“Complaints lets a bully know that a victim is in the neighbourhood.” Maya Angelou
“Man invented language to satisfy his deep need to complain.” Lily Tomlin
We all know now the Law of Attraction (I wrote 100 blogs about it). Like attracts like. So, we realize that when we complain we are guaranteed to receive more to complain about. It is the Law of Attraction in action. Sometimes it does make sense to complain. However, for many of us complaining is a habit and not something we just do when faced with life events that cause us pain and grief. Much of our complaining is not done to make any improvements in our situation but is mostly what some folks call “ear pollution” because it is detrimental to our well-being. Once we decide to monitor the words we use we notice that for many of us we complain far more often than we realize and it has become a default mode.
Once we become conscious of our complaining then we are free to take our focus off the problem and put it on finding a solution. Will Bowen has developed his own definition of a complaint acknowledging in his book A COMPLAINT FREE WORLD that a complaint has energy, “How dare this happen to me,” energy, behind it. Bowen also notes that none of us have ever been able to ‘complain anyone’ into change. This includes ourselves. Complaints attract more complaints and even more things to complain about due to the Law of Attraction which is always operational.
One of the many wonderful things about learning to curtail and eventually eradicate our complaints is that we begin to practice very healthy communication skills. We begin speaking directly and only to the person who can resolve our issue rather than spreading negativity around. Bowen notes that complaining is a competitive sport that is always progressive. He points to the example where someone complains about spraining an ankle while skiing, then another person will tell a story about breaking a leg. The first person now complains to the group that a sprain hurts considerably more and takes longer to heal than a break and then the person who broke a leg will state that although some sprains are worse than breaks, not so in this case, and will pull up his pant leg to reveal a scar where pins and screws were inserted to surgically repair the bone. Bowen employs this example to show that complaints only run in one direction – toward a more dire experience. Bowen notes that we must shift our emotional compass from negative to positive in order not to pass the “complaining baton” on to others.
When we become complaint-free-ish (most of us take awhile to become completely complaint free) we attract complaint-free-ish people to us. And, then when we become complaint free – we attract others who are complaint free. In other words, we stop hugging our ego. Bowen explains that in Chinese the word “complain” is composed of two symbols, “hug” and “ego.” The Chinese believe that to complain is to “hug your ego.” Not the Freudian concept of ego but rather the concept of the limited human self that feels cut off from limitless supply.
Bowen says that Dr. Robin Kowalski of Clemson University identified 5 reasons that people complain and Bowen came up with a mnemonic device to help himself and others remember. The acronym is G.R.I.P.E.
Get attention trying to receive acknowledgment
Remove responsibility “you can’t fight city hall” or “the traffic was terrible”
Inspire envy trying to get appreciated
Power complaints about competitors showcase their faults
Excuse poor performance explain away failure
We are human beings (as well as divine beings) and therefore we gripe. I gripe therefore I am. Bowen tells a great story about a young monk who entered an order that insisted on complete silence. However, the abbot, at his discretion, could allow any monk to speak. Five years went by before the abbot came to the novice and said, “You may now speak two words.” Carefully choosing his words, the monk said, “Hard bed.” With true concern the abbot replied, “I’m sorry your bed isn’t comfortable. We’ll see if we can get you another one.” Another five years went by before the abbot came to the same young monk and said, “You may say two more words.” Thinking for a few moments the young monk said softly, “Cold food.” “We’ll see what we can do,” replied the abbot. On the monk’s 15th anniversary the abbot allowed the monk to speak two words as before. “I quit,” said the monk. “It’s probably for the best,” replied the abbot with a shrug. “You’ve done nothing but gripe since you got here.”
Waking up to how often we complain is part of our journey to discernment and monitoring our thoughts so we can tell the difference between a complaint and a statement of fact. There is a big difference. The difference is a difference in energy even if the words are identical. Eckhart Tolle points out the difference between complaining and informing someone of a mistake or deficiency so it can be put right: “And to refrain from complaining doesn’t necessarily mean putting up with bad quality or behavior. There is no ego in telling the waiter that your soup is cold and needs to be heated up – if you stick to the facts which are neutral. “How dare you serve me cold soup…” That’s complaining.” (A NEW EARTH, pg. 63)
Tolle educates us as to the three modalities of ‘awakened doing’ and asks that we remain vigilant to make sure that one of them is operant whenever we are engaged in doing anything at all from the most simple task to the most complex. He says if we are not in a state of either acceptance, enjoyment or enthusiasm that we are to look closely and we will find ourselves creating suffering for ourselves and others. This resonates as truth. When we examine those three modalities of awakened doing we realize that the high frequency lifts us above all complaint.
Love & Light, Monica