In Defence Of Whining

Women: We don’t snore, we don’t perspire, and we don’t pass wind. If we didn’t bitch, we’d explode!  Kathleen Madigan

If it wasn’t for whining I probably wouldn’t have a job.

No one likes a whiner, so they say. This is a truism that is, not surprisingly, often true. Going around in life complaining about everything from the weather to your lot in life is a great way to die alone.

There is a time and a place for everything (I am cliché guy today, apparently). We have been taught, however, that repressing your feelings is also not helpful and there are actual psychological disorders for people who cannot, or will not, deal with their feelings. Whining has a cathartic effect for the same reason talk therapy works. I don’t really know the logistics of how it works, but it does. I’ve seen it thousands of times.

As you have no doubt discovered by now, I am not really talking about whining. I needed a cool tagline that would entice you to read this far and hyperbole helps clarify and get us thinking. “Whining” is considered a character flaw. The problem is that we have a tendency to label any honest complaint, any legitimate need to unpack, as whining. As children we are forced to “keep our opinions to ourself”. We are taught from early childhood, “If you don’t have anything to say, don’t say anything at all.” Again, true… sort of. As we grow we devalue our feelings, minimize our issues, and stuff our pain and frustration down.

“There is always someone who has it worse than you!”. Who cares! Sometimes that isn’t very helpful. Of course some people are dying, losing someone, battling stuff I can’t even imagine. I get that. The problem is, again, that this doesn’t make me feel any better. It minimizes my pain, your pain. It is a critical statement that puts us in our place at the expense of our heart and mental health. It is a reminder that you are weak, or pathetic, or self-indulgent.

So feel sorry for yourself if you want to – but give yourself a time limit. Let those bad feeling flow, but not for an entire day or even an hour. For some reason this actually can help, when done honestly and with a measure of restraint. Don’t stay there, however. Maybe you need to talk to someone, someone who is not your best friend who loves you, but lacks objectivity. Perhaps that friend is just what you need and I am wrong. Whatever you do, do something.

Just keep moving, you whiner (kidding).

10 thoughts on “In Defence Of Whining

  1. I appreciate this post because for almost always, I’ve believed it isn’t ok to ‘whine’. That it isn’t ok to talk about feeeeeeelings, and especially not ok to talk about how other people hurt us by what they do. I think this is especially prevalent in faith subcultures, where we’re taught to, ‘pull the plank from your own eye’, or ‘judge not lest you be judged’, or to ‘turn the other cheek’. Taken out of context, these things can lead to subtle abuse in relationships – because we don’t think it’s ok to talk about the negative stuff other people do. And that can lead to all kinds of distortions and dysfunctional coping mechanisms because we only have our own very subjective frame of reference.

    I think the main difference between whining and voicing what needs to said, is the willingness to address the problem.

  2. I have to admit I have done my fair share of whining but I hate it in myself. I hear the word whining and think of kids and dogs and I never allowed it when I was raising my son, ran a daycare or with any of my dogs. No I am not comparing children to dogs its just they both can be annoying as hell because they whine.
    I always allowed my son to complain, disagree with my opinion or question why a rule was set but if he whined about it he got no where. Talk to me, don’t whine, give me an intelligent argument, give me solutions, but if all you’re gonna do is whine, you better bring cheese to go with it.
    A pity party with wine and cheese and a good friend can be just the ticket sometimes.

  3. Whenever I need to unpack, I just call my mother. It’s a mutual service we provide to each other, and we’re good at trading off. I find it’s helpful just to talk about things out loud to someone, because I quite often figure out the solution that way. And it sounds slightly less wacko than talking to myself. 🙂

  4. I agree Scott – there is of course that point of actual whining – you that individual who does nothing but bitch, moan and complain about everything in their life, always… But being honest about how we feel and releasing it isn’t bad. Being allowed to respond “at this moment my life sucks!” or “I am not coping today” or even just “hey life’s got me down right now can we postpone our plans?” etc.. it is so much healthier than putting on the mask and saying “I’m fine” and trying to carry on like everything is sunshine and roses… (I spent the last 2 years of my marriage doing that – I don’t ever want to go back to that place)… So here’s to each of us getting a free “permission to release” card… just don’t choose to live there

  5. Love this, and your continually amazing wisdom. I want to be you when I grow up.
    I have often seen the value of unpacking in the groups I attend. I like the idea of setting a time limit. It helps keep it from becoming mental masturbation.

      1. It’s all relative. Who wants to be ‘growed up’ anyway? Let’s have ‘play therapy’ for adults.

  6. On the whole, I like y lot in life. It’s just as I planned it. However, this post reminds me of my Ex psychopath. Gloom, despair and agony on him! Whining is just about all he does or knows how to do (except for luring and hooking overly trusting, lonely naive women!)! You’re right. Your title hooked me in. Good for you!

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