Are you one of life's dis­sat­is­fied cus­tomers?

A must-read if you feel as though you have missed out some­how.

Living Now - - Contents - by AC Ping

A must-read if you feel as though you have missed out some­how.

Time to fess up – are you one of life’s un­sat­is­fied cus­tomers? Ouch! Yes I know, but be hon­est, are you dis­ap­pointed with the hand you’ve been dealt? Feel like you’ve some­how missed out? Been left alone while your friends have hooked up? Haven’t got the job you be­lieve you de­serve? Not as rich as you feel you should be? Al­ways seem to at­tract the wrong type of peo­ple into your life? Never seem to get the recog­ni­tion you want while oth­ers seem to have the spot­light fol­low them?

Rest as­sured you are not alone, the dis­sat­is­fied club is a big one but – and yes this is a big ‘but’ – mem­ber­ship of the club may trap you in a way of be­ing that is not self-serv­ing. Now be­fore you arc up and re­ply that it’s just a bit of healthy vent­ing, let me share some re­search from the field of neuro-cog­ni­tive science. Spir­i­tual teach­ers like the Bud­dha told us long ago that “We are shaped by our thoughts; we be­come what we think.” But now we can see what hap­pens in­side the brain when we com­plain. First, we shape our­selves through the process of neuro-plas­tic­ity be­cause when synapses fire to­gether a bridge is formed be­tween them and they are brought closer to­gether in­creas­ing the like­li­hood that they will fire to­gether again. Put sim­ply, this means that if you com­plain about some­thing and noth­ing is done, you are more likely to com­plain again – neg­a­tiv­ity breeds more neg­a­tiv­ity and even­tu­ally traps you in a pes­simistic view of life.

But wait, there’s more – who you hang out with also af­fects your brain through the phe­nom­e­non of mir­ror neu­rones. Mir­ror neu­rones al­low us to em­pathise with oth­ers be­cause, when we see some­one else ex­pe­ri­enc­ing joy or sor­row, our brains fire the same neu­rones, al­low­ing us to mir­ror the feel­ings they are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing. Hence, if we see some­one hurt them­selves, for ex­am­ple, we lit­er­ally feel the same pain. This process af­fects us by rewiring our own brains and in­flu­enc­ing our be­hav­iour without our be­ing con­sciously aware of it. So, if we ha­bit­u­ally spend time with peo­ple who com­plain, then guess what – our brains change to re­flect this and our be­hav­iour changes as well.

But does this mean that, to be happy, we must stop com­plain­ing al­to­gether? The short an­swer is no. Happy peo­ple still com­plain about things. The dif­fer­ence is in what hap­pens next. Ha­bit­u­ally unhappy peo­ple com­plain about things and then wal­low in self-

pity and play the role of the vic­tim. Mu­tu­ally sup­port­ive unhappy peo­ple then re­in­force this vic­tim sta­tus and en­dorse the vic­tim’s jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for un­healthy and some­times un­eth­i­cal de­struc­tive ac­tion – for ex­am­ple, ‘Oh you poor thing. That’s so un­fair. You de­serve to take some ac­tion to self­harm (e.g., get drunk, take drugs, or other reck­less be­hav­iour) and/or to take re­tal­ia­tory ac­tion (e.g., in­sert any ideas for re­venge).’ The prob­lem with this is that the re­sults of such de­struc­tive ac­tion feed back into the per­son’s self­im­age and fur­ther re­in­force the neg­a­tive pat­tern – hence, yes, mak­ing it more likely to hap­pen again. In con­trast, happy peo­ple feel the weight of dis­sat­is­fac­tion and then use it to move into con­struc­tive ac­tion. Note the key dis­tinc­tion here be­tween be­ing a vic­tim and be­ing a cre­ator – blame gets you nowhere, it sim­ply dis­em­pow­ers you. Robert Kennedy said, “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were and ask why not?” See the dif­fer­ence? It doesn’t mean you won’t fail at what you do or have set­backs along the way, but shift­ing the con­text shifts the mean­ing of the events.

So, if you are in the club, how do you get out of it? Re­mem­ber of course that peo­ple like to be right; so those in the club will not want you to leave and will most likely ac­tively ag­i­tate to en­cour­age you to stay or, if not, will be there to call out, ‘ I told you so’, at the first sign of any set­back along your new path.

In his book, “A com­plaint free world – how to stop com­plain­ing and start en­joy­ing the life you al­ways wanted”, Will Bowen draws on change the­ory that says that in cre­at­ing a change in our lives we progress through four stages: Un­con­scious In­com­pe­tence; Con­scious In­com­pe­tence; Con­scious Com­pe­tence; Un­con­scious Com­pe­tence. What this means is that at the be­gin­ning we don’t even re­alise how much we ac­tu­ally com­plain. The first chal­lenge then is to be­come aware of our in­com­pe­tence and Bowen pro­poses a rather chal­leng­ing but fun ex­per­i­ment. The chal­lenge is to be com­plaint free for 21 days and aware­ness is raised by wear­ing a wrist band which must be shifted to the other wrist any time you be­come aware of your com­plain­ing. Sounds sim­ple – but be­fore you make that judge­ment try it – and yes, if you shift the wrist band, then you start at day one again. Bowen him­self says when he started he moved his bracelet so much he broke three of them be­fore he made it to 21 days.

And so here’s the kicker from play­ing this lit­tle game, if you re-read the neuro science stuff at the start of this ar­ti­cle, you will re­alise that if you can make it to 21 days, then you will have rewired your brain and will nat­u­rally show up com­plaint free. And by do­ing so you will sub­con­sciously in­flu­ence those around you in a pos­i­tive way. n Con­nect with other read­ers & com­ment on this ar­ti­cle at www.liv­ing­ A.C. Ping is an ex­is­ten­tial philoso­pher whose work fo­cuses on the key ques­tion of ‘How are you cre­at­ing your re­al­ity?’ His cur­rent re­search draws on the in­ter-dis­ci­plinary fields of moral phi­los­o­phy, crim­i­nol­ogy, so­cial psy­chol­ogy and neuro-cog­ni­tive science to ad­dress the ques­tion of ‘ Why good peo­ple do bad things?’ REF­ER­ENCES Wlas­soff, W. “Com­plain­ing and the brain – how bad karma is cre­ated”, Brain Blog­ger, July 28th 2016. Bowen, W. “A com­plaint free world – How to stop com­plain­ing and en­joy the life you al­ways wanted”, Dou­ble­day, 2007. La­yard, R. “Hap­pi­ness: Lessons from a new science”, Pen­guin UK, 2011.

“If you don’t like some­thing, change it. If you can’t change it, change your at­ti­tude. Don’t com­plain.” Maya An­gelou “If you don’t like some­thing, change it. If you can’t change it, change your at­ti­tude. Don’t com­plain.” Maya An­gelou “A mind stretched to a new idea never shrinks back to its orig­i­nal di­men­sions.” Oliver Wen­dell Holmes

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