By: Marilyn L. Davis
How Do You Discuss Your Life?
“If you took one-tenth the energy you put into complaining and applied it to solving the problem, you’d be surprised by how well things can work out… Complaining does not work as a strategy. We all have finite time and energy. Any time we spend whining is unlikely to help us achieve our goals. And it won’t make us happier.” ― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture
Speaking negatively about people and situations is how many of us spend our conversational time. We do this on the job, at home, or texting about someone or something that we don’t like.
Spouses, the children, the teachers, the economy, the hours we work, and those people who annoy us at our recovery support meetings are our focus – all the negative in our lives, and we do this with complaining, venting, and whining.
Continuing to be negative creates this illusion that we know how things “ought to be” or how people should act. And when these things don’t happen or don’t happen as quickly as we think they should, we let everyone know exactly how we feel.
Complaining, Venting, or Whining?
Complaining is expressing feelings of pain, dissatisfaction, or disappointment.
- I was disappointed when the train ran late, and I missed my appointment. I called, and my meeting was rescheduled.
Venting is often the cathartic release of thoughts and emotions.
- I’m so irritated with our public transportation system. If a train is scheduled to arrive at a specific time, unless there’s a good excuse, arriving late is unacceptable. I missed an important meeting yesterday and was fortunate that I reached the supervisor as phone service on the train is spotty, too.
Whining or the other hand is complaining and venting laced with pity, “it isn’t fair’, “poor me” negativity.
- I’m always getting screwed. Yesterday it was the train; yes, a train, because my folks wouldn’t buy me a car or even co-sign a loan so I could get to the meeting. I know I didn’t repay the last loan, but I had to change jobs, my female boss was jealous of the attention I got from co-workers, and she couldn’t deal with the competition. I can’t help it that I’m gorgeous; even that’s a curse. Course you wouldn’t understand. And this new job, they just don’t appreciate me. I’m sensitive to criticism, and when I’m criticized, I cry. My boss doesn’t have any compassion. That late train probably cost me another job, and I’ve just quit the one I got last month, but with a jealous boss, I wasn’t going to catch any breaks anyway — just another chapter in my miserable life.
Recovery is Realigning the Whining
Nor did we listen when people would give us suggestions like, “Maybe if you stop putting cocaine up your nose, you’ll have money.”
When I heard that, I remember going on a rant (that’s an angrier whine) about how they didn’t understand the pressures I was under and I had to use to cope.
Continuing to use cost me another friend and the loss of that friendship ‘made me’ us more.
We may think of realigning as something done to our cars, but couldn’t we also apply it to our thinking?
When we get out of balance in our recovery, we tend to speak negatively. However, unlike in our addiction, we have a choice in how we view the circumstances of our lives and can usually, if we’re making an effort, put a more positive spin on things.
Why Positive Beats Petulant
Barbara L. Fredrickson, Ph.D., author of Positivity, isn’t just giving us ‘feel-good’ advice. She has conducted studies and done extensive research on why being positive is good for our emotional and physical health.
From an Amazon review: This book describes in an accessible and captivating way, what the research by her and her colleagues has taught her about what Positivity is and what it does.
In her explanation of what positivity is, she mentions ten forms of positivity: joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and love.
As to what positivity does, maybe it is best to start with six facts she mentions about positivity:
1) Feels good
2) Changes how your mind works
3) Transforms your future
4) Puts the brakes on negativity
5) Obeys a tipping point
A briefer way of describing what positivity amounts to is that it opens your mind and helps you get on a positive trajectory, an upward spiral. In other words: it makes you flourish.
Flourishing in your Recovery
Flourishing is more than being happy. In Barbara Fredrickson’s words: “Flourishing goes beyond happiness, or satisfaction with life. True, people who flourish are happy. But that’s not the half of it.
Beyond feeling good, people also tend to do good – adding value to the world. People who flourish are highly engaged with their families, work, and communities.
Looking for the silver lining in every situation or only focusing on the good qualities of a problematic person (if you can even find one) might sound a bit like Pollyanna.
No, I’m not advocating putting on blinders and ignoring difficulties in your recovery.
But, most of us harmed people, created chaos, and lived negative lives in our addiction, and it’s going to take time to get our houses in order.
It’s also going to take some work to change negative thinking into positive thinking, but it, and you are worth it. You might be someone who processes from cognitive distortions.
Changing the way we think takes time. Recovery allows us to learn new skills, attitudes, and actions, but it also gives us time to unlearn the self-defeating patterns of negative thinking.
Writing, and recovery heals the heart.
When you’re ready to tell us what it was like, what happened, and what it’s like now, consider a guest post.
How you say ‘recovery works’ will touch people in ways that my words can’t.