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If you complain it’s because you believe it’s better not to repress emotions. Complaining is often referred to as venting. Metaphorically, it’s like opening up a window to vent stale air and odors in a room.
First, venting tortures innocent bystanders, disrupting their own emotional balance. Second, it does not make you feel better. Finally, it can ruin your life. Read on if you don’t believe it.
Venting Doesn’t Work
“What people fail to realize is that the anger would have dissipated had they not vented,” explains Psychologist Jeffrey Lohr, who has extensively studied the topic of venting. “Moreover, it would have dissipated more quickly had they not vented and tried to control their anger instead.”
Complainers not only make themselves angrier, they upset everyone else around them, too. They create a negative chain reaction.
Here are 5 ways complaining is much worse than you might imagine:
1. You’re rewiring your brain in the wrong way.
According to neuroscience, synapses that fire together wire together. This is not just an opinion, brain scans actually show that this is what happens.
Synapses in a human brain are separated by a synaptic cleft. When you have a thought, a synapse secretes a chemical to connect with a neighboring synapse. Repeating the idea builds a bridge between the two synapses. As similar thoughts continue over days, more synapses bond together to form a neuronet.
From the perspective of evolution, this is a good thing. It promotes learning and understanding. You understand more about something as you build a neuronet.
For example, suppose you want to learn a new language. You decide to spend 10 minutes a day for 30 days studying it. Every day, you will get more and more familiar with it. At the end of the month, nonsensical sentences now make perfect sense.
However, when you complain, you set off a similar learning pattern.
If you complain about the same thing over time, you build up subject expertise.
Let’s say that you complain about not having enough money. If you complain about your difficulties every day, you make many distinctions. You become an expert on how a lack of money is affecting you. As you become increasingly knowledgeable about your situation, it gets worse.
This complaining can lead to subject expertise in related areas. One thing leads to another: you talk about feeling overworked and underpaid, then you talk about health challenges, and then you talk about your irritating family and friends.
If you continue for long enough, almost everything in your life begins to collapse. You become an expert on what is not working and why.
Evidence for your perspective begins to mount as you unwittingly sabotage everything you do. And, of course, the worse things get, the angrier you feel about it all.
2. You develop a negative peer group.
As social creatures, we gravitate toward people like us. If you are a complainer, the most interesting people are fellow complainers. You find a great deal of pleasure in talking to them about how bad things are getting. You not only get sympathy for your own terrible situation, but others also try to trump your story. You feel good because your brain is now secreting dopamine.
3. You’re attracted to bad news.
What’s more, you gravitate toward negative news. You support politicians who talk about how things are falling apart. You listen to news about how the economy is getting worse. You stay abreast of the latest celebrity gossip. You gravitate towards media that highlights negative information.
4. You mock positive people and good news.
You also develop an aversion to positive people and events. You consider optimists Pollyannas. When good things happen, you consider it to be a passing phase with entropy having the final say.
5. You destroy your body with stress.
Your body reacts to your negative thoughts, negative peers, and negative news-gathering. It begins to create more of the stress hormone cortisol. Your body prepares to react to any sign of danger with fight or flight. Your mind has warned it that the world is a dangerous place.
Stress, if left unchecked, can contribute to many health problems including:
- Sleep problems
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
Complaining Is Toxic
We often think of bad habits as indulging in toxic substances or an addiction to something. We often dismiss complaining as a harmless national pastime.
But complaining is far from harmless venting. It’s toxic and can create a snowball effect. Over time, it can ruin every aspect of your life.
The solution, of course, is to do the opposite:
- Notice what is working.
- Associate with positive people.
- Develop a proactive interest in information that improves the quality of your life.