Welcome to the middle path

My photo
Sporadic photos and notes from a Psyche-midwife, cheerleader, anthropologist--aka clinical social worker in therapy practice. Photos are usually mine except for those of historical events/famous people. Music relevant to the daily topic is often included in a web video embedded below the blog. Click on highlighted links in the copy to get to source or supplemental material. For contact information, see my website @ janasvoboda.com or click on the button to the right below. Join in the conversation.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

January 12th Challenge: Refrain From Complaints

Let's try for a complaint free Sunday.

I can't speak to other parts of the world, but Americans sure like to bitch.  I'm Olympic Class, myself.  I can generate 12 in my head before my mouth opens.  And there's plenty of studies that show that ruminating on negative concerns and expressing them is a good predictor of an upcoming bad day.

True, we have plenty of reasons.  It's scary out there, and we're less connected to people (much more so to and through machines), and at least here in the Northwest it's rained since, oh, 1997 I think, and it's dark and cold and and and and wasn't 2020 supposed to be a lot better, but already and and and....

Joe Quirk's book on evolutionary psychology posits that our chronic dissatisfaction prodded us into 
being excellent problem solvers.  We didn't like the cold, so we invented shelters, clothing, central heating.  Our brains devote vast resources to rumination and complaint, and if there isn't anything happening, we have no trouble making it up-- we complain we are bored.  Complaining has a social component beyond solving problems.  It's collaborative angst, misery loving company, but it's also a way to size up the listener.  Are we simpatico?  Do you hate what I hate?  Doesn't it all really just suck?

And speaking of sucking, why yes it does-- our time, our moods, our motivation.  The average adult human complains 15-30 times a day, say the most published stats (I'm not voucher for their accuracy because on some days, I can do that before I hit the snooze button for the 7th time).

one way to shut me up
In her book about improving relationships, Why Talking Isn't Enough", she invites couples to have a one week complaining fast.  It's not even necessarythe other partner knows of the experiment. I tried it and was astounded in  phases:  1) Thought it would be easy  2)Wow, I complain a LOT, 3)He's complaining a lot too (remember, he doesn't know I'm doing this) 3) Look at how evolved I am while he's over there all complainy 4) Huh, he's complaining less for no reason  5) Hey, sweet week.   It was surprising how much difference this made.

Every once in a while, I'd do fala Complaint Free World. (see also here). Such  a good reminder to be mindful.  Why am I saying this?  What's my intention-- sympathy, commiseration, assistance?  Filling space, making the other feel bad?And it makes me think:  How can I get what I want without whining? Or even better, do the serenity prayer analysis and what I can change and what I need to just accept as out of my control?

So this is headier stuff that it first appears.  But give it a whirl, even if you only get as far as recognizing when and how much you complain and trying to understand your intention.  Likely 80% of it is just habit.  Our brains are reall good at identifying and encoding for later retrival what causes us trouble.  They just don't feel the need to bother remembering what went right.  But try that too. "Wow, that rainbow is awesome.  Thanks, Rain!  And I got lucky with those lights, didn't have to stop once on the way to downtown.  How bout that-- an old Johnny Cash song is playing on the radio and I got to the appointment right on time!

Just give it a whirl.  Report back any findings.

Jana, complaint freer.

No comments: