All human beings complain and this is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact sometimes, especially in the personal growth world, we try to avoid complaining because we think we need to “take responsibility,” and we end up pretzeling ourselves around the complaint that we probably should have just expressed in the first place.
When it comes to complaining, I believe in conscious unconsciousness—that there’s real value in straight up complaining about something in order to shift that energy through our system quickly, but it’s most effective when we are aware that’s exactly what we’re doing.
The problem comes when we complain unconsciously and get stuck there—in nitpicking the situation, person, or thing. It’s OK for things to be hard, and it’s OK to complain about that and to continue choosing it anyway. But if we stop there, we not only stop ourselves from moving forward in regards to the situation, but we also miss an opportunity to understand a much deeper desire we may have.
In my experience, underneath every complaint is a desire.
Becoming aware of this desire can be the beginning of a powerful transformation—something potentially life-changing for us—if we know how to work with it.
The first step in working with it is learning to recognize when we have a complaint and then welcoming and celebrating it. Why? Because as soon as we start to judge ourselves for complaining, or think we’re not ‘evolved enough’ if we have complaints, our tendency is to start avoiding that part of ourselves or to shut it down completely. And because complaints are an access point to our deepest desires, it can be detrimental to shut that part of ourselves down.
Rather than try to stop that process, I encourage you to treat every complaint as if it’s trying to show, or tell, you something. All you need to do is get down to the deeper desire underneath.
Locating your desire
Desire is a very vulnerable thing for most of us and it can take time and effort to figure out.
Sometimes, even being honest with ourselves about our desires is challenging. If we think we can’t have the thing we want, we are less likely to admit that thing to ourselves in the first place (let alone another person).
But desire itself works in the realm of a creative solution—as soon as we admit a True Desire, we begin to open up the possibility for a creative solution. If you find that admitting the desire is not catalyzing a creative solution, it’s possible the desire you are admitting may not be the deepest desire.
A Practice for Locating Desire
Take 5 minutes and sit down in a quiet place. Start by welcoming all your complaints and begin to free write them all—about your partner, business, children, house—whatever comes up for you. Especially look for your chronic complaints because those are places where there is some important desire.
It’s important to not think you have to come up with solutions immediately!
However, once you’ve written your complaints, you can take each one and play with turning it into a desire. I.e. he never pays attention to me!’ might turn into ‘I would so LOVE for him to put his phone away when he gets home from work!’ Which might turn into, ‘I would so LOVE 10 minutes of your undivided attention when I get home from work!’
Sharing as desire instead of complaint
We don’t need to come up with all the creative solutions on our own.
As soon as we feel a complaint coming on, most of us immediately (and unconsciously) bring that to the people in our lives. Instead—and especially with chronic complaints—take some time to figure out the desire underneath them. There is beauty in being willing to share your desire with others, not from the place of complaint, but from the place of truly wanting something.
Touching into that place of wanting, and meeting a person from there, is the recipe for coming up with a beautiful creative solution together.
Sometimes, we also need to let go of exactly how our desire will be fulfilled. Sometimes the other person actually comes up with an even better solution that we can!
This process is about being clear on whether we’re willing to do the deeper work of finding the deeper desire, or whether we just want to just complain. Then acknowledging that even if we’re unwilling or incapable of doing the deeper work, that we should still pay attention to our complaints because underneath is a desire waiting to bloom if and when we are ready. When we do harness that desire and channel it into our lives, we create more freedom and happiness for us and those around us.
I’ve worked with thousands of men, women, couples, and even business teams on getting to the heart of their True Desires underneath their complaints. One of the ways I most LOVE to do this work is with women in Return to Source: A Mt Shasta Retreat for Women. There is a particular kind of clarity a woman can come to when all her distractions are stripped away. If this sounds interesting to you, then join me!
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