colored bar

Complaints and Gratitude, Part I

colored bar

In my perpetual search for inspiring quotations, I came across one with unusual power.

Gratitude is wealth; complaint is poverty. --Doris Day (actress, singer, animal rights activist)

When I first discovered this quotation, its simplicity and power struck me like a bolt of enlightenment. Once I recovered, I decided to make the experience grow beyond a moment of illumination and adopted the quote as a mantra.

However, I discovered that the initial effect of paying attention to my complaints meant that I noticed how many I had. They seemed to spring up like dandelions, and the harder I tried to get rid of them, the more they spread.

What's a Complaint?

According to my dictionary, it's either an expression of grief, pain, or dissatisfaction, or something that causes the above, especially an ailment or disease.

In simple terms, a complaint is a negative response to a situation.

Complaining often seems like breathing. It may be nearly as automatic and it seems just as necessary.

I've noticed that when I try not to complain, I end up complaining about how much I complain. Now I'm not only complaining, but feeling badly about myself for doing so.

After exhaustive personal research, I concluded that the real problem isn't complaining per se. It's how much and how long.

How Complaints Are Born

My car has various computerized elements and signals that appear on the dash when something needs to be checked. Humans aren't computers, but we also have signals to tell us when we're out of alignment. In their earliest stages, these signals appear as negative emotion.

Negative emotion is intended to tell us that that we're to some degree limiting the flow of life-giving energy through what we're thinking or feeling. It warns us that if we continue in this manner, we're going to increase the constriction and feel even worse.

If you study animals, you'll notice that they're in tune with their warning systems (although this may vary, according to their exposure to humans). If my cat is sleeping in the sun and he gets too hot, he doesn't lie there, blaming the sun for making him unhappy. He moves into the shade.

If we interpreted negative emotion as a form of guidance and followed it, we'd consciously move our attitudes into a comfort zone. For example, if I get a negative feeling about paying bills, I don't have to keep on thinking about how much I don't like to pay them. I can instead think about something that stimulates the flow of positive energy. This flow of energy may even spill over into my feelings about bill paying.

Humans are trained, however, to blame the sun--or any external force--for making them unhappy. When we feel emotionally negative, we translate it into a complaint about something in the outside world. If fixing the problem isn't possible, as is often the case in terms of the sun, rain, snow, and people who don't have much interest in changing to make us happy, we continue to complain.

In time, complaints become habitual. The door always sticks, the bank always gets it wrong. You will never lose the weight you want to lose. He always. . . . She always. . . .

Habits of reaction can also become beliefs about life. "I always get angry (depressed, irritated) when. . . ."

Turning the Tide

Sometimes people think the trick is to try to ignore the negative emotions. When we do that, though, we lose their guidance.

I've learned that I need to pay attention to the desire to complain. The question is what kind of attention to give this desire.

The Benefits of Moderate Complaining

One benefit of complaining is that it allows you to recognize that something is wrong. Sometimes I don't realize I'm out of balance until I hear myself talking about it.

Listening to your words or thoughts can be a stepping stone to being in touch with your emotions, especially if you train yourself by going from "I have this complaint" (words, thought) to "I feel this way" (upset, discouraged, depressed, annoyed).

One way to train yourself to give an issue deliberate focus for the sake of understanding and change is to write about it. For many years, I've used a method originated by Julia Cameron and described in The Artist's Way. (You can read an article that elaborates on this approach.

When a complaint comes up, I sit down and write about it. I used to actually write (that thing you do with a pen and paper) for three written pages. Now I write the equivalent, about a single-spaced page in a word processing file.

I write anything I feel like saying. The more I write, the more the negative feelings dissipate. I can then shift my attention to a positive approach to the issue.

The Benefits of Backing Off

Sometimes it feels that you can't get any leverage with a complaint. Like a big rock, it just sits there and won't let you get around it. Even if you approach it on a "I need to adjust my vibrations" level, they seem too strong to be shifted. When that happens, the best thing to do is to literally change the subject and distract yourself.

Special Warning: While the urge to do something that will make us happier is positive, often people get into as much trouble with the distraction, if it's food, alcohol, etc. I find it useful to develop a repertoire of healthy distractions. Walking, swimming, seeing how the flowers are doing, playing with my cat, reading a book or magazine, listening to music are low-calorie and non-addictive, especially when you vary the distractions.

I also find that my mood improves, and I'm able, when and if necessary, to return to the scene of the crime or complaint and regard it in a calmer away. My response to it may go from depression or discouragement to frustration. Frustration means I'll try out various solutions, and I'll have a better chance of finding one that works.

Alternatively, I can give the problem over to the universe. See an article on the subject.

The Gratitude Approach

This is an excellent way to shift vibrations. I cover it in Part II of this article.

Vibrational Shifters

In the area of complaints, you will benefit from a little research into particular crystals and essences for your particular complaint. For example, if your emotional complaint is discouragement, Gentian (Bach) may be the appropriate flower essence. Rhodonite may soften a feeling of impatience and irritability.

The crystals and essences recommended below have general usefulness for any kind of complaint.


Clear Quartz is the ultimate generalist. A cluster may help you feel a sense of perspective about your problems; while a sphere can help you realize your ultimate wholeness. Any quartz crystal or formation that has enough interesting aspects can serve as a distraction.

Complaints usually have a tinge of anger, and it's usually helpful to go for a cooling color. Aquamarine, aventurine, and chrysocolla are some of my favorite cooling crystals. Sodalite can help if you're feeling confused.

Green calcite is an excellent choice if you have a habitual complaint, as this usually indicates that there's a way you think things "should" be. This crystal helps to treat mental and emotional rigidity.

The Essence of the Shift

Willow and Holly (Bach) both, in different ways, relate to anger.

People who need Holly express their anger actively and often to the person they feel angry at (for example, the company rep for the business that overcharged them). This anger may also express itself in the form of jealousy.

The Willow form of anger is passive. It may not be verbally expressed at all, and when it is, it takes the form of resentment. Another way to see the differences is to view the Holly condition as a fire, the Willow as a smoldering ember.

Rock Water (Bach), like Green Calcite is for mental and emotional rigidity. Any deviation from the routine disrupts the well-being of the people who need Rock Water.

Hummingbird (Wild Earth Animal Essences) can be helpful because hummingbirds are light and fluid in motion. They can fly in any direction, making the most adaptable of birds.

Beyond the Rainbow
Email Us