"Don't bitch and moan!" "Get over it already!" "Look for the good... quit complaining!" Sound familiar? If you google quotes on whining, you find the same messages, just more eloquently written by the famous and not so famous. Where are the quotes that speak to the benefits of whining? How do we distinguish good from bad fussing? Sometimes whining can be valuable to your mental health! Well at least comedian Lily Tomlin agrees, " Man invented language to satisfy his deep need to complain." Let's start a club or meet-up! Whiners gather!
One may wonder why a mental health provider would want to write about whining. What is the benefit for the reader? Is it to encourage victim mentality? No, but there is a reason. Since I have worked in mental health for almost 32 years, particularly with child abuse and adults and children raised by narcissistic parents, a new lens of understanding has become clear. That new lens reveals that when children grow up in a family where "image" is everything and the mantra is to "pretend" that everything is good when it is not, they tend to stuff their reality and not deal with their feelings. Then in turn, the pretense causes symptoms and unhappiness. In the age-old movie, Postcards from the Edge, actress Meryl Streep explains the film portrayal of the dysfunctional family; " We're designed more for public than for private." And the rehab counselor in the same movie famously quotes, "Deal with your feelings before they deal with you."
So let's keep it simple. There's good and bad whining. But what's the difference? In so-called, "bad whining," there's no reason or purpose. Some are not looking for solution or resolution and do not want to heal. This kind of whining, used to get attention or to get one's way in the world without fixing the problem, could be called whining for the wrong reasons. We all know the Debbie and Doug Downers who don't want to get well. There may be some secondary benefit from staying in the moaning state of mind.
But good whining can be delicious! And fun! Good whining is the ability to call out the raw truth, express deep feelings, be vulnerable and share with those you love. It is about embracing those inner feelings, coddling them, figuring them out, so you can make them better. It involves allowing yourself to sit with feelings and get out of the, "everything is just fine mode," to be authentic. It takes courage and work to grab your reality, talk about it, and make it right for your own world. Sometimes it means going against the grain and setting yourself up for those who always say, "get over it already!"
For adult children raised by narcissistic parents, the first step of recovery is grief. I can assure you that the grief process involves allowing oneself to feel the pain of not having parents who tune into who you really are. Grieving the parent you did not have. Grieving the child you did not get to be. After this grief process however, it then becomes easier to let go internally and move on to building your own solid sense of self. Without this step, it is difficult to move on.
So, for a while, without entitlement, the recovery demands a time period of allowing the victim space. When that is dealt with accordingly, the pain becomes less, and optimism about the future brightens. When your loved ones understand this, they know it will not last forever. They will know and so will you that the whining is for a purpose now and can be good for your mental health. For adult children of narcissistic parents, this is usually a new concept. They were ingrained to fit the conscripted mold of the "perfect family," and keep their mouths shut. One narcissistic mother in my research put it bluntly, " The bird shits in its own nest. Don't take it elsewhere." Some say, " How dare you?" or "Who do you think you are?"
But many adult children have learned the lesson of "good whining" and have shared their thoughts too. Deadra, 35, tells me, "Feelings were generally not allowed in our family, so whenever I had some feeling going on and tried to express it, I was told that I was being too sensitive. That usually shut me down, but I didn't know what to do with the feelings that were left inside of me."
And Melodie, 42, said, "I'm so sick of people telling me I'm oversensitive! My mother said that to me anytime I showed even one little feeling growing up. I know it is because she couldn't deal with my feelings and so she wouldn't allow them. I want to be real and have whatever feelings I have and quit worrying about it."
To Deadra and Melodie and all other adult children working recovery, there are reasons you have the feelings you have. Feelings don't have brains. Call it whining, call it embracing, call it grief...what ever works, but don't ignore those feelings or your ability to gain authenticity will be lost. You could sell your soul to fit the mold. It takes courage to stand up for truth and in the process; you get to whine a bit. In the end, the optimism wins, and recovery works. Make your diagnosis of whining worth it. Engage good sturdy whining with a purpose of healing and those "nay sayers" will see that you are ahead of the game and on the way to inner freedom to not only take charge of your life, but also get a charge from it!
William Arthur Ward quotes, " The pessimist complains about the wind, the optimist expects it to change, the realist adjusts the sails." Adjusting the sails to allow for authentic feelings to surface so that reality is faced requires depth and understanding and is a significant aspect of sound mental health. It does silence the whining grunting piglets in the end.
Additional Resources for Recovery:
Resource Website: http://www.willieverbegoodenough.com
Book: Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers http://www.willieverbegoodenough.com/the-book-2/buy-the-book
Audio Book: http://www.willieverbegoodenough.com/the-book-2/buy-the-book
Workshop: Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers Virtual Workshop. Work recovery in the privacy of your own home, complete with video presentations and homework assignments: http://www.willieverbegoodenough.com/workshop-overview-healing-the-daughters-of-narcissistic-mothers
Daughter Intensives: One on one sessions with Dr. Karyl McBride
“Is this your Mom?” Take the survey: http://www.willieverbegoodenough.com/narcissistic-mother