I’ve been noticing a lot of whining lately. I’m not exactly the pinnacle of celebration and success myself, but god, does it ever wear me down. Enough such that, I am now whining about whining, and don’t care enough to stop this oxymoron in his tracks.
I get it. Life is horseshit. This whole society is circling the drain, psychologically, socially, ecologically, economically. It’s no wonder so many kids in grade school complain about math homework — math is currently on a seek-and-destroy mission against the ozone layer, the water table, and global population. We use math to kill and rob each other, often in slow motion. Economy itself seems to be a system of compelled consent to entrapment and thievery. People are tired because of this — because of constantly resisting the entire global community’s interest in extracting dollar-value from you where- and whenever possible, trying to suck the fucking attention span right out through your eyeholes — and because people are tired, they are cranky, and because they are cranky, they get pissed off at themselves, and at everyone else, and, because they’re also still tired — they won’t do anything about it.
Enter Whining. The last resort of the beleaguered civilian. When pressure builds inside the Emotional Human Machine, it must escape somehow, or threaten to take the whole thing down. Ideally, that pressure is directed toward the more constructive outlets of the Machine. Whining isn’t always bad. In moderation, anxiety can compel us to accomplish things that will relieve the anxiety of others in some way, or prevent its resurgence in ourselves. But the constant flux of noisy information in our modern world jams up these routines. Just trying to ignore all the banner ads, the toxic food, and the glittering distractions leaves you decisionally fatigued — all decided out. So, when it comes to relieving the inevitable emotional pressure, we make the nondecision, take the path of least resistance — to Whine.
The Whiner’s point of view collapses the Universe into a binary entity consisting of Me; and Everything Else. This axis of antagonism goes both ways. Each opposes the other. “The world isn’t fair,” but also, “I don’t deserve good things.” Everybody loses. Taken to its extreme, the thought pattern of Whining can escalate into an anxiety attack. I don’t mean to discredit the seriousness of anxiety attacks. But talking loved ones through them is one of the most frustrating experiences I have ever had. The mind stubbornly locks into a feedback loop of Whining, and any attempt to intervene is deflected. There is not room in the sufferer’s mind for anything but Whining. It doesn’t help for them to be heard out; it doesn’t help for them to be encouraged or reminded of good things; and “tough love” or worry are taken simply as another thing to Whine about. Perhaps worst of all is that the sufferer in the throes an anxiety attack is unable to accept help. This is because the helper has been categorized into that Everything Else extreme of the Whiner’s binary worldview. If the world isn’t fair, and my friend isn’t Me, then my friend isn’t fair, either.
The real trouble with Whining is a quirk of the human mind known as confirmation bias. Your brain’s job is give you a stable picture of how the world is. The dirty secret of life, is that the world is an unstable place — but you don’t need to know that! In the midst of finding patterns that are really there, your brain is so good at its job that it will also show you patterns that aren’t really there, because it’s better (according to your brain) to live a stable lie than an unstable truth. Basically, a stable worldview costs you less energy than an unstable one — you don’t have to make quite as many judgment calls as you would in the (real) world of perpetually churning chaos. Metaphorically speaking, there are two parts to your mind: the Thinking part; and the Proving part.
The Prover proves, what the Thinker thinks.
Your brain wants to be as efficient as possible. So if you allow yourself to believe the world is out to get you, and all is hopeless, and nothing was really worth having anyway … then the brain will selfishly encourage you to maintain this worldview. You’ll preferentially take notice of things which conform to the ideas already in your head, instead of allowing your mind to be changed by the information out in the world. If the world’s out to get you, then how can you trust a thing that it says?
I Whine all the damn time, but I am sure learning to regret it lately. Every time I stumble across a fresh Whine from the losing side of a team strategy game, or scrolling through social media, or hashing out a friend’s challenges, a little bit of the poison goes into me. A little part of my lazy brain wants to take the day off, and just admit that Everything Else sucks. Stumbling unexpectedly upon another bout of Whining is like stubbing a psychological toe on some kind of viral-depressive two-by-four, and the next thing you know, you’re Whining yourself.
And here I am.