So…you’ve found yourself around someone who keeps whining, complaining, bitching and moaning and…it’s annoying, right? So you want to know what to do about it, how to handle what they’re doing but perhaps in a way that’s kind.
I’ll be honest: when I’m around someone who is chronically whining, complaining, bitching and moaning it’s as difficult for me as it is for anyone else. The energy of those dynamics is one of powerlessness. If we’re not conscious of it, we take on the energy of those dynamics when other people display them (note that both the consciousness and the taking on of the energy is our responsibility; the so-called “energy vampires” of the world are as much a figment of one’s imagination as Twilight. No one can “take” your energy unless you’re giving them access to a vein).
But here’s the thing: those people who annoy us with their whining, bitching, complaining and moaning? They’re not doing it because they’re awful people. They’re doing it because they’re in pain.
I was particularly thinking about this recently when I noticed myself…whining, complaining, bitching and moaning.
A lot. Oy.
Why people start whining, complaining, bitching and moaning
When I noticed that I myself was doing a lot of whining, complaining, bitching and moaning, I did what has now become a (courageous) habitual response to uncomfortable things: I practiced the courage to get curious about what I was doing, rather than berate myself via the inner critic for not being better, in the first place.
What was happening? What were my default responses? What fears arose?
Examining what it is that I want to shift in my life is a regular practice (want some help with that? Check out the free Shift Plan):
Here’s what I learned when I asked myself these questions. You might find that this resonates for you, too:
- I was doing those things because I was tired. Afraid. Overwhelmed. The whining, complaining, bitching and moaning, while it didn’t sound so very great, was coming up because I had an overload of feelings and a need for an outlet.
- I am afraid of the rejection of others if I am “caught” whining, complaining, bitching or moaning. I am afraid that they will talk about me behind my back, write me off, not invite me to parties, or tell me outright while I am in the midst of those tired/scared/afraid/overwhelmed feelings, that I need to “Quit complaining!” Because of my fear of this rejection, I was hiding those feelings.
- Every time I see someone post on Facebook or social media about how “people need to watch that negative energy they put out onto social media,” it intensifies the pressure for me to make sure that whatever I put onto social media is happy-happy-joy-joy.
- Those social media posts also communicate a tacit message from the person who would post such a thing: “I’m not going to have compassion for you, even when you’re having a tough time. I don’t really want to know if you’re having a tough time. I’d prefer it if you only show the happy-happy-joy-joy parts of your life, so that nothing negative shows up in my Facebook feed.”
- This further intensifies the pressure to hide negative feelings and not talk about them.
- Hiding negative feelings and not talking about them leads to…the overload of feelings. And at some point, mostly everyone with an abundance of mucky stuff built up is going to start feeling like they desperately need at outlet, at which point they…start whining, complaining, bitching, and moaning.
What this means
Maybe, instead of being “bad people” who whine, bitch, moan and complain, we are actually people who are trying to handle a lot of feelings. Maybe those responses are an attempt to release an overload of those feelings.
Maybe we could give ourselves and each other a bit more gentleness with that.
Maybe we could not reject someone who is doing any of these things, but instead get curious, with them: what’s the truth of what they feel, underneath that?
Maybe we could ask each other questions in the face of this behavior, questions such as: “How can I support you, right now?”
Maybe if we did this, people wouldn’t hide those feelings.
===>>> Maybe if people didn’t hide feelings, we wouldn’t also have the phenomenon of people who suffer in silence, or who feel like they can’t be fully who they are, or who show up in their lives going through the motions. <<<===
And in a strange, paradoxical way, maybe this would even lead to fewer instances of whining, complaining, bitching and moaning.
Rejecting Vs. Accepting Vs. Rolling Over And Taking It
I’m not saying that this means you’ll need to endlessly listen to someone go on about their problems or that you’re somehow responsible for “fixing” someone else.
I’m saying that if a friend is going on-and-on about her life’s problems, and she knows that you’ll love her no matter what, she might just vent out what’s happening for her, feel better, and move on. Or perhaps she’s going to be more open to that moment when you say, “I’m noticing that there’s a lot going on for you, right now. It sounds intense. How can I support you in shifting it?”
I don’t think that most friends, when offered this kind of support, would just do it, anyway. Complaining doesn’t feel good in the body. People don’t consciously choose things that don’t feel good. People choose things that don’t feel good only when they don’t realize that they have other options, or they understand that they have other options but knowing better doesn’t automatically mean being able to do better.
We live in a world where things can be very, very tough for all of us with the right circumstances. I’m only suggesting that perhaps we could create more room for validating that when someone’s going through a tough time, it just feels tough–and that we’re okay with the fact that they feel those things.
Making Different Choices
You might try something sort of new and radical: start creating containers for your W/C/B/M moments. Search out those friends who “get it” that when you’re upset and dealing with a lot, you need to vent it out–and give them the permission slip to stop you at X minutes into this and say, “How can I support you in shifting that?”
That lets you get the feelings out, while offering a responsible boundary for them to enact.
You might also stop judging yourself when you notice your own W/C/B/M moments, and start getting curious. Why do they happen? What’s the truth that exists underneath them?
Finally, you might also make it clear that you won’t judge others when they go into that space. You won’t post the Pinterest pins or share the Facebook status updates that indicate that if someone else experiences negative emotion (gasp!) that you’ll spend more time judging them than you would offering support.
What helps me out of my own whining, complaining, bitching and moaning mode, every time? Someone who’s willing to sit with me enough to let me be heard. In that compassion, I can find a willingness to also be a friend to myself.
Any of us can do the same. You might even start, right now.