Every year, around November, I have the same grumble: "Christmas displays so soon?" ... "Christmas carols already?"
A small grumble maybe, and harmless enough. But when it's about other people, the effects can be more serious. 'Negative' thoughts and feelings creep into our communication. We use up valuable energy, replaying conversations in our heads, battling inwardly against the obstacles.
Moaning, groaning, sneering and sniping - it's all too human! So is there anything we can do to make our complaints less burdensome for us, and more productive for others?
Where do grumbles come from?
A grumble is a sure sign that I'm saying, No! If I sift to the bottom of my grumpy, disagreeable thoughts, and my uneasy, painful feelings, this is what I find. It's a baseline sense of Not okay! - or just plain, Ouch!
Everything which follows, however cleverly or logically formulated, is an expression of this. It holds important information about something I am not wanting.
You might try this for yourself.
Start by thinking of anything or anyone you do not like. Then:
- Look for an underlying No! Not alright! even a vague not wanting, or not liking
- Notice its visceral quality in your body - your 'gut' responses
Treasuring our inner No!
Often, our instinct is to dismiss this No! because it surfaces 'negatively' and interferes with a friendly flow. My moan about Christmas commercialism is unlikely to hurt anyone; but if I complained about (say) you - even to myself - then it would affect me. Either my irritation would slip out accidentally, or I would work hard to bury it, compensating maybe with an extra dose of forced niceness.
Yet the No! itself holds such energy. It's such a shame to lose it - like throwing out the proverbial baby with the bath water.
Is there another way?
Our inner world working well
No! is a sign that our inner our world is working well. We need these 'negative' messages, to tell us what's gone missing, or might do us harm. In this way, they are not 'negative' at all, but positively helpful.
How can we catch the positive message?
The first step is to ask:
- WHERE do you feel this No!
If No! stays in our heads, it tends to pop out in sarky, judgemental comments; or we feel it physically as tension and stress. But if we touch base with a different place inside us, we can understand the real message behind the No! - one which does us good.
Transforming No! - to Yes!
At root, our not wanting clashes with something we care about;something we do want. This is not an intellectual, head-based understanding. It's to do with our values, qualities and needs as they live inside us.
You might explore this.
Bring to mind something which moves you warmly. Then:
- Notice the range, intensity and subtlety of your feeling responses
- Sense what these tell you about your values, qualities and needs
- Ask yourself where or how you know them
For example, when I think about Christmas itself (as opposed to that pre-Christmas rush), I feel its specialness; it brings me a warm and fuzzy glow. Within those feelings lie valuable messages about things I do want and do like: my values, human qualities and needs. For me, it's about closeness, the joy of giving, shared memories, belonging - love!
And how do I know? From an embodied feet-on-the-ground sense of myself. Viscerally, in the centre of my being, I 'know' this experience, in a way that is true for me; no one could contradict it. These are aspects of life that motivate and enliven me. They are about life at its best. If I give them space, and feel them clearly, they influence what I say and do. They point out a direction, and move me forward.
Now I have a good reason to grumble! Here's a new source of energy and motivation.
In my annual grumble about the Christmas rush, for example, I notice many sorts of No! A cocktail of feeling responses. I fear losing the specialness of Christmas amidst the commonplace of crowds and shopping. I feel pressured to spend my money in a dizzy haze, before I'm ready ....
What has gone missing? I want to keep Christmas special, to choose how, when and on whom I spend my money, and to do that with a sense of balance. This is what I do want. This is firm ground.
When I realise this, and absorb this perspective, my grumbling changes. It transforms into a clear determination to choose how and when I engage with Christmas. I feel in my body that something is different. I feel lighter, more energetic, as I begin to muse, "How I can feel the joy of giving this year?" I think of ways to keep it all in balance - people I love and like, people across the world in poorer circumstances ... Here's a very different flavour in my inner world.
We can apply this method to all our groans and grumbles.
If you want to try:
Think of something which annoys you:Turn towards your No!
- Sense the energy in your feeling responses - what you don't want, don't like
- Explore what's gone missing for you - qualities, values orneeds you care about
- Then ponder what you do want, value or need
- Notice how and where you know this inside you - feel the ground on which you stand, your truth ....
Energy to change the world
Whether we voice a mild grumble, or we're gripped by frustration, anger or fear - the process is the same. We turn towards the No!and allow its deeper messages to unfurl. This unlocks our vital energy, because - the bigger our No! the more passion and power we find in our dynamic Yes!
This is the energy which changes the world.