I hate it when others complain, and I hate it worse when I do. I have struggled to understand and find peace with complaint for as long as I can remember. I've probably written about it here before; it's something that's triggered me since I was a kid. But I came across a way of looking at it that is helping.
The word "should."
For years, anytime I hear the word "should" cross my mind, I try to stop myself and reassess. It's a tricky word. "Should" indicates there's an inner conflict. It's usually between what my gut says is right for me today and what my mind has already decided is the best thing. This isn't a battle between analysis and intuition. It's farther-reaching than that. My gut is my body's intuitive voice, it's a direct connection to this living moment. This makes it a more trustworthy tool than a mind that has been filled with conditioning, expectations, desires, assumptions, beliefs, emotional habits etc.
Complaint is saying to the world (or whoever will listen) that things "should" be different, and then getting stuck in an ongoing cycle of "should."
I create this ideal in my mind that Life needs to live up to. Each of us has a different view of how it's supposed to be based on our individual conditioning, karma and experience. But regardless of the ideal, Life is what it is. Right here. Right now. Life includes stuff I don't like and stuff I do, stuff that brings pain, sorrow, uncertainty and stuff that brings joy, laughter, peace. I may have a right to gripe; life really is awfully hard at times and it's nice to get understanding and support from others.
But the real issue isn't the aches, or disappointment or sorrow that keep coming along in spite of my efforts. It's the fact that I am getting stuck in "should." I keep on believing that life isn't supposed to be this way. But, yes it is. It is the way it is, right here in this moment. This is how it should be, because it can't be anything else.
So I have a plan.
Treat complaint with the same awareness I bring to "should." The next time I hear myself (even just in my head) complaining or wishing things were different, I'll try to mentally stop myself with the word "should" as a reminder. If I can, I may take a calming breath and remind myself, "This is a conflict between how life really is, and how I want it to be."
The next time a simple conversation with others moves into a gripe-fest, I'll try to remember that whoever is complaining is stuck in "should." Just as stuck as I get. By remembering this, it may not be as triggering. Then, since I have recognized that the conversation is stuck, and I'd rather not be stuck in the conversation's "should," or "complaint" myself, I'll see if I can find a graceful way to exit.
It'll take practice but I already feel a bit lighter around the issue.