There was a time when I was part of the "my life sucks" sub culture. I used to complain about things in life that I perceived as bad. I used to have long discussions with friends about how much better life should be but wasn't. Before I knew it, I found myself complaining about people who were constantly complaining (this is still my major complaint in life, as I sometimes become overwhelmed by the negativism of others). There seems to have evolved a sub-language that involves a complaint code.of sorts. For some people, the only way to relate with them is by finding something in common to kvetch about and share in a collective misery. After too many occasions of this maladaptive social pattern, I came to a very important conclusion. I just got tired of playing the "my life sucks" game. The whole point of this type of social interaction is to try to one-up each other by seeing who has the most to complain about and who can kvetch the loudest about their woes. I decided I was tired of losing. Any way you play this "game" you are going to lose. Either your life is the worst, or you aren't the most special because you don't have it as bad as someone else. I found too many people who play this game to win. I decided they could continue to wallow in their own self-pity. They obviously did not need any kind of support from me to find their own twisted brand of happiness. As a Roman Catholic, I grew up learning about saints and martyrs. I was taught that self-sacrifice is a good thing. But what makes a martyr saintly is the fact that they never flaunted their suffering. They did not purposefully put their sacrifice on display so that people could admire them. They became admired and venerated AFTER the fact.
One positive has come out of my experiences with the "my life sucks" game. Now I try to go out of my way to focus on the positive. If I find myself complaining (even just privately to myself) about something or someone, then I force myself to think of something positive about the person or thing. Failing that, I try to look for something else positive to focus on. Therefore, as much as I find it exceedingly annoying when a person goes on a complaining rant, I am grateful because it gives me an opportunity (a challenge, even) to find the bright side of things. Sometimes that might mean trying to help that person out of their complaint funk. Sometimes it means I take a break from them so that I can recharge my positive energy. I have enough stress in my life without forcibly perpetuating a worse situation with a negative attitude. Sometimes I post to one of my blogs or Twitter in the hope of turning a complaint into a teaching moment. That was part of the inspiration for this blog and, in a sideways manner, my Psych Vocab blog.
So, when life throws me lemons, I try to thank it for the snack.