Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Complaining Your Way Into Problems

BearingBlog has a post up about people complaining about their kids, asking why no one says: I really love having kids! One does seem to get a lot of that kind of talk, though we hear a little less out here in Texas than we used to in Los Angeles.

This reminded me of a conversation MrsDarwin and I were having the other night about the dangers of complaining. There are a lot of subjects it's traditional to complain about in order to make small talk: job, spouse, in-laws, kids, house, car, etc. Unless everyone else out there is far more miserable than I am (it seems unlikely, but I guess it's possible) I assume that a certain amount of this is just social ritual.

As the drama prof pounded into my head when I took acting back in college, the best way to get yourself to feel an emotion is to take on the external characteristics of that feeling. Breath harshly, walk quickly, punch the air or shout, and real anger will usually well up inside you. Assuming the accidents can bring about the substance.

Watching the people at work who constantly complain about their spouses, or some of the couple we know who complain about their kids, I can't help wondering if complaining about something in order to have something in common to commiserate about can often as not create resentment where it didn't before exist.

2 comments:

dilys said...

Absolutely! It is possible by semi-cognitive techniques to fine-tune-away fruitless bitterness and resentment. Coaches notice then that it's important for the client to "watch his mouth" lest he reinstall the problem into his thinking, rather like Jesus' parable of the clean house and the seven devils.

But the social "obligation" and momentum to complain seems to suggest something like the Tall Poppy Syndrome or ancient superstitious fear of the Evil Eye -- a wish to camouflage our blessings safe from the envy of our neighbors or the [pagan] gods. Whereas it seems more in line with Biblical exhortation to rehearse the good things for which we are grateful.

barb said...

I think it can...
When Mark and I were first married we lived on a little street with 7 houses...
At that point we had no children (not by our wish) but there were 5 other stay-at-home moms on the street who talked to each other all the time. One Sunday morning, Mark and I left the house to go to Mass, and our neighbor was throwing his wife's clothing, shoes, etc.. out the front door. Hmmm...clue that something good is not going on here. She ended up moving out, leaving her 3 young sons behind. Within 2 months, 2 other mothers left their husbands and children. We couldn't help but believe that they all influenced each other. One mother did eventually come back, but we figured that they were all complaining about their lives to each other and it just kept escalating until one left and two more followed. It got to be our little joke that Mark got nervous anytime I talked to one of the neighbors....