Why Do We Complain?

Why do we complain? I’m not talking about complaining to a company if, for example, we receive poor quality goods or services. That, for me, is taking appropriate action. I’m talking about the grumbling that we do, either with others or in our own minds, that is not at all concerned with taking appropriate action.

Why do we do it? I can come up with suggestions: perhaps we feel powerless to take action; maybe we are afraid to actually take responsibility; or we want our friend to collude with us so we feel justified in our opinion.

But what really matters is that when we are in complaining mode we are not looking inward. All of our attention is focussed outward on the perceived injustice or bad behaviour of others or whatever. It is a way of avoiding being intimate with our own discomfort.

So that is why I put this as a question, which we can ask ourselves when we find we are complaining. Why am I complaining? What is it about me – not them – that is causing me to avoid  my feelings? Why am I disturbed by this situation/person?

You don’t necessarily need to come up with definite answers, the point is to direct your attention back inwards. We can’t rely on being able to change the outside world to suit us, but we can transform our relationship with the world.

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2 thoughts on “Why Do We Complain?

  1. Norman Trewhitt

    I like this. It is a very real piece to train with. Some time ago it occurred to me that grumbling and complaining (in the context you show here) is a subtle breakage of the Precepts which of course can lead to more direct ways to run counter to the Precepts.
    When I’m at the bus station waiting with my fellow pensioners we get to putting the world to rights. Harmless chatter on the face of it but when, for example, conversation turns to how the younger generation behave these days, this can become dangerous territory. Noisy school kids, loudmouthed teenagers….. then if I’m honest with myself, weren’t we just the same all those years ago?
    Yes, sometimes I think the bus station can be a very good zendo.


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