Jessica Soroky Guest Post #21: Use the Energy it Takes to Complain

I discovered a coping mechanism I was unaware I had: complaining.

Don’t get me wrong, I was aware I complained, but I was unaware that I used it as a form of coping when I encounter a problem.

It comes out in all shapes and sizes and encompasses all the mental islands below the line in The Responsibility Process™ (Denial, Lay Blame, Justify, Shame, and Obligation).

The conversation centered around being an individual who practices The Responsibility Process, and how to handle moments when we want to just complain or rant.I recently had a conversation with another The Leadership Gift™ Practitioner that had me chewing on a thought for a few days before I finally had a breakthrough.

We talked about those moments in life when a situation, or even an entire day, has been so frustrating we just want to let it all out in a complaint session. I remarked that I’m even aware now that I’m below the line when I feel this desire to just rant, and I choose to anyway.

We were justifying that even the most responsible individuals are still human: “At least we are aware this is the choice we are making so we can isolate the behavior and so it does not affect other people.”

I had actually convinced myself that this behavior was okay because I was identifying when I was going to go on a rant. We left the conversation telling each other that, “If you ever need to just rant, I’m here for you.”

This idea lived in my head for the next few days. I even starting to play with how I would write a blog post explaining that sometimes as humans we need to get things off our chest – the key was to be aware when I was going to do it so I can consciously not respond from below the line.

On a long, snowy drive home from Indianapolis this past weekend I was talking to my mentor about that conversation. He started to ask me what I got out of these rants. Without hesitation, I jumped directly to, “I practice responsibility at a very high level, and there are moments when I want to turn it off and just get something off my chest.”

He pointed out what my vocabulary was actually saying about what was going on inside my head. He repeated what I had said, pointing out words like ‘just.’ “Okay, so you’re justified, now what?”

He then ask if I felt a sort of release after these complaint sessions or rants. “Well, of course it releases something, that’s why I do it,” I said.

My mouth reacted before my brain had time to process. The second the words came out, I realized I don’t actually release anything. I cope for the time being, but the problem does not get solved — and in a few hours my anxiety is going to be back through the roof.

Choosing to rant or to complain had become another coping mechanism I use to buy time before I’m ready to work through a problem. I still didn’t understand why I chose this, though.

I believed ranting somehow helped me let go of the frustration or problem. But my mentor helped me realize that when I encountered a problem, I worked myself up and build up all this energy, and the only way to unleash that energy was to rant or complain.

What if I became aware of the built-up energy and the fact that I was not ready to work through the problem and simply chose to use the energy differently?

He’s right: why waste the time coping, just to encounter my anxiety a few hours later? Confronting the problem and then working through it is the only path to truly overcome and release a problem.

My stretch for the week: when I become aware of the desire to rant or complain, I’m going to take a moment and consciously decide if that reaction is the most effective use of my energy.

Do you find yourself complaining to release stress or tension?

Jessica Soroky, CSM
Only 21 years old, Jessica is already a Certified Scrum Master with two years of practice in agile delivery and team leadership. She is also the youngest participant in The Leadership Gift™ Program and its growing worldwide community of leaders and coaches. After five years of non-profit development through Nellie’s Catwalk for Kids, Jessica continues her leadership journey in state government, not-for-profit, and private sector leadership studies.

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Posted in Leadership on 01/29/2014 07:25 am
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