It’s common to be inundated with judgmental thoughts about our surroundings or ourselves. Complaint can be defined as the expression of discontent or, even more deeply, as a vocal expression of pain. Thus, our complaints are ways of expressing suffering, discomfort, or difficulty.
Unfortunately, this is not without consequences because the more a thought is repeated, the easier it is to revisit it regularly, as the path taken by this idea is etched in our brains. Thus, complaining about a person, an aspect of our environment, or a physical characteristic becomes a habit for the brain. This habit of complaining can be a powerful generator of anxiety. Like a hamster wheel that keeps turning, complaining contributes to speeding up this wheel until it generates stress. When we express complaints, we release cortisol, the stress hormone.
However, it’s important to note that the goal here is not to judge or fear our complaints. They are natural and respond to our need for protection and security.
We make judgments because we identify potentially dangerous behaviors or situations in our environment or within ourselves. The problem is that danger, whether real or not, is felt in the same way: as a threat. And we integrate it as a reality.
So, how do we proceed?
By fully welcoming the complaint, observing it with compassion, and interacting with it, we can create a more conscious relationship with our thoughts and thus reduce the stress and/or emotions they may generate. Through this process, we can identify the feeling, emotion, or hidden thought behind each complaint.
To this end, I suggest an exercise that combines writing and mindfulness, which could help you make progress. Choose a time of day when you can be quiet, in a safe and comfortable place. Take a pen and paper and then answer these questions:
What do I complain about most often? Whether it’s things, situations, or people? (For example: my partner, household chores, people on public transportation, my job, etc.)
For each of these complaints, what do I feel exactly? Write intuitively: physical sensations, emotions, thoughts. For example:
- When I go to the supermarket, I feel vulnerable, angry, sad, and I feel tension in my chest.
- At work, I feel disrespected, which triggers anger and sadness in me.
- When I complain about my body, I feel anger and hatred.
Be as honest as possible.
For each of these complaints, ask yourself: What does this complaint bring me in this situation?
For example: if I don’t complain about my body, I won’t take the initiative to change. If I don’t complain about my job, I will let my boss overwhelm me.
Let yourself write and observe the part of you that seeks protection, that defends itself. For each of these complaints, identify the fear hiding behind it. Once you have identified this fear, move on to the next step.
I invite you to welcome the emotions and sensations as they are:
- Where are they located in my body?
- Take a deep breath in and out where they manifest.
- Observe them with curiosity and presence, as if you were holding them in your arms, lovingly, without judgment or any attempt to push them away.
- Note what emerges after this step.
Challenge your thoughts:
- How would I feel if I no longer had these complaining thoughts?
- Would it be possible to feel protected and safe without these complaints?
- In this situation where I tend to complain, what would make me feel grateful?
- At the beginning, you may have trouble identifying the positive aspects, but it will improve with practice. How could I communicate my needs and feel safer? How could I create more harmony with my environment?
Take the necessary time, and if the answers don’t come immediately, feel free to come back later. Repeat this exercise as many times as necessary and observe what emerges from this practice.