Friday, May 18, 2007

Law of Evolution #4: Stop Complaining

Evolutionary Law #4: Stop Complaining. I will refrain from complaining about my situation or station in life, as I recognize that complaints do not empower me to be my "best self". I will not judge myself when I do complain, and will increase my self-awareness to recognize the behavior and pre-empt it.
Complaints can be so seductive; they are easy to make, people will always listen to them, and they can even feel good, right? Therapeutic. Validating. Sometimes, we get good advice on how to resolve complaint issues. Sometimes, all we want is sympathy, or empathy. Yes, complaints can create comfort, and they can almost be addicting when we experience major life trauma. The payoffs we get from complaints, however, are a ruse. Completely fake. Fool's gold. The equivalent of emotional cigarettes. They eat at our self-esteem without us even realizing this is occurring. They reduce our power, and perpetuate negative momentum in our lives. They invite you to subscribe to a vision that certain life events are bigger than you or out of your control. In the moment, complaints may create comfort or even seem appropriate. But this feeling is deceptively inaccurate. Complaints are like sugar; they may taste good in the moment, but they erode your self image without you noticing until its too late.

During a divorce, both partners often experience feelings of loss, unfairness, and victimization. Cheating. Lies and deception. Spousal manipulation. Differences of opinion. Loss of time with children. Each of these items seem complaint worthy. As people, after all, we want validation from the world and our peers that the circumstances in our life can be are unfair. Being lied to, after all, is unfair, right?. Not being able to spend time with your children is unfair, right? Being cheated on definitely has to be unfair, right? No one deserves these experiences; no one asks for them. After all, we do not do things to create these experiences in our life; do we? How could this be fair? So what do we do? We complain, because we want validation that these events are unfair and unjust. We want corroboration that we are not responsible for this outcome. We want certainty and empathy that this, quite simply, was not our fault.

Complaints, you see, are framed as acknowledgments that we do not want to take responsibility for our present reality. When we share them with others, they become questions where we, essentially, are asking people to agree with us that "it's not our fault". They become victimization referendums. For every complaint you make, the people around you hear "Am I a victim?" and when they respond affirmatively, they say "Yes you are." How can this be good for our self image? Think about it: what value could really come from us admitting to ourselves that our life events are larger than we can handle? That we are victims? Do you really want to be a "victim" in your divorce? This is why, in order to seek empowerment through divorce, complaints must be minimized, if not eliminated all together.

Now, this can be challenging, if not difficult. It is not, however, impossible. There are four keys to eliminating complaints and managing their frequency:
  • Recognize that complaints rob you of your power. Before you can make a choice to change this behavior, it is important to understand why complaints can be debilitating. Complaints do not empower; instead, they promote victimization and anti-responsibility and in doing so, remove you from the choice equation. If you are not responsible, after all, for a given outcome how can you prevent this from occurring in the future?
  • Increase your self-awareness to recognize your complaint triggers. Very often, certain feelings or scenarios trigger complaints. Maybe someone is often sympathetic towards you and this compels you to complain. Maybe you had a bad day, and someone asked you how your day went. Maybe an event reminded you of a painful experience (like divorce). Whatever they are, recognize these triggers and begin breaking the pattern or habit by choosing not to complain.
  • Confront complaints with responsibility. Learn how to rephrase complaints with the language of responsibility and ownership. Now this in and of itself can be challenging. Its a necessary part of personal evolution, however. As an example, if you are struggling with why your partner cheated on you, think about what your role in this was? Maybe you simply chose the wrong person to marry. Maybe, you both grew apart over time. For every scenario and situation, though, work to identify your role in the unfair outcome. We can learn from the things we chose to take responsibility for. We can only avoid, however, what victimizes us and hope it does not occur again.
  • Eliminate judgment, and recognize this is an ongoing process. Evolution rarely occurs in one quick, efficient, and painless step. Rather, it almost always occurs over time and with a cost. Eliminating the need to complain is very similar. A key to success with this task is to eliminate judgment from the process. When you find yourself complaining, simply recognize it and stop. Do not judge yourself, or beat yourself up. Do not feel guilty about complaining. Instead, recognize that your awareness is growing and that you no longer feel the need or respond positively to complaints. Acknowledge your evolution, and embrace it.
Now in the law definition, I mention the concept of your "best" self. This idea behind this is that we, as human beings, are at our best when we "give"; when we are selfless. Well, if giving helps perpetuate our "best" self, then complaining does just the opposite. One thing to recognize is that when you complain, you "take" from others; you are selfish. Sometimes you take sympathy, other times you take attention, energy, or even power. Have you ever been in a group where the energy is high, everyone is feeling great, and then someone starts complaining? What happens to the energy of the group? Typically, it wains until the complainer stops or leaves. Well, don't be that person any more. Stop taking. Stop complaining, and see what happens with you and the people around you.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Check It Out: Divorce and Evolution Yahoo! Group

I want to announce the creation of the "Divorce and Evolution Yahoo! Group" web site. I have added a link to the site to the "On the Web" sidebar (displayed to the right). You can also access the Yahoo! group at

My hope is that the group becomes a place where people going through the divorce (both men and women) can post their stories, share their pictures, ask questions, and support each other in a compassionate but honest way without fear of judgment. Check it out and subscribe to the group.