Therapists and Whiners / Constant Complainers

(Please click the “more” link to see the entire post)

I have two views on this topic – should you tell a constant whiner to put a cork in it, or indulge them?

On the one hand, it can get very annoying being around someone who whines (complains) constantly. I have a couple of internet friends who do this, two family members, and I’ve had a few coworkers guilty of regular whining.

With one family member in particular, I had to shut her down. After two years of listening to her endless, vicious complaining (it wasn’t even normal complaining, but very mean, negative complaining) mostly about her job and boyfriend.

To make matters worse this person chose to dump all her anger and issues on me in the same time frame I was in deep grieving for someone dear I had just lost that we were both related to.

I tried being supportive and listening to her endless whining and her vicious rants, but it was having a negative impact on me. I am prone to depression anyway, and with the grieving as well, I could not possibly handle listening to her hate-filled phone calls anymore on top of everything else.

So I told her I was not going to listen to her complain anymore about her job and other problems. I had to do it to save my sanity.

On the other hand, I like to talk to someone when I am going through a terrible time.

When I am depressed or angry, it makes me feel better to talk through my views and feelings. It helps me if someone just sits and listens as I discuss what I am feeling.

The sad thing is, most people refuse to perform this service for me, even though I do it for them.

As an aside, I’d like to mention I’m one of those friends who will listen to you spill your troubles out but I do not criticize or judge you, and I don’t give advice.

How I wish people would listen to me like that!

But no, anytime I open up to someone about my anger or my hurt, they feel justified in criticizing me, telling me how I ought to live my life – and these are the same people who phone me for a sympathetic ear and get hacked off and bent out of shape if I pull any of that (i.e., advice, criticism) on them (which I hardly every do, but when I have, boy do they get upset. They love to do it to me but can’t take it in return).

Anyway, I’m a little ticked off that some therapists (according to the article below) feel justified in telling their clients to stop whining.

Most of these therapists charge $80, $90, $100 per hour for their services. If I want to spend an entire hour going on in minute detail about how I trimmed my toe nails last Thursday, you (the therapist) dang well better listen to me, since I am paying you to listen.

For a Nation of Whiners, Therapists Try Tough Love
online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304192704577404083592261456.html

Here are quotes from the article:

Whining, as defined by experts—the therapists, spouses, co-workers and others who have to listen to it—is chronic complaining, a pattern of negative communication. It brings down the mood of everyone within earshot. It can hold whiners back at work and keep them stuck in a problem, rather than working to identify a solution. It can be toxic to relationships.

How do you get someone to stop the constant griping? The answer is simple, but not always easy: Don’t listen to it.

Moms, and bosses, are good at this. Some therapists are refusing to let clients complain endlessly, as well—offering up Tough Love in place of the nurturing gaze and the question “How does that make you feel?”

They’re setting time limits on how long a client can stay on certain topics and declaring some topics off-limits altogether. Some are even taping clients so they can hear how they sound and firing clients who can’t stop complaining.

“Talking endlessly about your problems isn’t going to help,” says Christina Steinorth, a marriage and family therapist in Santa Barbara, Calif. She tells her patients in the first session: “If you are looking for the type of therapy where I am going to nod my head and affirm what you are feeling, this isn’t the place to come.”

When clients whine, Ms. Steinorth has them make a list of how their life could improve if they stopped complaining and started working to solve their problems. She suggests they set aside a 10-minute window every day and do all their whining then. For clients who still won’t stop, she suggests they consider discontinuing therapy until they are ready to move forward.

Sometimes it feels like we’re a nation of whiners. Many of us learned this behavior as children, when we got what we wanted by wearing our parents down. In adulthood, whining—or venting, as I like to call it when I’m doing it—can be a coping mechanism, allowing us to let off steam.

“A lot of whiners don’t know they whine,” says Julie Hanks, a licensed clinical social worker who has a therapy clinic in Salt Lake City. “I want them to ask themselves, ‘Would I want to hang out with this person?’ “

Television encourages us to whine, thanks to shows like WE tv’s “Bridezillas” or A&E’s “Monster In-Laws,” about people who do almost nothing else. Technology, meanwhile, has trained us to expect instant gratification and become frustrated when we have to be patient. Facebook can make us feel that everyone else has it easier.

The good news is that it is possible to get whiners to stop. Ms. Hanks, who takes a tough stance on whining, says it is critical to build a rapport with a client. She often challenges patients to go an entire session without talking about pet topics, such as their mother or their ex. You can ban overvisited topics at home, too, she says, as long as you pay attention to real problems. She sometimes audiotapes sessions, so clients can hear themselves whine. She has even taped herself at home, to learn how she relates to family members.

….”When someone whines to you, it is an indirect way of saying, ‘You fix it,’ ” Dr. Walfish says. “You want to put the responsibility back where it belongs, in the whiner’s lap.”

Douglas Maxwell, a licensed psychoanalyst in Manhattan and president of the National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis, says constant complaining is often a “resistance,” and the person whining is often unaware of it.

With a client who gripes incessantly about a problem without making progress, he will say: “Stop. No more complaints. I don’t want to hear about this one more day. You must talk about something else.”

Often, clients don’t take this so well, Mr. Maxwell says. They resist his attempt to break through their barriers and even transfer their anger onto him. But he holds his ground—and says he is prepared to repeat his ban as often as he has to.

Sometimes, Mr. Maxwell will use humor. “Here we go again,” he might tease a patient.

“Once you draw the line in the sand, you have to hold that line,” he says. “Other wise, anything you say as a therapist loses its effect.”

Crybabies, Be Gone!

Often, people don’t realize they are whining. The trick: Raise their self-awareness without using accusatory or sarcastic language.

Go gently: Even therapists say this conversation sometimes ends with the client walking out. Start by telling the person who is whining how much you appreciate him or her.

Use a tone of genuine curiosity. You want to get to the bottom of the problem together. You may want to mirror the negative communication. ‘I don’t know if you hear yourself, but listen to what you just said.’

Point out there’s a pattern. Say, ‘Do you realize it’s the fifth night in a row you’ve talked about this?’ Offer to tape future conversations so the person can hear for him or herself.

Open up the conversation. A person whining about work may be feeling unwell, or stuck in his career. Ask, ‘Is there something else that’s wrong?’ Explain that it is hard for you to hear the real issue because the person’s tone and attitude are getting in the way.

Ask the person what he or she plans to do about the problem. Hold them accountable.

Suggest alternatives. The person might want to write down a list of complaints and leave it in a drawer. Or keep a journal and circle repeated complaints in red pen. Or spend an hour at the gym, or do something outdoors with you.

Set a time limit. For 10 minutes a day, the person can whine unfettered—and you will listen. Then time is up. Do this once a day, once a week—or challenge the person to a ‘whine-free day.’

Give positive reinforcement. Say, ‘I love to hear good things about your job.’ Praise each increment toward healthy communication.

-(and that concludes the article excerpts)- I wanted to reiterate: if you are a therapist and someone is paying you $80 – $100 an hour for your time, you really do not have any place dictating to that person what he or she can talk about, and for how long.

I don’t have a problem with a therapist gently suggesting to the client that the chronic complaining is not going to solve the complainer’s problems, but other than that, it’s not your place to tell the client what they can discuss and how often.