The Spiral of Complaining 5/21/2007 02:13:00 PM

I would like to share with you this piece written by a quadreplegic Spanish priest who teaches college level students at a university in Spain. After reading this, I decided to start counting the blessings and disregarding the complaints. Do read on! The Spiral of Complaining (Translator’s note: spiral – the path of a point in a plane moving around a central point while continuously receding from or approaching it [Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary]) Alfonso Aguil√≥ Often perhaps, we discover ourselves complaining about little feelings of rejection, lacks of consideration or carelessness of others. We observe in our interior that half-suppressed complaint, that groan, that lament that grows and grows although we may not want it. And we see that the more we find refuge in it, we find more reasons to keep on complaining; the more we enter deeply in those reasons, the more complicated they become. It is the complaint of a heart that feels that it never receives what it deserves. A complaint expressed in a thousand ways, but which always ends up creating a rock bottom of bitterness and deception. There is an enormous and dark power in that vehement interior complaint. Every time a person allows himself to be seduced by those ideas, he gets tangled up a little bit more in a spiral of endless feelings of rejection. The condemnation of others and the condemnation of oneself grow more and more. One goes deeper into the labyrinth of his own discontent until finally he can feel that he is the most misunderstood, rejected and looked down upon. Besides, to complain is many times counterproductive. When we lament about something with the hope of inspiring pity and thus receiving a satisfaction, the result is frequently the contrary. Habitual complaining leads to feeling more rejected because it is exhausting to live with someone who tends to think she is the victim or sees snub and contempt in everything, or expects from others-or from life in general-what ordinarily cannot be demanded. The root of that frustration is, more often than not, the person’s disappointment in herself and it is difficult to give an answer to her complaints because in the end, the person she rejects is her own self. Once the complaint becomes strong in someone-in her interior or in her exterior attitude-, that person loses spontaneity to the point that the joy she observes in others tends to evoke in her a feeling of sadness, even malice. In the face of others’ joys, right away she begins to be suspicious. Joy and resentment cannot coexist; when there is resentment, joy, instead of inviting joy, leads to greater rejection. That attitude of complaining is even greater when it is associated with a constant reference to one’s own virtue, to an assumed self-righteousness: “I do this and that and I’m working here, thinking about that, trying those other things… while he or she doesn’t bother, moves lazily, goes about her own things, that’s the way they are…” As Henri J. M. Nouwen has written, complaints and touchiness appear to be mysteriously linked to praiseworthy attitudes in oneself. It’s all a pathological style of thinking which enormously enrages the one who suffers it. Just at the moment of wanting to talk or act from the most altruistic and dignified attitude, she finds herself caught by sentiments of rage or bitterness. The more unselfish she tries to be, the more obsessed she is in valuing what she does. The more she conscientiously tries to do everything possible, the more she asks herself why the others do not do the same. The more generous she wants to show herself to be, the more she envies those who give in to egoism. When one falls into that spiral of criticism and disapproval, everything loses its spontaneity. Annoyance blocks perception, one becomes the envious, constantly gets angry because she is not given what, according to her, she deserves. She suspects everything, thinks everything is calculated and filled with second intentions. The least movement requires a counter movement. The least commentary should be analyzed, the most insignificant gesture should be evaluated. Life becomes a strategy of insults and demands. At the bottom of everything, a resentful and complaining I appears constantly. What is the solution to this? Perhaps the best is to exert effort in having more faith and gratitude. We know that gratitude and resentment cannot co-exist. The discipline of gratitude is an explicit effort to receive everything that happens to us, with joy and serenity. Gratitude implies a constant choice. I can choose to be grateful even though my first emotions and feelings may be filled with sorrow. We will be surprised by the number of times we can opt for gratitude instead of complaining. There is an Estonian saying which goes: “He who is not grateful in little things will neither be in much.” Little acts of gratitude make one grateful. Most of all because little by little, they make us see that if we look at things with perspective, in the end we will realize that everything turns out for the good.