Badgering bosses, challenging colleagues and provoking partners. Everyone has stress and we all need to get it out somehow.
Most people tend to gripe away at a buddy or loved one but — as counsellor and researcher Karla McLaren reveals in her latest CD/book, The Language of Emotions: What Your Feelings Are Trying To Tell You — people aren’t always the best sounding board for our woes.
“Very few people have the time or energy to support us through our truly difficult emotions,” she says. “If we start complaining to them, they’ll try to stop us or fix the problem before we really know what the problem is.”
McLaren has devised a privately cathartic practice she calls “conscious complaining,” where you select an inanimate object and unload — like a wall or toaster.
While doing so, keep in mind five basic principles: Find a private place, start with an opening statement, let go completely, end with a ritual (bowing, shake it off) — and do it often.
While many may balk at the idea of carping about caustic customers to a cactus, even revered psychologist Ross Gray notes that conscious complaining is certainly not an unhealthy practice for both grumblers and supporters.
“Griping about work has some pressure-relieving quality and thus has a use — albeit limited — in managing stress. It has a more benign effect if not always directed at helpless loved ones.
Similarly disenchanted colleagues make good griping company (while) potted plants hardly ever complain, but may not grow as heartily.”