery builds up until the situation is truly, madly, deeply intolerable and you are forced to take action.
Or explode. The choice is yours.