Invoking Change or Fueling Ego?
Many spiritual practices teach us to avoid the habit of complaining. After all, what is the sense in complaining if we trust that everything is happening to us in divine order and perfect harmony? This can be a powerful perspective, but it also leaves us with the question: aren’t there times when we need to complain?
In short, the answer is yes. But there is an important distinction to me made between types of complaining: the kind that aims to bring about change or the kind that seeks to fuel the ego. The latter is the one we want to avoid, and it can be easier said than done.
Complaint that fuels the ego generally looks to reinforce our own point of view and sense of victimhood. In doing so, it actually recharges our anger and frustration more than it releases it. Have you ever vented to a friend only to feel worse afterwards? At some point we all catch ourselves mid-rant caring more about making sure our listener sees things our way than actually wanting to make amends.
Meanwhile, complaint to invoke change is a different thing entirely. In this healthy expression of emotion, we still have room for our pain and frustration to be felt and acknowledged. But here, our primary intention is to make things right rather than dwell on the wrong. At it’s simplest form, complaining to invoke change is necessary when our voice needs to be heard and our souls seen.
While it’s all too easy for most of us to catch ourselves in the ego-centered version of complaint, the good news is that stepping out of this pattern takes nothing more than our awareness. When you catch yourself in a moment of victimization and complaint, rather than judging yourself or attempting to abruptly end the habit, simply notice where your ego has crept in. This simple act is enough to slowly begin to draw your consciousness out of the ego and into the place of witness, allowing you to see the ego it as separate from yourself and loosening its hold over time.
To explore how this appears in your own life, try asking yourself the following questions the next time you find yourself in complaint:
What are the primary feelings I am experiencing, and how are these registering in my body?
What is my main intention here? Is it about invoking change or does it have more to do with righteousness and blame?
Am I seeking advice or new perspectives or am I looking for the other person to reinforce my existing point of view?
What would my ideal outcome look like? Are there steps I can take to bring myself toward this sense of resolution?