Friday, 16 November 2007

To tell or not to tell, that is the question

November BJP in progress

For some time I have been troubled by a campaign launched on the internet which encourages people to stop complaining, moaning, bitching etc for 35 days in a row. On the one hand it seems a very nice and intelligent thing to do.

On the other hand what would happen if everybody stopped complaining, to pretend the World is a very nice place to be, that as Voltaire put it humourously in one of his novels "tout est pour le mieux dans le meilleur des mondes possibles" (everything is as best it can be in the best possible world) ? There would probably be no strikes, no petitions, no demonstrations.... no social progress.

However what strikes me most is that if you stop complaining and moaning, then obviously that means you basically stop all speech therapy. I know that for most of us, being able to admit pain, anger, resentment, fear is a difficult issue. It is not easy to say "I am victim", "I was abused", "my basics needs were not satisfied" even to oneself. People who have had a difficult childhood will shut up about it more often than not, and they will use many stratagems to protect their toxic parents from blame and criticism. They'd rather take the blame for themselves. Alice Miller wrote a lot about that, and how some well meaning therapists subtly urged their patients to shut up when it comes to complaining too much about child abuse for instance. It is difficult to feel you are the ungrateful kid that is always moaning and complaining - however admitting one's true feelings is a major step in healing.

I once read that what a therapist basically does it to keep your wounds open until they are thoroughly cleaned. This is the theme of my BJP page, still in progress ; keeping the wounds open until they are clean.


stellou said...

I think I could survive no moaning, no bitching and no arguments but not no gossiping...I suppose we wouldn't be saying much then ;-)
As you say it sounds refreshing (at least for a while) but wouldn't help social progress or personnal venting of frustration.

Tally said...

Funny, funny, but I don't believe in coincidences anyhow.....
I don't remember the reason, but I put the blog you mentioned on my rss-reader just a couple of days ago.
Your question has been in my mind for years and I've been mulling over it from time to time.
Thanks for putting my attention again to this blog, I will study more in it tomorrow.

Hélène H said...

Stellou, I'm impressed but not surprised, as you're a big-hearted person, and you don't even gossip a lot :o)

Tally, I'd really like to hear more about what you think on this question, especially as you practise buddhism.



Acey said...

it's really interesting to me (and also fairly disturbing) that you equate breaking habits of negative vocalization with "pretending the world is a nice place". It seems to be a perspective that is very tightly held by those who *do* choose to view the challenge that way.

So weird to me and completely impossible to understand.

Hélène H said...

Well, having thought this over, I have comme to the idea that it is because this "no complaint campaign" is relevant in the actual American culture, as part of the way Americans theorize healing at the moment.

In France we have a different approach at the moment. For example one of the actual self-help bestsellers here is a book that translates "Stop being nice, be true instead". Obviously being sincere and true to yourself all the time is not a solution as you don't want to pour your guts all day over whoever is next to you. But maybe this is relevant as part of the actual French culture and it's finicky etiquette : French people should learn to say what they feel rather than what they think you think is a suitable thing to say. It is also true that complaining is a national sport over here, and a major communication technique ; you will often see complete strangers begin to talk to each other and laugh together in the street when the bus is late for example. I think this is also true in Italy and other southern countries. Complaining is a game. I'll tell you an anecdote, in the ancient Rome, mothers used to say loudly that their newborns were awful and stupid, though they thought as all mothers in the World do that their newborns were a wonder ; this was because they feared the jealousy of the gods...

Coming back to vocalization, I personnaly favour yet another approach ; expressing one's true feelings in a non violent way, when you think it is not going to hurt the other person for no purpose.

In fine, I gather there are probably as many paths to enlightment as there are living beings :o)

KV said...

Oh my, Helene -- my ancestry is from Greece and Macedonia and I can so relate to your above post. Brings back incredible memories of my grandparents and my mother . . .

Kathy V in NM

Hélène H said...

I hope these are happy memories, KV ! I visited Greece once and Macedonia too as a teenager ; these are amazing countries. Did you once live there ?

Tally said...

Helene, I have been thinking over your question a lot, but once I'm ready with reading and blogging a bit on my blog I was always too tired.

I'm for sure not a person that can speak for Buddhism, but pretty soon came to my mind one of Buddhas central teachings, namely the Middle Way.
Not complaining all the time, in what a lot of Germans are really good in. This leads to more a negative spiral.
Not over cheering like I've seen it in another country(s). As a German I was hardly able to answer the question of "How are you" with a simple "fine" as expected.

Complaining is not nice, but showing ones negative feelings/sides/problems also invites closeness.
Sometimes I found connection with other people when I was showing other sides of myself.

I could go on but for now it should be enough.