these are easy habits to fall into when you live in constant pain. Shoot- when people stub their toes, you’re probably going to hear about it.
But for those living with Chronic Pain, complaining has the potential to further impact our health and too our pain, in both negative and positive ways. Understanding the pros and cons, and too, the limits of it, especially if you find yourself in full-complaint mode, …
becomes a vital coping skill you need to better understand.
“Complaining is a person’s way of acknowledging that they are not happy with the way things are. In a metaphorical way, when we complain or criticize, we are tearing down an undesirable structure in order to make room for something new. But if all we do is tear down, never bothering to summon the creative energy required to create something new, we are not fulfilling the process. In fact, we are at risk for becoming a stagnant and destructive force in our own lives and in the lives of the people we love.” ~ Madisyn Taylor with The Daily Om
Complaining can be seen as a catalyst, a call for change, but often, especially for those in pain it can become simply a negative habit. Research on emotion and health tends to focus on “negative” emotions and their consequences. If we look at complaining however as part of a process then it can serve a positive purpose. By recognizing our habits, including our mind-sets, we can see them in the proper light, either promoting or harming our health. Bringing these to the level of awareness is the key so that we can make informed decisions and better support our well-being, in-spite of the pain we live in.
Emotions, in short bursts, have been shown to stimulate the immune system but can, with chronic over-activation (for example frequent complaints), cause “wear and tear” on the cardiovascular system. Guilt, which, for example, we experience due to excessive complaining, is associated with triggering the pursuit of better healthcare. Distress and depression which repeated complaining with its focus on the negative and too, possibly rumination can aggravate, leads to “increased symptom sensitivity and… may undermine social support systems, leading to a self-perpetuating cycle of conflict and isolation”.
Complaining then can have its place but most certainly has its limits.
A study out of the Journal of Clinical Psychology did find “personal, relational, interpersonal, and material benefits to complaining… there is, indeed, positivity in the negativity”. Bottling up emotions is not healthy and being in constant pain is tough! It is important then that we, at times, “vent” our frustrations, the trauma and grief that accompany a life in pain.
So what to do:
- Be aware! Some people even wear a rubberband around their wrists to “snap” themselves and bring awareness to their complaints….the more you bring it into the light, the more choice you will have.
- As with all other aspects of pain management, be kind to yourself. Change is always a challenge. Remind yourself that there are some benefits to complaining, just watch to become aware of your quantity.
- Stop yourself in the middle of a complaint and too, even verbalize the fact that you are doing so. This will help you to reinforce your decision to change the habit and too, let others about you know you are trying and too, cognizant of “the situation”.
- Start a new habit. Positivity is a habit too! So…
- Practice gratitude. The more you do, the more grateful you will become and despite the pain, even at the worst of times, there is goodness, even if it comes down to the most basic of things….your senses, food, water, etc. Keeping a gratitude journal has been shown to make a significant impact on our well-being.
- Writing about trauma, for example: keeping a journal of some sort, has been shown to improve health and reduce negativity and stress. As a footnote here it is crucially important to watch for an over-emphasis on the negative aspect of your “story”. Make sure to mention the positive (see #5 above).