Truth Byte #18

Truth Byte #18

I spend my work day listening to people complain.  They actually pay me to sit there and listen to them complain.  For a while.  Then I speak.  And when I speak, I lovingly but firmly let them know that I get their story, but it’s time for a change.  That’s when the true work of therapy begins.  

In a few short weeks or months, at our graduation session, my clients will look back on their initial complaint.  What they usually find is that the thing that they were complaining hasn’t really changed, but they have.  

And that makes all the difference.

Not so true in the rest of my life.  In my regular life, people also love to complain.  They get riled up talking about how that person let them down or how gas prices have gone up or about how it’s too hot, too cold, too muggy, to whatever.  They complain about how their bosses don’t value them or how everyone else seems to have happiness, or about how the gun laws in some other country need to be changed.  They complain about their parents or their children or their spouse of that rude server at that fancy restaurant.  When they have nothing to complain about, they complain about other people’s problems.

As a social scientist, I tend to quietly observe these complaint-a-thons.  Last weekend, I even participated in one. What an experience. 

I had invited some amazing minds over to my home for a hang-out, with no pressure to do or be anything special.  The conversation started out mildly, building momentum we were jumping from one topic to another, pointing out social inequities, injustice, and flaws in our way of being as a culture.  Voices got louder and louder as we collectively agreed that our world sucks.

It was kind of fun in the moment, as it brought back to me those university days where we would sit in our dorms till the sun rose, just hashing out these issues.  The difference from then to now is that when I was younger, my friends and I would actually be trying to craft solutions.  We had these big ambitions about how we would turn into the leaders who would actually make an impact and change the world.

But this conversation was just pure complaining.  No one was offering solutions.  No one had any ideas on how to fix it.  All we could do it analyze the wound and then say “oh well, that looks like it hurts but you will just have to deal with it.” And just before it was over, I was feeling deflated and saddened that these eight brilliant minds just spent three hours dismantling a system with nothing left to build in its place.

Until one man spoke up.  He said the only solution he could see is to start becoming aware of his own biases and his own flaws.  He said if he could change, he could pass on a different way of thinking to his children.  Then at least his little family could be that tiny group that was actually doing something differently than “the system” allowed.  He said if we were not aware of our own shortcomings, and if we did not work on changing ourselves, nothing would change.

I breathed a sigh of relief, and hope came flooding back into my body.  Because in informal social gatherings like that, I don’t want to be the teacher.  And here I was, watching the lessons I teach my clients materializing in front of me through this other person.

Once he said those words, the tone in the room changed.  It was no longer about “those people out there” that needed to change, it was about each of us in my living room, and how we could be better, how we could bring more understanding, how we could teach our own families about the values that would make our culture more peaceful.  

We went from complaining to taking action.  And that made all the difference.

The ego has tricked you into believing that complaining gets you something, whether it’s attention or sympathy or friendship.  Complaining is when you just focus on the problem, with no thought to solution-focused action.  And of course, there are moments when even the best of us needs to “just vent”, but having a sounding board and dumping on someone are subtly yet powerfully different.  

My challenge to you today is to release your complaints to Heaven, and look instead for solutions.  One secret you have to know: the solution is probably not linear.  

For example, you may be single and looking for love, and you feel like the solution to your problem is clearly “I need a partner.”  Until that partner finds you, can you take other actions, such as appreciating the people in your life you are already loving you behind the scenes, or spending time nurturing yourself (truly, not just in a “Oprah-said-so” way) or identifying and removing the obstacles to love that you may not be conscious of?  And most importantly, can you turn the envy you have for happy couples into blessings?  

We can only attract what we celebrate.

All the “miracle stories” of true love start with “I wasn’t even looking for someone,”.   Could you stop looking so hard and just become the most incredible partner that anyone could ever want – vibrant, happy, connected, relaxed, and loving?  Because until you live that way, he/she won’t find you.

And if they do find you, they won’t want you.  

Because instead of seeing the glorious master- manifestor that you are, they will just see a clingy, needy, lonely person that is going to suck them dry.  

And who would want to be with someone who has nothing to give but suspicion that you will leave them and a barrage of requests of how they need to be taken care of?  Not me.

So for today, whatever your complaint is, see if you can find the action that is linked to it.  If you want things to turn out a particular way, it’s not about “waiting on the world to change”, rather you must “be the change you wish to see in the world”.

Dr. Saira Sabzaali

Dr. Saira Sabzaali

Dr. Saira (she/her) provides mental health support through individual counselling, groups, immersive workshops/courses, and free educational content. Over the last 14 years, we have helped men and women of many backgrounds find answers to their questions about work, life, love, and meaning. Much mainstream psychology overlooks spirituality, family values, and community context, so we have decided to specialize in serving clients who are ready for change and also want to include their cultural values and spiritual beliefs into therapy.

You don't need to carry this pain forever.

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