Thoughts From This Therapist: You're Not Complaining
The works in this series will always be the opinion of the writer (me, Rebecca). Therapy and healing is not a one-size-fits-all box, so keep that in mind when reading. Everything in this series will come from my experiences both as a therapist and patient. I hope it gives you insight into different perspectives, and gives me a place to share thoughts on topics I feel are important. Enjoy!
Ask yourself what your definition of complaining is. Merriam Webster’s definition is “to express grief, pain, or discontent”. Yet if you hop over to Dictionary.com, their definition is slightly different: “to express dissatisfaction, pain, uneasiness, censure, resentment, or grief; find fault:” or “to tell of one's pains, ailments, etc.”
And if you want to keep looking at other dictionaries you will see that they have their own definitions as well. All good definitions, but how does this help us in the therapeutic process?
Complaining can be good and helpful. But sometimes, it can be negative or unhelpful. This is my definition of negative complaining: constantly talking about the same issue or problem without the willingness to do anything about it; accept that you cannot change it; or trying to understand how to best support yourself with the problem at hand.
So why am I bringing this up? Well, because I hear way too often “I’m sorry, I am just complaining”. Each time I hear it I reply “no you are not”, so I wanted to take a moment to address this and explain why I say you are not complaining, even if you might be.
Therapy is about venting (a form of complaining), and talking, and working through issues. Therefore “complaining” or talking about things will happen. Yet in a therapeutic setting it is not actually considered complaining (at least not in a negative way), in my opinion, because it is constructive when done in therapy.
When we are in therapy talking about things that are happening, or have happened, we are giving ourselves the space to process those thoughts with someone who is objective and can help us look at the issues from a different perspective. Also, as we are talking through things in therapy our brains often allow us to remember other details to help us put all the pieces together.
Complaining, to me, implies that you are not willing to do anything to attempt to change the situation or accept things that you cannot change. Hopefully you wouldn’t be in therapy if you were not willing to change things: therefore, you are not complaining.
Maybe you are, technically, complaining, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing, as long as you are willing to do what you must to address the issue. It is important for the therapeutic process that you feel comfortable being able to say whatever is on your mind, and share all that you are going through or dealing with, at any given time.
Let us not forget probably one of the most important pieces of therapy: venting! Venting (a form of complaining) allows us to do all the things mentioned above, and to just release the energy those words had us holding in. Most times we do not even realize we are holding that energy until we release it through talking things out with someone. And who better to release that energy with than our therapist?
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