Image by aturkus via FlickrWe all know someone who has elevated the process of complaining to a high art. Sometimes funny, sometimes exhausting, these people have the ability to find a problem just about anywhere. In its more evolved form, complaining is simply the ability to see what's not working, in one's own life or in the external world, and it can be quite useful if followed to its natural conclusion—finding a solution and applying it. However, many of us don't get that far, and we find that complaining has become an end in itself. In small doses, this is not a big problem, but if complaining has become a huge part of our identities, it may be time to take a good look at how we are spending our energy.
Complaining is a person's way of acknowledging that they are not happy with the way things are. In a metaphorical way, when we complain or criticize, we are tearing down an undesirable structure in order to make room for something new. But if all we do is tear down, never bothering to summon the creative energy required to create something new, we are not fulfilling the process. In fact, we are at risk for becoming a stagnant and destructive force in our own lives and in the lives of the people we love. Another issue with complaining is that we sometimes tend to focus on other people, whom we can't change, as a way of deflecting attention from the one person we can change—ourselves. So transforming complaining into something useful is a twofold process that begins with turning our critical eye to look at things we can actually do something about, and then taking positive action.
When we find ourselves complaining, the last thing we need to do is get down on ourselves. Instead, we can begin by noticing that we are in the mode of wanting to make some changes. But rather than lashing out at somebody or an organization, we can look for an appropriate place to channel this energy—not our neighbor's house, but possibly parts of our own. Finally, we can ask ourselves the positive question of what we would like to create in the place of whatever it is we want to tear down. When we do this, we channel a negative habit into a creative process, thus using our energy to change the world around us in a positive way.