Complaint to Power

This article is a follow-up to the No Complaints message. As promised, here is a tool to help you get out of the complaint cycle.

First, remember that complaining comes from a sense of powerlessness. When in power, there is no need to complain, there is only the next right action to take. We gripe when something upsets us and we feel unable to change the situation. The problem is that when we have powerlessness, it feels good to complain, so people easily get stuck there.

To regain your power, look for the underlying purpose of the complaint. What is it telling you and what is there to do about it?

The anatomy of a complaint

1. First is the complaint itself. It often includes blame.

2. With that is powerlessness

3. Underneath, there are feelings such as fear, guilt, shame, disappointment, hurt/pain/grief, upset

4. The truth buried deep below the surface is a COMMITMENT

Commitment – This is the purpose of the complaint and the tool for eliminating it. The reason for fear, disappointment, etc. is that something you wanted or needed to have happen did not. The most common commitments are needs, values, and possibilities.

Need – To live is to have needs (see Maslow’s Hierarchy). Needs are so important they must be met. When you are not intentional about or responsible for doing this yourself, your unconscious will do it for you, and usually in very unproductive (if not destructive) ways. This almost always involves complaining and usually includes manipulation and passive-aggressiveness. If you grew up in a family that dictated or ignored your needs, there may be some work to do to figure out what yours really are.

Also beware that some needs stem from distorted unconscious patterns. If, for example, you have a fear of abandonment that leads to the need for security, trying to address the security need will only make things worse. You must address the abandonment issues, which is the soul’s commitment to growth into power. To be successful with needs and other commitments, remember that there are two levels: personal and soul. You must balance both or this will not work.

Value – Values are who we are and what we stand for, such as integrity, respect, beauty, leadership, or spirituality. When someone does something against our values, a boundary has been crossed. From powerlessness, we have trouble setting boundaries so they get crossed a lot. Power looks like: having standards, setting boundaries, making requests, training people how to be with you, and living your values no matter what others say or do. When we do not know or stand for our values, we fall for others’ values. These show up as “shoulds.” Following someone else’s “should” is a set up for pain.

Possibility – A possibility is something beneficial that you want or that life wants to have happen. Let’s say you intend to hold a productive meeting (possibility: a meeting that makes a difference for all involved), but someone hijacks the conversation and the meeting falls apart. Powerless: complain about the other person, gossip, hold resentments. Powerful: look at what you could have done differently both during and before the meeting and have a conversation with the offending party to set up a better outcome for the future.

Some things to consider:

  • A great way to improve connections with others is to turn this process around. When someone complains to you or about you, look for their commitment and you can get beyond the complaint and move toward resolution.
  • Some people are addicted to their complaints and not interested in solutions. They prefer feeling bad to feeling good. They may not move beyond, but you can. This is a helpful technique for practicing detachment.
  • Frequently, the complaint we have is with ourselves. This is a circular reference, if you know what I mean. It is an unconscious way of avoiding the power of responsibility. Get help if you can’t resolve this yourself.
  • Stay in the complaint too long and it begins to look like the truth. It becomes an “ism,” such as “My spouse/boss/parent IS that way.” Powerlessness shows up a lot in relationships. Too many of us are not trained in how to do relationships well. Learning new behaviors and ways to communicate is the way to deep and lasting love.

This is a very brief overview. There are many nuances and variations to consider. The journey to true power, satisfaction and success is in discovering your inner commitments and having the courage to do something about them.

For more Complaint to Power tools, join me for my next Serenity, Power, and Freedom class.