I've been talking about trauma and loss for a long time, so I want to talk about complaining. We are experiencing a loss of freedom, lack of connection, and increased fear of economic fallout during this pandemic. We are not used to this kind of prevalent, lengthy, and collective grief in the air.
Grief has six stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance, and meaning. On any given day, we are all cycling through some or all of these emotions. It's hard to find the meaning when we don't know when this prolonged uncertainty will end.
We have to work through our emotions, we can't work around them.
What works against us is that many of us are fighting our feelings. We wake up and say to ourselves, "This will be over soon," "Things will get better," "Let me stay productive through it." This forced optimism compartmentalizes the problem, bypasses the pain, and focuses on a solution — it denies the complexity of our experience and encourages us to run away from our feelings.
In psychotherapy, there is a term called spiritual bypass. When we engage in spiritual bypassing, we use spiritual practices to compensate for low self-esteem, social isolation, or other emotional issues.
People who use spiritual bypassing are dexterous at covering up their actual feelings with either spiritual practices, discipline, productivity, or plain old (tragic) optimism. They run away from their feelings in the name of enlightenment, psychological strength or self-control. They may feel enlightened and in control for a short period of time, but soon enough they are triggered by the same issues that sent them to be more disciplined, productive, or spiritual to begin with. It's like holding a beach ball under the water; it will keep popping up. All that effort, work, and drama yet nothing gets accomplished.
When we don't take time to acknowledge and accept our emotions, we don't learn how to handle them. The most effective thing to do sit with your emotions and honor them without repressing it. We have to work through our emotions, we can't work around them.
Some Signs Of Spiritual Or Emotional Bypassing Include:
- Overemphasizing the positive and avoiding the negative
- Starting sentences with "at least."
- Being overly detached
- Being overly idealistic
- Having feelings of entitlement
- Exhibiting frequent anger
- Being overly compassionate
- Pretending everything is okay when it's not
- Engaging in cognitive dissonance (when your beliefs and actions don't align)
- Thinking that anger or sadness are "bad"
- Rarely or ever yelling or crying
- Need to be in control of things or people
- Feeling uncomfortable around overly emotional people
- Avoiding conflict or uncomfortable conversations
We think by avoiding, escaping, and even redirecting our emotions we don't give them power but the opposite happens. By engaging in spiritual and emotional bypassing we repress our emotions and give them more power.
Just like that beach ball that won't stay underwater, repressed feelings don't go away. Until acknowledged, felt, and worked through, they haunt us forever. Even worse, repressed feelings metastasize in our bodies and change our biochemistry, which can cause depression and chronic illnesses.
So what's complaining got to do with any of this?
Complaining gets a bad rep, unmindfully and rashly. We underestimate and minimize the healing aspect of complaining. Complaining is a valid way of acknowledging and processing our emotions.
So when you complain to your partner: "I'm tired of walking around with a disinfectant spray." Or "I want to go out and see my friends." Or "Stop telling me what I could or should be doing during lockdown."
And they respond, "We are lucky to have it as good as we do," you are both right. Gratitude is deeply important, and you're allowed to complain! We can't be grateful all the time. When we try to be grateful at the expense of not acknowledging our emotions, we spiritually and emotionally bypass. Gratitude is important for healing, but often we jump straight into gratitude without feeling our feelings. This is when gratitude becomes a coverup and an insidious way we repress our true feelings. This isn't gratitude at all, it's an emotional bypass at it's finest.
Complaining is a valve of release. It's a way to still feel that you have some control over your life even when you don't control squat. So, do what you can to get through this crisis and get back to your complaining. We can be grateful and complain. We can be responsible and lazy. We can be loving and supportive and vent and talk shit.
Complaining helps us get through this frightening time. Complaining is a survival tool. Complaining helps us feel our feelings. When we feel our feelings, we can change them. When we feel our feelings, no matter how scary, we ensure that the lessons we learn from this tragedy stay with us forever.
Complaining is a valid way of acknowledging and processing our emotions.
Week by week, we have been going through phases. First it was hoarding and stress, then planning and anxiety, and now stagnation and lethargy. It's okay, if not beneficial, to complain.
Here Is What I'm complaining About:
- I am tired of hunting for damn paper towels every week
- I'm over these home workouts, they don't work for me. Yes, I know it's not the home workouts, it's me not taking it seriously, but I need to go to a MF GYM
- I'm over wearing a hideous bandana over my face
- I'm sad watching people scatter away from each other in public places. I know we do it for the greater good, but watching people avoid each other still breaks my heart
- I am tired of watching stale faces on Zoom
- I'm pissed that my never-ending project list is still not complete
- I miss seeing my mother
I'm sure I'll have new complaints next week. As I advocate for complaining's cathartic effects of emotional release, there is actually a way to complain effectively and intelligently.
Know The purpose Of Your Complaint.
The purpose of complaining is to achieve an outcome.
Feeling angry is fine, but if you use put-downs or cursing to decorate your message, attention will go to the anger and not your message.
It can be to vent, work through your feelings, or to solve a problem. Know what the purpose is. If it's to solve a problem, you may need to call customer service instead of complaining to your partner.
I am pro-complaining but against misery that tries to invite company.
Choose The Right Words To Express Your Complaints.
