I have a fresh story of making a complaint in silence. In total, earsplitting silence: Here I will tell a fresh story of this kind of complaint. Introduction of an artistic performance by Iranian artist named “Mahmoud Bakhshi”.
On February 17,2022, he occupied a gallery, kept it empty with only artist statement on the wall:
For second of March, With twelve years delay, Dedicated to (names of two political activists who have been in house arrest since twelve years ago) As a sign of comradeship, I won’t leave my studio as well. I will block all ways of communication and won’t hold any events.
In this essay the aim is not to criticising on behalf of my country’s art scene, but for me, as someone who knows the artist in person, it was so shocking, a suicidal act. I think the the most certain and terrifying characteristic of death is being forgotten, and this artist volunteering chose to be forgotten in order to make a complaint. This performance was one of my motivations to travel to my country. I wanted to talk to him, but wasn’t even sure if he accept visitors. So, I took a risk, took a taxi, asked the driver to wait for me. Fortunately he accepted visitors and we talked. I won’t deliver his words, but prefer to share an experience of being in his world for couple of hours; that feeling of passing life on the other side of the door and still choose not living it. Struggling with fear, doubt, loneliness and still insist on making complaint in silence.
For me, it was a breathtaking experience; this self-willed solitude for protecting a belief is respectful. I know I will think about it as long as this performance continues, and will whisper to myself:
In my previous text I emphasised on the relation between complaint and individual psych. Here, I prefer to discuss another aspect of it; the relation between complaint and political/ social acts.
I am coming from the land of complexity and complaint.
The unfairness happens everyday and complaint comes after. In most cases, the consequences of these acts of complaint are too much. I know plenty of bitter stories of people who paid unbelievable price for what they couldn’t/ cannot stand. Because they couldn’t/ cannot be comfortable in uncomfortable situations and the price is their youth, heath, family and their life. They lose and lose and lose but they are not a loser. They insist on making complaint and eventually they make changes.
At some points, only presence of people on the streets became a way of making complaint. Although some of us are lost about complaint in private, most of us are professional in public. We know how to make a complaint even with a colour, hand gestures, or just being silent, doing nothing.
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)
The story is fresh. I still feel the pain and temperature inside my chest. I feel like I cannot breathe; I feel like I am the loneliest person in the world, walking in the coldest streets and crying. At this moment, I feel I cannot do anything. However, I have to go to work; I must be responsible while shattering apart because of my “unacceptable” pain. The pain of making a complaint and not being heard. I was not being understood. My pain was not valid in the world. It was not acceptable. Someone in the world decided that I was not worthy of being heard. This is too much. This fardel on my shoulders, this judgmental voice in my head, this little crying girl in my chest, and me on my way to work. This is too much. These last lines were based on a true story. I wrote them as I was freezing on my way to work. I was very late and knew that my boss would not be happy. However, I could not help it. The pain that I was experiencing was TOO MUCH that I had to sit somewhere and write those words. I needed to be heard. I wanted someone to tell me that I am not insane. But, I was too ashamed to talk about it simultaneously. This happens every time. Whenever I decide to listen to the voice in my head that whispers, “it is not ok, do something.” it happens every damn time that I want to stand for myself. Nevertheless, it is not easy; First, I have to struggle with a roof of glass pressing on me: How to describe/share/value a complaint when you cannot make one? How do you let yourself feel your feeling when you know that you are being judged. I constantly have to have conversations in my head with myself to realize, “am I right to be uncomfortable in this situation “? And this too much. It is like I am constantly defending myself in a court in my head. I have to think all the time. This condition has a name, and this is an actual mental Problem: overthinking. “Overthinking is when you dwell or worry about the same thought repeatedly. People who overthink can be paralyzed by their worries and struggle to make decisions or take action. Overthinking can be caused by ̶ and can contribute to ̶ depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders”. And then I have to struggle with FEAR. I feel fear all the time. I am scared that I am missing real-life experiences. I am rarely present in the moment. I am not there. So when do I get to live my moment? There is always a transparent wall, a gap between me and others. Now, this is even more critical: I am a foreigner here. I do
everything that every foreigner needs to do, learn, and cope with. However, I have to do them twice because half of my mind is always trapped. And now, here the next question comes: How to make a complaint ( give birth to it, make it exists) when you cannot do anything about it? It feels like my creature ( complaint) is eating me alive. the guilt hits again: there is always worse. Basic standards suddenly feel like a privilege. Is it even my right to make a complaint?