Q&A: Is Conscious Complaining Helpful?

Is Conscious Complaining Helpful?Our latest question comes from a reader about a practice (suggested by her life coach) called conscious complaining.

She wonders whether it’s helpful to air negative thoughts, or is it contradictory to everything we’re taught about the power of positive focus? Here’s the question:

My life coach introduced me to something called conscious complaining, which extolls the value of expressing negative thoughts out loud in order to free yourself from them.

The idea behind it is that it helps you cut through the repressed negativity by airing and releasing it.

However, this doesn’t fit with what I’ve learned about law of attraction.

Wouldn’t focusing on the negative just create more negative results?

Or is there a good reason to practice “conscious complaining?”

Any insight is greatly appreciated!

For readers who aren’t familiar with the concept of conscious complaining, you can read more here. Karla McLaren explains that complaining doesn’t make you feel worse – rather, it has the opposite effect since it breaks through stagnation and actually serves as “quick lube for your soul.”

What do you guys think? Is there value to voicing your negative thoughts? Or could a conscious complaining session derail deliberate creation efforts?

Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts!

  • March 18, 2013
  • Glen Fullmer says:

    One of the easiest ways to gain clarity when one hears oneself or another complain is to listen to the story and to summarize it to just the provable facts. Perhaps by using Byron Katie’s four questions:
    1. Is it true?
    2. How can you absolutely know that it is true?
    3. How do you react—what happens—when you believe that thought?
    4. Who would you be without the thought?
    Using these questions much of the “story” of complaining dissolves. However, I have noticed that when trying to help a complaining friend, sometimes reducing their story to just the “facts” can seem trivializing to those who are emotionally invested and involved. Sometimes listening in presence with no judgement is most helpful.
    It is fun to try this practice when you see negative thoughts arising in ones own life. 😉

  • Kim Falconer says:

    I am still of two minds, though reading everyone’s thoughts is so insightful. Thank you, and thank you Jeannette!
    The call we did at GVU on this topic has an effect:
    I emailed Jeannette the next day (in what no doubt read like a complaint!) that people had been complaining at me left, right and center since the call!!!
    We get what we focus on.
    And it just didn’t stop! It spilled into the next day too and was getting me in a twist. At the end of the day, a friend emailed me and said ‘how are you going?’ (referring to the aftermath of my mom’s death) and I spilled. Consciously. I said, ‘ this is what I am experiencing . . .’ Then I stopped. And, included a para of what I really wanted right now (not in a whinging way but how I wanted to feel.’
    She sent back this awesome email saying you ARE these things. That’s how I see you and she debunked all my ‘complaints’.
    It was weird because I felt like I was caving in to ‘complaining’ but I also felt a kind of release. Kind of like a slap across the face when hysterical. (she’s very blunt . . . ie BS Kim, you know that’s utterly ridiculous . . . etc etc. ‘ She has Mercury (communication) in Aries (no holding back!)
    And today, I feel more grounded and myself.
    Interestingly, the pivot wasn’t to drop complaining thoughts or see others complaints as neutral, it was to feel self-acceptance in spite of the negative energy around me and in me.
    Conscious complaining? Jury’s still out. 🙂

  • Kimberly says:

    I think there is value in this. I think when complaining becomes a daily thing where a person is only seeing the negative in everything, then they’re just attracting more to complain about.
    However, I think identifying something that makes us unhappy and then turning it around and listing what we want that will make us happy is fantastic. I do this all the time.
    I made a resolution this year to stand up for myself more. After a year + of my boyfriend’s parents and sister attacking me at every turn, I decided enough is enough. When someone says something that I find hurtful, I don’t attack back, instead I point out that their comment was hurtful, I explain why, I share how I want to be treated, and then I move on. It’s so freeing.
    Some people respect that; some people get upset. That’s their path, not mine.
    So, long story short, I think there’s room for conscious complaining if it’s taking us to a space where we can identify what we do want.
    ~ Kimberly

  • Pernille Madsen says:

    I believe it is important to feel / allow ALL our feelings, including the so-called negative ones.
    What we resist, persists, right? Whereas, once we allow the negative feelings, we can let go of them.
    Consciously complaining sounds like an interesting way to allow negative feelings, so if it brings relief (and that is what I read in several of the above comments), it may be very helpful.

