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the therapeutic benefit of complaining

We all love a good whinge, moan, and complain about just about everything – the weather, roadworks, politics, and being put on hold for 40 minutes when you want to leave your broadband provider. Often, when I see a patient and ask them how they are feeling, it’s followed by a solid minute of listing everything that’s going on in their life. As soon as they stop, they take a big breath in, exhale and the shoulders drop.“Sorry, I think I just needed to get that off my chest”.

There’s a therapeutic benefit to being able to talk about our problems in life, and everybody wants to feel heard. So what are the benefits to complaining and should we do more of it?

Relieves tension and discomfort

As with the example earlier, there’s a physical relaxation that happens after you’ve “vented” and been able to verbalise what’s in your head.

Validation feels good

Sometimes, you just want to feel heard and for another person to acknowledge your experience and what you’re going through. It also helps bonding – many friendships were developed during shared adversities. We all know that feeling when you make eye contact with your work colleague and you both know exactly what the other is thinking.

Teamwork makes the dream work

Through the process of complaining, you are providing information to the other person. This allows them to help you in two ways: to give you another perspective, and to help you find a better solution. In the treatment room, if a technique I’m using is quite sore, only if you let me know (by complaining) that I can change it to benefit you more!

Swearing helps too! Especially for pain tolerance

How many times have you stubbed your toe on the coffee table and called it a *insert word of choice here*. Turns out there is scientifically-proven benefit to swearing to help reduce pain and improve your ability tolerate it. So feel free to swear and complain away until you feel better – but make sure there are no children around.

Black and white photo of Albert Einstein sticking his tongue out

Are you always complaining though?

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Albert Einstein

If you find yourself complaining about the same things repeatedly – you’ve only got yourself to blame. If something’s worth complaining about, it’s worth trying to do something about it.

In any situation or event, you cannot control or change the fact that it has happened, but you can control has you respond to it.

In short: Control the controllable, forget everything else.

If you’ve identified that something is out of your control, we can try three actions.

  • Don’t think about it
  • Find a positive aspect about it
  • Find a way to change yourself to cope with it/prepare yourself better

Here’s a common example.

You’re stuck in traffic, you’re late to work, and then somebody just cut you up. You feel your blood pressure rising, you’re about to explode.

So in this common situation, there’s not a lot we can do whilst we’re in there. But there are a few positive reactions we can do to turn stop it turning into a negative experience.

Don’t think about it – “traffic jams are so common, its rush hour anyway, these things do tend to happen.”

Find a positive aspect – you can listen to your favourite podcast/audiobook, radio station or album.

Change or prepare yourself in future – leave earlier, go a different way, cycle, get public transport

This approach is like a muscle – the more you practice it, the stronger it will get, and you’ll find yourself a more positive and proacitve person.

So next time a “negative” event happens to you swear, complain, complain, then do something about it!

Harry

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