Ask my two best friends and they’ll tell you I know how to complain like nobody’s business. Some days, my complaints are legitimate. Others, I just wake up with a gripe on and things snowball from there. My “mood” will catch fire and negativity will roll from my tongue…or my fingers if I’m texting my laundry list of complaints. Two things are worth pointing out, however. First, I’m rarely ever angry. Bitchy, yes, (more often than not) but I chalk that up to my age. Second, complaining is a family habit, lovingly passed down at least three generations that I’m aware of.
This just goes to show you that what you’re subjected to becomes part of you. I can be half way through a day before I realize that nearly every text I’ve send to my friend was tainted with negativity. I “complain” as if it’s normal conversation. In fact, complaining IS normal conversation to me…and that’s a big problem…for more than one reason.
Bodywork and massage has taught me that our beliefs inhabit our tissues. They can become pesky trigger points or that stiff upper back or severe sciatica that shoots pain to our foot and leaves us unable to sleep at night. This phenomenon is referred to our “biology of belief” and it’s a real thing. We are, at every moment, creating our own realities and environment through our thoughts and, consequently, our behaviors. Say a thing enough, begin to adopt it as belief (consciously or unconsciously), and wa-la! You’ve just bonded with it!
In massage and bodywork, practitioners are taught “grounding” ~ the ability to center and quiet ourselves, to stay connected to our own mind and body while touching and listening to a client. It is not uncommon for an ungrounded practitioner to take on the energy or mood of the client. If a therapist has treated more than one individual who has verbally processed during a massage, or if a client is feeling particularly emotional, it can leave the therapist feeling out of sorts. Grounding and centering is so important before bodywork begins. It’s what your therapist is doing when she places her hands on you in those first few moments but doesn’t seem to be doing anything. No, she isn’t wasting your table time. She’s connecting to you and grounding herself. And this is an important step you don’t want her to skip! If she can “take on” your scattered feelings, so you, too, can take on hers if she isn’t properly grounded. Talk about negating the point of a relaxing massage!
Grounding and centering has taught me how to listen to someone’s complaints without making them my own. I rarely do, which is good since I have plenty of my own competing for air time. Luckily for me, my friends have a wonderful way of listening without fueling the fire. One is an empathetic listener, making me feel heard and validated. She is so patient and will allow me to complain about the same subject until the cows come home if that’s what I need to do. The other is skilled at countering my negativity with an upbeat response that makes me aware of what I’m doing without calling me on it. (Something in the Big Sister tone of her text will gently say “enough” without actually saying “Enough!”) I have borrowed both of their wonderful approaches and use them in my practice.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be one of those positive, perky, optimistic women. I’m not sure it’s in my DNA. But I’ve become more aware of the dialogue, both internal and external, and the reality that it shapes. And while no one wants to be with a constant complainer, there are times, places and conditions under which venting is healthy and helpful. Completely bottling things up and holding them in is no healthier than spewing them at everyone you encounter. In the wise words of Oscar Wilde, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”
Personally, I have learned to go silent when I’m no longer pleased with how I think I sound to others. I struggle a bit but don’t allow myself to start an additional negative dialogue about what a jerk I feel. Instead, I just kindly, gently say to myself, “Enough out of you. If you have nothing good to say, just be quiet for a bit.” Silence is such a fixer of things. It allows opportunity for thought, gratitude, and change of heart. As my wise, ex-father-in-law used to say, “You don’t learn anything by talking.” You don’t need to meditate or pray if you don’t want to. Putting your phone aside, turning off the television or the computer, and sitting in silence has such wonderful and profound effects. Silence resets us, and it’s one of the simplest and yet most overlooked therapies available. And it’s free! Don’t be afraid to be alone with yourself. You never know just how much a dose of daily silence can change your attitude and way of thinking. It may even help you complain less!
Dawn L. Davis, LMT
This blog post was contributed by Dawn Davis, a wonderful, compassionate, seeker of wisdom who gives the best massages in the world – ladies only! Here’s her contact info: https://www.facebook.com/DawnLDavisLMT/