I know that we are usually frustrated, irritated, or hurt when we complain, but our message can be misinterpreted or lost if we are not conscientious about how we deliver it.
If our voice gets too loud or our tone is too harsh the recipient of your complaint may not be able to move past your tone. Feeling angry is fine, but if you use put-downs or cursing to decorate your message, attention will go to the anger and not your message. As a result, you're more likely to get resistance or start an argument instead of getting the result you're after.
Choose The Right Person To Complain To.
Rarely do we voice our complaints to the people who can actually do something about them. We complain to our partners about our friends and to our friends about our partners. We complain to people who are in our close proximity, but are too selfish to listen and hold space for us.
When you need to vent or work through your feelings, choose the person who lets you do that freely and without judgment. This person will let you express your fears and longings without pointing out everything else that's going right in your life.
They won't urge you to be grateful. They won't try to minimize your complaints or redirect attention back to themselves by saying, "Oh that's not so bad, guess what happened to me."
They will let you get your words and feelings out fully. They will hold space for you. They will say things like, "That's really hard," "I can't believe you're going through this," "You have every right to feel that way," They won't say things like, "I told you so," "You should have known," or "What are you gonna do about it?"
They don't scold you. They don't cheer you up. They just hold space for you to express yourself and work through your own emotions of fear, sadness, anger, disappointment, or guilt. They stay in the uncomfortable and painful feelings with you.
After complaining to these people you'll feel lighter. You feel like you have some say-so about the situation. You feel heard, seen, and valued regardless of your complaint.
Finally. If we turn a complaint into action it becomes useful, otherwise, it remains just a self-absorption. I am bored with hearing myself complain, even though it's a healthy emotional process, so now, I am shifting to accountability.
They won't try to minimize your complaints or redirect attention back to themselves by saying, "Oh that's not so bad, guess what happened to me."
Sometimes this is the process of working through our feelings; we need to complain first, then we are ready to take responsibility. That's the cathartic power of complaining.
It is one thing to read and another thing to understand what you are reading. Not only do you want to understand, but also remember what you've read. Otherwise, we can safely say that if we're not gaining anything from what we read, then it's a big waste of time.
Whatever you read, there are ways to do so in a more effective manner to help you understand better. Whether you are reading by choice, for an upcoming test, or work-related material, here are a few ways to help you improve your reading skills and retain that information.
Read with a Purpose
Never has there been a shortage of great books. So, someone recommended a great cookbook for you. You start going through it, but your mind is wandering. This doesn't mean the cookbook was an awful recommendation, but it does mean it doesn't suit nor fulfill your current needs or curiosity.
Maybe your purpose is more about launching a business. Maybe you're a busy mom and can't keep office hours, but there's something you can do from home to help bring in more money, so you want information about that. At that point, you won't benefit from a cookbook, but you could gain a lot of insight and find details here on how-to books about working from home. During this unprecedented year, millions have had to make the transition to work from home, and millions more are deciding to do that. Either way, it's not a transition that comes automatically or easily, but reading about it will inform you about what working from home entails.
When you pre-read it primes your brain when it's time to go over the full text. We pre-read by going over the subheadings, for instance, the table of contents, and skimming through some pages. This is especially useful when you have formal types of academic books. Pre-reading is a sort of warm-up exercise for your brain. It prepares your brain for the rest of the information that will come about and allows your brain to be better able to pick the most essential pieces of information you need from your chosen text.
Highlighting essential sentences or paragraphs is extremely helpful for retaining information. The problem, however, with highlighting is that we wind up highlighting way too much. This happens because we tend to highlight before we begin to understand. Before your pages become a neon of colored highlights, make sure that you only highlight what is essential to improve your understanding and not highlight the whole page.
You might think there have been no new ways to read, but even the ancient skill of reading comes up with innovative ways; enter speed reading. The standard slow process shouldn't affect your understanding, but it does kill your enthusiasm. The average adult goes through around 200 to 250 words per minute. A college student can read around 450 words, while a professor averages about 650 words per minute, to mention a few examples. The average speed reader can manage 1,500 words; quite a difference! Of course, the argument arises between quality and quantity. For avid readers, they want both quantity and quality, which leads us to the next point.
Life is too short to expect to gain knowledge from just one type of genre. Some basic outcomes of reading are to expand your mind, perceive situations and events differently, expose yourself to other viewpoints, and more. If you only stick to one author and one type of material, you are missing out on a great opportunity to learn new things.
Having said that, if there's a book you are simply not enjoying, remember that life is also too short to continue reading it. Simply, close it, put it away and maybe give it another go later on, or give it away. There is no shame or guilt in not liking a book; even if it's from a favorite author. It's pretty much clear that you won't gain anything from a book that you don't even enjoy, let alone expect to learn something from it.
If you're able to summarize what you have read, then you have understood. When you summarize, you are bringing up all the major points that enhance your understanding. You can easily do so chapter by chapter.
Take a good look at your life and what's going on in it. Accordingly, you'll choose the material that is much more suitable for your situation and circumstances. When you read a piece of information that you find beneficial, look for a way to apply it to your life. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge isn't all that beneficial. But the application of knowledge from a helpful book is what will help you and make your life more interesting and more meaningful.