Conscious Complaining

Karla McLaren
707 words, 10K views, 16 comments


We are grateful to Rupali Bhuva for offering this hand-made painting for this reading.

Not to start on a down note, but repressing your emotions can destabilize your psyche and do a number on your overall health. When emotions fester and stagnate, your body reacts to that lack of flow with fatigue and distress, and you often dissociate or run toward distractions or addictions just to take a vacation from it all.

If this is your current situation, here's an easy way to restore flow to a clogged-up psyche: I call it Conscious Complaining.

I first learned of the importance of complaining in the late, great career counselor Barbara Sher. She suggests making regular time to complain, both to “de-steam” and to get a clearer understanding of whatever it is that’s holding you back.

Sher writes about finding a complaining partner, but I’ve modified the practice because there are very few people in this world who can deal with the amount of complaining I can produce. Most people want to stop me, fix me, or help me see the world in a peppier light (which is just another form of repression if I’m in a foul mood). I’ve gone a different way and turned my complaining practice into a solitary one, which has been a real lifesaver.

Now, every time I lose all faith or come up against impossible obstacles, I can whine, moan, kvetch, and reinvigorate myself with the grim truth of what I’m experiencing. When I’m done, I’m not depressed or enraged; instead, I’m often able to get right back to work because I know exactly what the problems are and just how hard life can be. This practice doesn’t bring me down; it lifts me up because it clears all the complaints out of my system and restores my flow.

Here’s how to complain consciously. The only requirements are that you’re in a bad mood and you have some privacy. You start with a declaration like, “I’m complaining now!” If you’re inside, you can complain to the walls or furniture or to a mirror. If you’re outside, you can complain to plants and trees, animals, nature, the sky, the ground, or your god. If you’re a strong complainer like I am, you might want to create a complaining shrine for yourself, with supportive pictures of grumpy cats, bratty kids, barking dogs, political cartoons, and whatever else calls to your complaining nature.

When you’ve found your perfect complaining site, let yourself go and give a voice to your dejected, hopeless, sarcastic, nasty, bratty self. Bring sarcastic humor out of the shadows and really whine about the frustrations, impossibilities, and absurdities of your situation. Complain for as long as you like (you’ll be surprised at how quickly this works), and when you run out of things to say, thank whatever you’ve been whining or yelling at: the furniture, the walls, the ground, the trees, your complaining shrine, or your god for listening, and end your Conscious Complaining session by bowing, shaking off, and then doing something really fun. That’s it!

People who try this practice are astonished to find that complaining doesn’t pull them further down into the doldrums. It has precisely the opposite effect because it breaks through stagnation and repression and lets you tell it like it is, with zero repercussions. Unlike positive affirmations, which tell you how to feel, you’re feeling the way you feel. The truth is told, the decks are cleared, and you get an important time-out. And because this is a solitary practice, there is no danger of losing face or hurting someone else’s feelings. Afterward, you’ll find that you can revisit your struggles with renewed vigor and vision.


Excerpted from The Language of Emotions: What Your Feelings Are Trying to Tell You.