“I don’t know how to complain”.
This was my very first sentence in our first session. And that hit me hard.
For some time, I was in complete denial. But then I started to think and realised I had had lots of difficulties due to this “disability”. Yes, I am calling this “disability” since I had to – and still have to – struggle a lot. I have been in abusive relationships, leading to severe mental problems. Then, I had to start the healing process, which wasn’t easy. Sometimes it was just Therapy sessions, but the last one made me take anti- depression medication for more than three years.
I was stuck in relationships or even friendships like that because I didn’t know how to complain. Because I was always asking these questions: “am I have the right to be uncomfortable?/did I do something wrong? Do I deserve this misery? Can I fix this? Yes, I need to fix this!” There was always a conversation between me and me. Sometimes, when I was suffering, I had to ask other people: “ listen to this story, do you think I was right?”
And it was not the only consequence. I started to feel so uncomfortable in my own life that I decided to leave and start the new one. There is no doubt that it was a reasonable decision in many aspects, but the reason for this decision still breaks my heart.
In the early days of my new life, I felt incredibly guilty. I couldn’t enjoy it. I was here. Finally, I got everything that I have always wanted, and I have tried so hard for that for a long time. I felt guilty for the good weather, new experiences, and new opportunities. I was guilty because I could choose my outfit after years of mandatory Hijab. Because I could enjoy the wind in my hair. I felt that I owe everyone something. I used to cry a lot out of guilt. I felt guilty for having a nice cup of coffee in cold weather. While studying Sara Ahmed’s book, I realised that the relationship between complaint and guilt is meaningful. I could see this complexity in the book’s stories, whether they were told directly. Since I am very enthusiastic about psychology, I started to study this matter on the psychological aspect and consider myself a study case. So, In this essay, I will discuss this journey of me, the journey of lasting guilt.
Based on an essay by Kendra Cherry named “ What Is a Guilt Complex?”, there are four types of guilt:
• Natural guilt: If you genuinely committed a wrong and feel bad for what you have done, guilt is a normal response. This type of guilt can be adaptive and can motivate you to take action or make changes in ways that are beneficial in the future. For example, you might relieve your guilt by apologising for action or changing problematic behaviour. If these actions are not addressed in a way that allows you to move on, however, they may lead to lingering feelings of persistent guilt that interfere with your life.
• Maladaptive guilt: Sometimes, people feel guilty about things that aren’t within their control. For example, they may feel guilty that they didn’t prevent something that they had no way of predicting. Even though there was nothing they could do, they still felt strong feelings of regret, shame, and guilt.
• Guilty thoughts: Everyone has negative or inappropriate reviews from time to time, yet sometimes people develop feelings of guilt for having such thoughts. Even though they may not act on them, they may fear that it means that they will or worry that others will find out about their “bad” thoughts.
• Existential guilt: This type of guilt can be complicated and often centred on things like guilt over injustices or guilt about not living according to one’s principles. One type of existential guilt is known as survivor’s guilt. Sometimes people will experience a guilt complex because they are doing well when others they care about are not. This can emerge when someone survives some time of accident or disaster in which others are harmed, but it can also occur when others experience misfortune when you don’t. (Cherry, 2021)
I am suffering from “Existential guilt”. I was/am in pain because I always felt/feel I could do better for people; I could BE BETTER. I am in pain only because I did not behave as expected. If they cause me pain, the reason is I wasn’t/am not good enough. If they leave me, I did something wrong; if they mistreat me, it is my fault.
So, I looked back. I investigated my past cultural background. I was constantly told that it was not pleasant to complain, and this is my obligation to be creative enough to survive the situation that bothers me. “Tolerance” was equal to “Braveness”. For instance, My Ex used to tell me: “ you make me treat you in this way”. And still, after so many times, this sentence brings me a great deal of insecurity. I still cannot understand how I can cause myself so much pain and why the person I loved the most wanted me to believe that? Why did I not speak up? Why did I stay silent? I found part of my answer in Carl Rogers words:
“When another recognises your pain (expressed by complaining) and validates your experience, this feels good and momentarily connects. He believed feeling heard was extremely powerful”. (Berry, 2021)
In other words, I was/am feeling guilty because I couldn’t/ cannot get the validation to my pain, And I was not being heard. Even now, while writing these sentences, I constantly ask myself, “am I being a drama queen, AGAIN?” I don’t have an answer. But At least I could find the source of pain: my pain was/is not valid in the world.
I believe in order to solve a problem, I need to see it first; respect its existence. In other words, maybe “words” can be skeleton of feelings. Of course I am not a specialist, but I’d like to propose that “words” can even be considered as a medium between conscious and unconscious, And Now that I exposed a problem, I want to recognise this problem as well.
So, I made a straightforward survey on Social Media and asked people who are sharing the same language with me to complain about something that caused them pain, but still, they don’t feel safe enough to express that. I felt this is my way to at least expose the problem. I had about fifty complaints in 24 hours. I translated some of them as examples:
- I don’t know what I want to do with my life.
- Why didn’t the guy sell the car to me? Why are people not responsible for their words?
- Why don’t people use indicators while driving? It pisses me off. – The government is ruining my life.
- I want to hit my father or even kill him. He hurts my sister.
- I am never his priority.
- Why people can’t respect my privacy.
- I feel I am being taken for granted.
- I still have nightmares about my ex-husband.
At this point, I felt that although their complaints and problems matter, my message is that: I hear you. Your pain is valid.
All in all, I believe being able to complain is a life-changing skill and, at the same time, an opportunity. On the other hand, the feeling of being heard could prevent lots of unnecessary obstacles in life. The fact that, in my case, I made one of the most important and most challenging decisions in my life – immigration- on the direct side effect of not being heard, reminds me of the significant importance of this matter, and my heart is with people who are struggling with this bitter feeling. I imagine them in the dark, freezing woods, and I hope they can see the light. I hope someone hears their stories; someone aches for their loneliness.
Kendra Cherry, 2021, what is a guilt complex https://www.verywellmind.com/guilt-complex-definition-symptoms- traits-causes- treatment-5115946#:~:text=Guilt%20is%20described%20as%20a,Crying (Accessed: Feb 2022)
William Berry, 2021, The Psychology of Complaining, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-second-noble-truth/ 202104/the-psychology- complaining#:~:text=Complaining%20is%20a%20form%20of,it%20 may% 20drive%20people%20apart (Accessed: Feb 2022)