Complaining is the illusion of action; break the habit with simple mindfulness

Complaining is the illusion of action; break the habit with simple mindfulness

Complaining is useless. Either act or forget it.

Complaining is a tough habit to break. You can suppress complaints by remaining silent, but your mind still screams complaints like a hungry caged bird shrieks for food.  If you give a complaint space in your mind, it multiplies like rats in a cage…until you’re facing combustion, compelled to find a snake to swallow them up for you.

That’s an outlet or release. That’s climbing a mountain so you can yell from it’s peak. Or driving to the ocean so you can drown your tears in its waves.  That’s paying for all you can sing karaoke so you can wear out your voice, screaming the lyrics of Linkin Park. Or buying a chocolate mousse cake and scarfing it down all by yourself.

I thought this cycle of complaints and release was a normal part of adulting, that it’s only to be expected. Everyone does it, right? It’s just a side effect from the disease of our society.  Back then, I leapt right on the patriotic retail therapy wagon, partied as hard as I worked in my 50+ hour work-weeks, and engaged in all the poor habits that experts say will shorten my life. I thought, hey, that’s life, right?

Question your “normal”

I was wrong. There exists a better way. It requires a lot of time, effort, and persistence to unlearn my concept of adulthood, but I knew as soon as I took a peek into its effects that one day I will thank myself.

That day is not today. It was also not yesterday when I spent the entire Monday grumpily complaining to customer service. I rode a rollercoaster of emotions: one minute hot and angry, next minute appeased and regretful. Yet, I know that with sustained practice, the day will come when I’ll successfully respond to each inconvenience, pet peeve, and disaster with only a wry smile.  It will come when  I learn to not just suppress my complaints (because that’s tyranny), not just dismiss my thoughts (because that’s discrimination), and not just embrace my anger by spitting flames at my opponents (because that’s violence).  If I just accept the complaint-thought and let it go, I won’t have any fire in me to release.

Treat a complaint like a frenemy

It’s like bumping into that acquaintance you don’t really like. You see them and hope they don’t see you–but of course they do. You even make eye contact! By now, you’re panicking in your head because you really don’t want to say “hi” or chitchat with them, but you think you should. You think you need to suggest lunch some time or invite them to a group outing. Ugh.

The truth is that you don’t have to be friendly at your own expense.  You can just acknowledge  them with a nod of your head, and maybe a small smile if you’re feeling kind. With that nod, you communicate: “I see you. I know you. Good day.” Then, you can both continue your way without feelong any guilt, anger, or anxiety. How cool is that?

Try it with an acquaintance next time you want to hide under a table, or try it with your thoughts next time a complaint bubbles up. Don’t let complaints fester and infect your mind, attitude, or behavior. Don’t walk away from an awkward conversation feeling less-than or annoyed because now you have to see “that person” again. Acknowledge, let go, and move on. No release necessary.


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