  • It’s bad enough to think that junk much less SPEAK it – especially on purpose?! Gratitude is probably the most virtuous state there is. Making manifesting good things easier. Usually when we feel the need for complaining we probably just need to adjust our perspective.
    The first thing Genesis tells us is that God said… and it was so. This was step 1 in the entire creation process – To SAY it. Also another valuable LOA lesson learned from the good book is that it took the Israelites 40 YEARS to make an 11 DAY trip. The primary reason for this was their constant complaining.
    Anytime we reject what is, it hinders the flow of energy. Flower Essences that are helpful for complaining are BEECH, CHICORY, WILLOW, & GENTIAN.

  • Christina says:

    I’ve recently read about this too and tried it out even though I was thinking it would lead to negative feelings as well. Instead, it made me laugh at the ridiculousness of it all.
    The first process was making your list – things you want, things you desire. The example was say you want a $1 million dollar house. Visualize yourself in that house. What does it look like? See how beautiful it is – the marble, the wood, the pool in the back yard.
    Give yourself a day or so, then see the house again and think about problems you may have with it. Paying the taxes, keeping it clean, or maybe you’re walking around that house in sweats and a ratty t-shirt. You’re still you, even in a million dollar house. Now how would you solve those problems? Have a successful business that covers the cost of taxes, install efficient heating / cooling systems for tax breaks, hire a staff to help keep it clean, buy some fancier sweat pants and new t-shirts 🙂
    Imagining myself as my true self living out my dream as a full-time writer / RV / boat traveler, doing the conscious complaining felt good because I could talk through all potential problems and solve them – all in my head. I didn’t have to go through flat tires or blown engines. I can imagine the great stuff – watching a sunset over the ocean or boondocking in the mountains – as well as imagining the not-so-great – calling a tow truck or a week of rain and being stuck in the RV.
    It was really freeing and ended up in some funny imagined situations.

  • DHconcepts says:

    Conscious complaining is not about COMPLAINING; it is about relieving while analyzing; it is, without any doubt, a Good healing process; of the mind and of the soul.

  • MissyB says:

    I complain away, but I try to complain to just to myself. Sharing it with others doesn’t really help me, in fact it makes me dwell on whatever it is that has got my goat even more.

  • Janette says:

    I call it a hissy fit, but I’m definitely a fan. Flip it around to ‘not complaining’ and suddenly I can see that’s a recipe for ‘deliberate creator denial’. Conscious complaining aka hissy fits are a brilliant way to release and flow what might otherwise be stuck.
    For me, the key is to start out by being VERY conscious that I’m choosing to have a hissy fit with the intention of releasing something that’s bugging me (but I can’t quite name it clearly). I also need to do it in a way that, by the end, has me laughing at how crazy over the top I can make it. And I have to do it alone. Out loud, probably, and certainly in the presence of angels or higher beings. But no other humans, for preference.
    And man, I can do a GOOOOOOD hissy fit!

  • Ann says:

    Just fairly new to LOA, I believe if I am just venting negative stuff to myself for the purpose of getting it out and then knowing how to pivot and get too a better feeling thought/thoughts, that could be a process.
    Now just complaining to everyone, is just sending out negative energy to everyone AND the universe and seems to me would have a real negative effect.
    NOW is you are new to LOA and start complaining to everyone AND catch yourself and stop, pivot and get better feeling thought/thoughts is a great learning process.
    Aren’t they all contrast and a process?

  • robinvk says:

    This is so important for me to read. I have felt so conflicted, the more I learn about LOA, the more confused I got when I was frustrated or angry. I really didn’t know what to say.
    I have been a lot better at timing my bitch sessions to make sure that I don’t start anything I don’t want. I really like the fact that I don’t spend hours ruminating on the crappy stuff, because I know not to give it too much energy.

  • If you keep complaining you’ll stay there. With a specific goal in mind that you stick to, then it could be beneficial to get it out. 🙂

    Also agree with Julie Masters that if you are going to complain with or to someone, choose very carefully, lest they start agreeing with you and both spiral downward!
    One coach I know would allow her chronic complaining clients 5 min of unfiltered BMW Time (Bitch, Moan, Whine Time), and that was it. They were told in advance, so it wasn’t a shock.
    If complaining is the *vibration* you are stuck on (dissatisfaction, irritation, anger), then setting a time limit and restricting it to ‘only with my coach’ might be a good solution.
    Many blessings,

  • Susan Grace McDiarmid says:

    I think it can be helpful if you decide to specifically do it to get something cleared out, to gain clarity, or move forward. Do it for a specific amount of time then be done and move on.
    If you keep complaining you’ll stay there. With a specific goal in mind that you stick to, then it could be beneficial to get it out. 🙂

  • Shannon says:

