Do you find yourself surrounded by people who constantly complain? People who just consistently bitch and moan about almost everything? They seem to look at the cup as being half empty instead of half full. Everything seems wrong and nothing seems right. They complain about the weather, their coworkers, their partners, the government, their children, traffic, and in-laws. They constantly talk about how great life used to be and how things are so different now.
Are you an energy vampire?
- Perhaps you find yourself seeing the negative side instead of looking at what might be positive and then dumping those thoughts into other people’s energy fields with complaints.
- This pattern of “awfulizing” is contagious. When one person begins to go down this complaining pathway, then those of us around him or her tend to also jump on the bandwagon, usually without even realizing that we are doing so.
But why is this so wrong? We might think that:
- We’re just expressing our opinions, and that ...
- We have a right to our feelings.
And the answer is that of course we have a right to our opinions, however the way to transmute these feelings of frustration or anxiety regarding another person’s behavior is not to vent these opinions onto others.
Indeed, complaining can have serious consequences.
When we have so many dissatisfactions and frustrations, yet believe we're powerless to do much about them or to get the results we want, [then] we are left feeling helpless, hopeless, victimized, and bad about ourselves.Guy Winch, PhD, and author
The person listening to us will feel this exposure to negativity as a serious drain on their own energy, often without realizing it.
I describe people who tend to consistently complain and dump their stuff on others as energy vampires.
You might notice when you get around someone who constantly complains that:
- Your natural inclination is to run away or to protect yourself.
- Most often, though, we’re not even conscious of our reactions, and instead, we just notice that we feel resentful, more tired or more anxious around this other person, or our body might start twitching or telling us that we’re uncomfortable.
These are the emotional or physical responses that we aren’t connecting with the person.
Origins of this behavior:
You may have had a parent or an important family member who modeled this behavior. They might have told you that “if you prepare for the worse, then you’re never disappointed”, and then this negative thought pattern became integrated and is now being expressed verbally. Also remember:
- When we put our attention on the negative as opposed to looking at the positive, we tend to complain more.
- What we think and / or believe affects how we feel, and ...
- How we feel affects how we behave. And the behavior here is complaining.
- If we think that most people are not really very nice, then we’re going to feel upset or angry when we interact with others, and we’ll end up complaining about them.
In order to address the complaining you have to start to notice what thought patterns you’re having that may be affecting how you’re feeling. These thought patterns may be creating uncomfortable feelings like anxiety, anger, frustration or resentment. We must notice how these feelings trigger complaints.
What about talking through things?
There is a distinct difference between talking:
- Through our feelings or talking about something that bothers us in order to feel better and then letting it go, versus ...
- About something that then whips us into a frenzy, or at the very least causes more frustration, anger, anxiety and upset.
So the way to determine whether we’re venting and whether it’s healthy releasing versus complaining is to ask ourselves whether we feel better, or do we feel the same or worse.
Journaling for understanding:
As with everything, noticing our feelings is much easier said than done.
One way to do this is to examine your overall feelings around specific aspects of your life:
- Pick one aspect of your life, for instance, your co-workers, your boss, your career, your spouse, your children, your health, other drivers, or even the weather, and then spend a few minutes journaling about the feelings that come up around this.
- If you write about strong negative thoughts or uncomfortable feelings of anxiety, frustration, or anger, then you are most likely also expressing these feelings in the form of a complaint on a regular basis.
Only changing our own behavior:
Of course, once you’ve recognized that you have a tendency to complain and that there are some deeper emotional concerns:
- Then you have to set about changing the behavior.
- One of the largest and hardest insights to come to grips with is recognizing that no amount of complaining, whether it be to the person who has triggered our frustration or to a trusted friend, will actually change the behavior of the person who is the source of what you’re feeling (our partner, our boss, or our child.)
- Instead, we can only change our own behavior.
On a deep level:
- If we are wanting compassion from another person, then we first have to start extending compassion to them.
- If we are wanting more respect, then we must first extend the same.
- We must only look to ourselves for a change in behavior, and not rely on someone else’s behavior to change in order for us to be happy.
Changing our thought patterns and the accompanying behavior is hard work – indeed, it can be the hardest work that we do on this planet. The support of a trusted psychotherapist can be of especial import during this emotional journey.
A licensed therapist knows the stumbling blocks and can help to guide you to see your ingrained thinking patterns, and then help you to release these and attain a higher sense of satisfaction and enjoyment of life.
At Nassau Guidance and Counseling, we work with individuals, couples and families to find more peace and joy in their lives.