“Take away your judging thought, and then there’s taken away the complaint: I have been harmed. Take away the complaint – I have been harmed – and the harm is taken away.” ~ Marcus Aurelius
A Complaint Free Life
The book “A Complaint Free Life” was going about it back to front. It aims to solve the symptom, and not the cure. A Complaint Free Life does a brilliant job, encouraging millions pf people to watch their thoughts and words, and to avoid complaining. Full Stop.
It works, but maybe it works like a diet works – it’s great while you’re focussing, but when you’re not concentrating, it just slips through. Is it sustainable over the long term?
Marcus Aurelius’s approach is the typical stoic approach. Don’t fix the result. Go right to the source – your thoughts. Interrupt the process by which you place an interpretation or meaning on an event. It’s the inference or belief about what an action or deed means that’s the source of our hurt. We’re only ever hurt or affected by our interpretation what something means to us.
Create Mental Space
This is where the Stoic’s practice of creating a space in their thinking between the event and then the decision about what it means, the judgement, comes into play.
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to chose our response.” ~ Viktor Frankl
So, we need to give up on our unthinking reaction to believe that so-and-so did this, and it means that, which is insisting or hurtful to us. Instead, practice stopping at “so-and-so did this”. And leave it at that.
I like to think it’s more like a “healthy lifestyle” approach to a better mental health, as opposed to the the “diet and live on lettuce leaves” approach. Rather than needing to stop yourself from complaining, cutting the thought off early, and then applying logic, means that the likelihood that you’ll want to complain (or crave a pizza binge) will be dramatically lessened.
“Your job isn’t to master the art of responding. Your job is to short-circuit your knee jerk instinct to react.” ~ Jen Sincero