One of the responsibilities that comes with adulthood is to contain your emotions. Four-year-olds are unable to do this. When a temper-tantrum comes on, they erupt. They aren’t capable of taking into account how their actions and feelings impact those around them. Their emotions run their life. So when a forty-year-old acts like this, we call them immature.
Containing feelings is not the same as suppressing them.
Containing them means having clear boundaries so you can attend to your emotions in a constructive way. Venting is contained, which means it has a beginning and an end. Venting is done in “contained” space, like an office behind closed doors or in a coffee shop away from the office. At the end of venting, you reach for a constructive solution that makes the situation better.
Like garbage, emotions need to be put in a container. Once in a container, they can be turned into fertilizer and used for good. Spewing garbage all over the workplace would obviously contaminate the environment. So why do it with emotions?
Complaining is non-contained emotional expression. It leaks into the things we say. It surrounds the water cooler and cafeteria conversations. It taints relationships and can build an entire culture of finger pointing that regresses into an adolescent mind-set rather than an accountable one.
Complaining is a defence against the courage to change, while venting addresses the issues and inspires you take action.
Even though we’re all guilty of it, let’s stop complaining and start courageously facing our life.