The Wellness Practice of Dropping Complaint
By Ben Gaibel, LCSW
There are endless things we can find to complain about by voicing the complaint in our mind (self-talk) or out loud to others. The complaints can include grievances about our self, partner, coworker, weather, traffic, or our overall life situation, just to name a few. While it is pretty easy to find things to complain about, the act of complaining may be a hindrance to our well-being, and be a barrier to living life fully. What would you have to feel if you let go of the complaint? To find out what function the complaint is serving, it could be an interesting experiment to drop all complaints and see what comes up. Psychotherapist Bruce Tift offers a powerful practice in his book Already Free that I find very useful:
Dropping All Complaint
When I’m working with people, I often suggest a little practice as a homework assignment. For some period of time – a month maybe – I suggest they drop any complaint that there is something wrong. No more complaints, resentments, or blame for a whole month, just to see what else is there. Whenever they become aware of complaint, I suggest they ask themselves: “What am I feeling right now that I don’t want to feel?”
The usual response I get from my clients is, “You’ve got to be kidding! How can I handle my life without complaining? There’s so much to complain about!” But when people do experiment with the practice, the results are very interesting. They start to realize that their attitude of complaint – of problem – has been serving a function. It has been allowing them to keep their life at arm’s length. It’s given them an excuse to postpone living their life in the moment.
-From Already Free: Buddhism Meets Psychotherapy on the Path of Liberation by Bruce Tift
I invite you to try this practice as an experiment and see what happens, even for just one day. This practice is not to devalue or push away challenging emotions. Rather, the practice can involve acknowledging, accepting and honoring whatever difficult emotions are present. Complaints can serve as a distractive function to avoid what is really happening within. By dropping complaints, there could be more room to feel what is really being felt in the moment with openheartedness. Over time, by dropping complaint, we just might be available to be more engaged with life and able to access a sense of gratitude and well-being. Instead of looking for endless things to complain about, why not refocus the attention on feeling gratitude for the endless things that normally just pass us by.