Complaining: A Cycle of Violence

Updated: Feb 14


The programs that run in our brains dictate our perceptions. We don't get to choose what to attend to, the programs pre-decide for us. What is not consistent with our programming will not register in our perceptive field. We are blind to this selective process, but to experience life differently i.e. peacefully and joyfully, we must dismantle our fear focussed programming.

Complaining was my life. I used it as a way to feel better about myself and to get others to join me. It was the way I learned to garner attention, feel a connection and be heard. I often found myself swapping horror stories, each fighting for the coveted prize of being the one most wronged by life. No matter what we were all saying, we all believed we had it the worst.

Complaining brings a temporary relief, the misery loves company kind, but it is short-lived. In my life I had to find more things to complain about to more people to get the effect I was going for. Eventually I realized the addiction in it. Fighting for my pain, weakness and victimhood as if it was a badge of honor was not the path to lasting peace or relationships. So I stopped.

Now that I no longer try to one up others on the scale of who has the worst luck in life, I find that I cannot tolerate complaining coming in my direction. I have a visceral reaction to it like nails on a chalk board. This frustrates the bejesus out of people. Rather than take it on the chin, I offer a different perspective. This is almost never appreciated.

Complaining is the norm but that doesn't make it normal. People complain about everything and each other to the point where we don’t even notice it - the weather, jobs, spouses, finances, kids, global warming, war, terrorism, whatever. It is a good exercise to take just one day and become conscious of all the complaining in your sphere. You will be amazed.

But all complaining is merely a symptom with a common core, a misperception of our true nature. In truth, we can never be victims, we are Children of God, yet we can believe otherwise. This erroneous belief that we can be victims is the source of all our faulty programming. Every time we are drawn to complain we come upon a moment of truth - will we fix our misperception or perpetuate it?

Believing that we can be victims is the source of all fear in life and the primary fuel of the ego. From a soul perspective, though, everything in our life happens for us, not to us. All arises to show us what we can do, not what we can’t. Challenges are not evidence of our limitation as the ego would have us believe but a call from the universe to step into our grandeur. If we are perceiving adversity or feeling like a victim, this experience will reliably repeat until we transcend it.

And each time it will get a little worse. If we are not actively clearing this victim perspective in the face of challenges, we are compounding it. The brain is always training, reinforcing the negative (misperception) is still training.

This aspect of training underscores why venting and complaining are not benign. In the worse sense complaining is the gift that keeps on giving. The negative energy of complaining and venting spreads exponentially through audience and the only way to stop the proliferation is to shut down our role as recipient. Misery does love company and though it is often used as an attempt to bring people closer - commiserate - it weakens us all.

We do not want to come together through shared weakness but through shared strength. Complaining cannot exist without an audience. ‘Getting it off one’s chest’ is not the cathartic aspect of complaining or one could do that in front of a mirror. It is the transmission of the pain to someone else that offers the relief. To be very clear here, complaining makes the complainer feel better because it makes someone else feels worse. This is the way the cycle of violence programming is perpetuated.

Cycle of Violence Program

I feel like a victim

I defend myself by attacking you i.e. complaining

Now you feel like a victim

I feel better

Though learned, our brain is programmed for violence. This never-ending cycle of defense and attack is a stealth program and is evident in most of our interactions. We see its effects on our families, jobs, and relationships, and via our government, schools and institutions and unwittingly pass it on. Until now it has flown under our radar, but no more. Complaining is the tell and by sticking a monkey wrench in its operating system we can break the cycle.

Moving forward it is critical that we not allow others to weaken themselves through complaining and we not allow ourselves to be compromised by being on the receiving end. My family has learned that complaining to me is the most frustrating thing ever. 'Why not just listen?' they ask. Because listening to complaints is not my idea of an act of love or kindness. It is the opposite. Does that make me a bad person? You decide.

Lesson 7: Peace Please

A foundational concept of ACIM is “grievance blocks miracles”. Complaining does not bring peace, it promotes a never ending cycle of violence.

Complaining is a program that is far too tolerated and it needs to be eliminated. To do so no complaints are justified.

This means no complaining about:

  • The slow driver in front of you.

  • Your child’s socks on the kitchen table.

  • Your spouses ______________

  • Others' lateness or laziness etc…

When you feel the urge to complain rise in you:

1) Say "thank you, I have nothing to complain about".

2) Then begin to inquire of yourself and others the motivation for complaining

  • Locate, in each case, the victim behind the scenes.

  • As hard as this might be, notice where your victim then tries to take out its aggression. Do you take your feelings of disempowerment out on your spouse, kids, co-workers, strangers, pets?

  • Note any resistance to seeing a new perspective i.e. do you justify your complaining?

  • Reclaim your power by resisting the pull to complain.

When dealing with complaining of others:

1) Have a plan: Know what you’d like to do when someone tries to disempower you with their compulsion to complain.

2) If you are compelled to listen, notice your thoughts:

  • Are you seduced by ego's desire to fix, save and be right?

  • Do you fear being seen as insensitive, mean, a bad person, cold, uncaring…

Stepping out of the cycle of victim and aggressor is easy once you know it's there. The new ‘problem’ becomes what do we talk about now?

This week strive to be complaint free. And enjoy the peace.

xoxo Jill