Confessions of a chronic complainer

Hi everyone, I’m Rosie.  If you know me, you know that I’m a chronic complainer.

Last semester I had a grand idea to see if I could go a week without complaining, but unfortunately, I failed. My SAT was that weekend so I ended up complaining even more than I usually would. So I decided to redo this social experiment with the help of a member of the Eye staff –Matt Klauer.

Our rules were simple: we couldn’t complain for one week. That doesn’t include getting upset and angry unless the reason was unjustifiable. We had to keep track of every time we complained and what our complaints were. Seems easy? Not really.

This is what I found.

Although my complaining decreased, when I did complain, they fell into two categories.

  1. The what I like to call “teenage girl” complaints, where I would say things like “ugh, it is so hot.” Or “I look so bad today” or “She’s honestly being so rude.”
  1. Complaining embedded in stories. This is where I would be telling someone about something that happened to me and I ended up complaining without intending to. For example, last Wednesday someone was being rude to me and I was telling my mom, and rather than explaining the situation, I ended up complaining about the situation.
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Some of the complaints I journaled during the week. Photo by Rosie Hogan

One of my subjects, Matt, believes complaining is important and inevitable. “Complaining is just a part of life. Really, a necessity. The greatest inventors, revolutionaries, and philosophers were always the greatest complainers. Were we to all stop complaining, we’d all suffer and get nowhere.”

He went on to tell me that his complaints were along the lines of things like, “That was difficult,” “Wow, screw that guy” or “Seriously?”  And “I hate this class so much…”

Here is the thing. Although I think that mass complaining is maladaptive, some complaints are a cathartic. I think that a life without complaints would be unreal, because even when you’re not voicing your complaints, you’re thinking them.

That being said, complaining really does have its negative repercussions.

Ralitza Peeva, Psych PhD, counselor and life coach, said, “Overall our focus on complaining keeps our attention on the negative and it depletes our energy without allowing us to think of ideas and come up with solutions to our issues.”

Complaining causes stress, and stress causes emotional and physical issues. According to the Inc.com article “Complaining Is Terrible for You, According to Science” by Jessica Stillman,“The culprit is the stress hormone cortisol. When you’re negative, you release it, and elevated levels of the stuff interfere with learning and memory, lower immune function and bone density, increase weight gain, blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease…. The list goes on and on.”

But those who are uber positive also have their own issues. Overly positive people tend not to get stressed, meaning they’ll lack that drive to study or work to eliminate that stress. Also, they often lose sense of the real world and will act carelessly.

So, is complaining good or bad?

Well, in excess, complaining is not great, but in small doses it can help us let everything out, understand the world and provide motivation to work hard to change the situation.

Is it possible to live a life without complaining?

I’m not completely sure. What I learned from my experiment is that I can’t live without complaining. Personally articulating my disapproval of certain things helps me process everything. It comes down to the amount you complain.

Dr. Peeva finished with a story. “A woman psychologist speaks in front of an audience and shows them a glass of water half full. She is asking them what they see and they think it is the familiar anecdote about seeing the glass half full or half empty. Instead she asks the audience ‘How heavy do you think this glass is?’ The audience comes up with lots of different answers: ‘8 ounces, 10 ounces, half a litre…’ She answers, ‘It is as heavy as I make it. If I hold it for a minute, it will be very light. If I keep holding it for an hour, it will feel heavier and heavier. If I hold it for a day, it will feel like it weighs a ton. This is what we do with our problems. If we think and talk constantly about them, they become bigger and bigger and bigger.’”

Author: Rosie Hogan

Rosie Hogan is a senior and one of the co editors of The Eye. Rosie has lived in Singapore for the majority of her life but goes back home to the states for her summers. When she’s not busy writing you can find her eating grilled cheese sandwiches, jamming out to Taylor Swift and watching Criminal Minds. She can be contacted at hogan33482@sas.edu.sg.

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