Complaining

When I first started seeking to find ways to bring myself out of some dark places my mind and spirit had wandered into, I first heard about positive thinking.  It's basically trying to focus on the positive rather than the negative. Thinking happy thoughts and doing happy things to drown out the bad. I've heard some refer to it as "fake it, until you make it".

Later I would hear positive thinking isn't really healthy because you are burying the bad feelings rather than being your authentic self and that letting the bad feelings flow through and out is the best thing to do.

Me?....I would have to say I agree with the later. However, I do think positive thinking has it's place and can be used as a tool for those who are lost get to a place where they can be able to let feelings flow out. Too many of us, when we are lost, hold onto those feelings and feel them over and over again. There is guilt if we let them go to soon. But a full discussion on that might be better for a future blog.

When I first heard of positive thinking, one of the first things I started to become aware of was how we all talk to each other in our day to day small talk. When I would arrive to work, my coworkers would grudgingly acknowledge each other and maybe comment on how unpleased we were to be at work. Then one of us might complain "It took me over an hour to get here, traffic was terrible. I was so angry.  Can you believe it's supposed to snow today? Right at rush hour too." The automatic response would be something like this "Ugh, I know...it sucks. My commute was pretty awful too. They probably won't even let us out early with the snow coming. Yeah, it sucks." Further conversations would all be similar. "I have so much work to do." "Me too. I probably have more. Want to trade jobs?"  Then as I'd arrive home the question would be asked. "How was your day?" and the reply would be "It sucked, traffic was terrible, work was busy." It was almost like we automatically had to complain as if saying something uplifting or positive was a bad thing. Or we had to compete who had things worse. So I started to experiment when somebody would complain how their morning commute was, I would say "Sorry to hear that." or "Oh yeah?" They would always look at me waiting for more.  Then I started changing my replies to things like "I didn't mind my commute, I was listening to a really good audiobook." That was not always well received. Lot's a sneers.

It was interesting because it wasn't easy for me to do. My mind had been so used to just jumping into joining the complaining I had to really think about my responses. The reactions were interesting too because whoever you were talking to would seem a little put off that you didn't join the complaining fest with them.  It was also interesting how sometimes I would break if my "faking" was believed. I recall a few times when my husband asked how my day was I would say "It was good" and he'd respond "oh great what happened" I would clarify right away "actually it totally sucked, I was just faking it until I make it." I had the hardest time changing my words because part of me needed him to know I wasn't really happy. I even have asked him many times to stop asking "How was your day?" so I wouldn't have to lie or say it was bad. I asked him to change the question to "Did anything of interest happen today?" Then I could tell him about events without labeling them good or bad.

My coworker (a very dear friend) and I talked openly about this and both became very aware and started catching each other when we would get sucked into complaining. We wondered why we all did it because half the time we weren't even bothered by the weather or the commute until somebody else complained. So we both started changing our words and became those happy people that seems to annoy complaining people (I know I used to be one of them).

One day I decided I was going to try going on a complaining detox. I was going to watch all my words and do my best not to complain about anything for a full week.  It was hard but I did very well until the last day. My husband and I were driving somewhere, running late and faced with traffic (my worst triggers) and I went a complaining tangent! I looked at him and said "Well I guess I blew that one, didn't I?"

In the end what I learned from all of this was that there are times we just want to complain and get our feelings heard but somewhere along the line we as a society decided it was better or safer to complain back with people who complained to us. Maybe we feel more accepted or in agreement? But how many times have you caught yourself complaining about something that never really bothered you until somebody else brought it up? It seems to be something we have learned to do. We started compromising our authentic selves to fit in or make others comfortable. It's really OK if you are one of those annoying happy people. :)

So while I think "fake it until you make it" is an awesome tool to use to help retrain your brain, at the end of the day you are going to have bad days and expressing them is just fine. Be your authentic self and break out of what society has trained us to be. If you're happy don't let angry people stop that happiness. If you're having a bad day, it's ok....just don't expect others to join your bad day with you. It's OK to be you and it's OK to be me....no matter what that means.

Listen and see what you notice.  The next time somebody asks you how your day was, remember it's OK to admit it was pretty good.  When you are faced with somebody complaining, be aware of your responses...are they really how you feel or an automatic reply to relate with them?

Be true....be you!