Tags: Dr | Laura | negative | emotion

The Not-So-Fine Taste of Whine

Monday, 21 Apr 2008 03:10 PM

By Dr. Laura

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I just don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have license to whine about outrageous fortunes, betrayals, hurts, slights, annoyances, or just a bad-hair day. I generally prescribe somewhere between a day and a half to five days of pure outright whining, simpering, and downright self-indulgent “poor me” time. I consider it a kind of cathartic experience.

Whining allows for some venting of reasonable and righteous pain, disappointment, fear, frustration, or frank rage. I’m all for whining as a relatively benign form for the expression of furiously negative emotions — it’s much better than battery or booze.

It is staying stuck in whining mode that can become a short-term or lifelong serious problem. It’s healthy to vent occasionally, but endless rumination on the negative keeps you paralyzed in misery, reinforces hopelessness, and demoralizes those around you, who feel completely helpless to bring any happiness back into your life.

Sometimes, continuous whining is seen as the only means of “getting back” at people or situations that have hurt you. Other times, whining is seen as all that’s left to do in a life of sorrow.

Ultimately, though, whining has no power to water the flowers and bring back the pleasurable sights and sounds of a life worth living. That’s why I wrote the book Stop Whining, Start Living, which will be published this month. No matter what you’ve suffered or continue to suffer, while you are alive you have the opportunity to get something from this life.

It is often quite difficult to make the decision to give up whining and suffering, because that sort of behavior gives you a breather from having to persevere and gets you a bit of sympathy.

I prefer to encourage whiners to reject negative thoughts, emotions, and attitudes. Then they can shift perspective, open up to gratitude and goodness, and embrace obligations to loved ones and the world in general. Before long, just doing what you’re supposed to be doing –- instead of moaning about why you can’t or won’t or shouldn’t fulfill your responsibilities –- will have you feeling better about yourself and will uplift your interactions with others in incredible ways.

A famous rabbi once said, “Despair is a cheap excuse for avoiding one’s purpose in life. And a purpose in life is the best way to avoid despair.”

Transitioning from pain to perspective in thought and emotion does not happen automatically. Believe me, sometimes you really have to make a Herculean effort to force yourself into it. It is much easier to stay with the enraged defense against whatever assault has occurred than raise your gaze toward the sky and feel gratitude for being alive. Being alive gives you alternatives and the opportunity for solace and renewed joy.

Perspective is everything. As an example, a recent female caller to my radio show complained that her husband “almost” had an affair. She was ferocious in her anger, whining with self-pity and generally not in the mood to look at this situation any other way than as a victim. I pointed out that it was “almost,” that he chose to be with her and the family, and that he was honest about his motivation. I practically had to use a battering ram to get into her head the point that he loves her but he was hungry for her love and warmth -– both of which she admitted she’d not been giving him. Her whining was to hide her guilt; her culpability in starving him to the point he was sifting through trash.

She had two choices: high-horse (whining) or loving marriage (perspective).

I hope she chose wisely.

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