    It has been absolutely healthy for me for a couple reasons. First, if I don’t like something, but I keep telling myself I “should think positive thoughts” I tend to beat myself up. When I’m beating myself up that’s a low vibration…I’m not in the flow. Second, there’s an element of fear involved. Such as, “if I don’t think positive thoughts, I won’t get what I want.” Again…it’s forcing, not flowing. So allowing myself to say those things out loud, acknowledge that that’s how I’m feeling in that moment, and not judging myself for it allows the feelings to move through me and not get stuck.
    I have a different take on wallowing. I don’t think it’s all “bad” either. Occasionally I feel like wallowing so I just dive in. I feel as bad as I want to feel…really get into it. I do not do this with other people. It’s not about commiserating or looking for evidence that my story is true. It’s about feeling the feelings so they can move through me and I can get back in the flow 🙂

  • I have a friend who calls it “emptying the trash”. You do this with a friend and with a commitment to release the negative stuff. I think sometimes it can be good but only if both parties agree. One person gets to “empty their trash while the othet=r person “holds the wastebasket” and then they switch!

  • I think conscious complaining can be a powerful release and awareness, because I’ve done it (often) without really calling it that.
    It’s absolutely vital that one vents to a safe and non-judging friend. This way you can ‘hear what you’re thinking’, feel the release of getting it out into the open and then be able to look at it as contrast and switch your focus to what you’d rather have instead.
    Of course, there has to be responsibility taken. For example, there’s a difference between complaining about the weather and saying, “I don’t deal well with cold/snow/wind/heat.”
    For me, to be able to get the complaining out of the head-wheel and into spoken word often gives me the chance to disconnect from it and look at it logically.
    But as everyone else before me said, no wallowing allowed. Acknowledge the complaint, notice the contrast and switch your focus.

  • Stacy | Online Reputation Marketing says:

    I think it’s better to complain consciously rather than bottle it up/sweep it under the rug. Because even if you do that it’s STILL there – you’re just happy face stickering as Abe would say. In other words, just because you never complain doesn’t mean you have no negative thoughts/emotions.
    There’s something freeing in voicing what you don’t like.
    I think everyone likes to vent every now and again. I don’t think it’s inherently bad – but the key is to know when to stop before you get into wallowing.

  • Jesann says:

    Yes, sometimes complaining is a good thing. If something is really bothering you, and all the affirmations in the world aren’t doing a thing to stem the level of discontent you’re feeling, heck yes, let it out and complain! The trick is not to stay there. Then it becomes a story (and Jeannette, you’ve seen what that can do in my life). But if you suppress it instead of letting it out, eventually you’re going to be dwelling on the negative anyway as you repeatedly tell yourself not to dwell on the negative.

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  • Glen Fullmer says:

    Tolle defines complaining as “nonacceptance of what is. It invariably carries an unconscious negative charge. When you complain, you make yourself a victim.” He continues, “Leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness.”
    If Karla’s method leads to acceptance of what is, then it probably is helpful. Thanking the things that bring you angst could work, although, I am not sure that is what she is advocating. Those “negative” conditions are there for a reason and being friendly with them might help. However, the habit of complaining without those insights strengthens the ego and creates a negative field of resistance.
    There are indisputable facts when voiced that are not complaining. Tolle says telling the waiter that one’s soup is cold, is not complaining if one sticks to the facts. The facts are friendly, but if one says something like “How dare you serve me cold soup?” is complaining because it is personalizing a fact and resisting what is.
    Most negative energy is caused by judging, resistance, or attachment to what is.

  • julie masters says:

    Theory is great, and while there are only a VERY few close friends that I ever complain with, I have found a complaining session to be effective on occasion. An important point though, is that I will only share my complaining with a friend who knows me well enough to never get caught up in my story, and who therefore acts as a support for my releasing it as well.
    Having said that, an example came to mind as soon as I read this post. A while back, I was on the phone with my older daughter, sharing some frustrations (otherwise know as complaining :)) and she was simply listening, when all of a sudden I burst into tears…the frustrations, as I immediately became aware, were a thin veneer over some sad fear I was working like a sore tooth. I said to her, that, “Yes! I am afraid, and I’m wallowing in it!” and her reply was, “You have a right to wallow–Now get over it!” It broke the spell instantly, and I started laughing out loud!!
    So, while I don’t make a habit of complaining or wallowing, sometimes I think that a good hissy fit has the potential to be an effective step on the deliberately creating path!
    Ease and flow,
    Julie Masters

  • Jackie says:

    If you make a statement, positive or negative, that helps you define what you want to create, then it has to be helpful. Complaining and not finding clarity or a not doing anything about whatever you’re complaining about probably isn’t.
    Sometimes hearing something come out of your own mouth can be quite enlightening.

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