We all know people who complain too much. But do you know people who complain too little? The word has such negative connotations in our culture. I wonder if it might sometimes be a healthy, honest thing to do.
My friend Evan’s brother, who is quite reserved, described their dad’s experience of terminal cancer by saying, “He was a perfect stoic. He didn’t complain at all.”
Evan is someone who is pretty comfortable being real and open with people. He too visited their dying father who confided in Evan, “Son, cancer is a hell of a son-of-a-bitch! This is really rough.” Then Evan and his dad ended up having an extremely real, open-hearted, and important time together. The both shed tears and also laughed a lot together that day.
We all can judge ourselves or others for “losing it” or “having a melt-down” when things are stressful or painful. If getting emotional is a “melt”-down, then is not allowing yourself to get emotional mean that a part stays frozen?
It seems that people think that if they complain, they are being weak or ungrateful. Just because we let ourselves be open about the difficulty we are experiencing doesn’t mean that we aren’t also grateful for all our blessings or that we don’t enjoy many pieces of life deeply.
If your goal is making sure everyone around you thinks you have your poop together and are always composed, then sharing the whole truth about how you are might not be recommended. But if your goal is to live an open-hearted life that gives yourself and others permission to be real, then maybe intentionally complaining to someone you trust, could be on track.
So the next time someone you trust asks you how you are, perhaps the response of “Can’t complain.” Or “It’s all good” might not be the best invitation for connecting human to human.
Judy O’Neill, MSW is a social worker in private practice as a health and relationship coach. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone (303) 819-2099.