Are you a complainer? I mean we all are to some extent, right? We all need someone on whom we can off-load our frustrations.

And there’s nothing wrong with it.

I remember a time when I told myself I wouldn’t complain anymore. I was trying to set a good example to my children because I was quite frankly tired of their constant complaints and urgh moments.

But it soon started eating me up. I was repressing my emotions so much that my inner psyche and outer awareness both became unstable!

I then realized that when emotions aren’t allowed to flow, they gain power over us. When we deny our feelings, we can start to feel disassociated or become so full of the stagnated energy that it skews our perspective and eventually we just erupt.

The problem is that very few of us have people who will listen to our complaints without getting fed up or trying to fix us or find solutions.

Because complaining is different to problem-solving.

It’s not about how to deal with a manager who is too rushed to delegate properly, or with a teenager who consistently disrespects the rules.

Complaining is simply shedding. It’s releasing the pent-up energy from the day or from a frustrating interaction so we can face the next.

When we complain, all we really want is to be heard.

My maternal grandfather was a great listener. I remember visiting my grandparents in the summers; every night my grandmother would complain to him about everything and everyone. Lying in bed next to them, all I would hear from him was a gentle “I know, I know…” until she had let it all out.

If you’re lucky enough to have a ‘listening partner’ like him, treasure them! And if you’re like the majority of us who don’t, then here’s a great strategy on how to complain that researcher Karla McLaren suggests. I wish I’d known it sooner!

How to Complain Constructively

First find a non-human listening partner. Yes, I know it sounds a bit weird, but it’s the only partner who will take all your complaining for as long as you wish without taking it personally! It could be your couch, a wall, or your closet. It could be a pet, a tree, a place in your garden. Or it could be a higher power.

Every time you feel frustration or anger, simply go to this partner and let go of your energetic steam. Make sure you have privacy of course and then go ahead—give voice to whatever you’re feeling!

I’ve tried this first step of the strategy on how to complain and you’ll be surprised how quickly it works because you won’t feel judged or like a bad person. Many of us suppress our emotions in the name of spirituality—we feel like a bad person for complaining when others have it so much worse. It’s called “spiritual by-passing” and certainly ill advised. Feelings and feelings—they’re free of moral judgment.

Actions matter—and repressed feelings cannot lead to wise action.

Once you’ve complained all you want, say “end of session” and thank them for listening. You’ll come out of it feeling so much happier, more forgiving toward others, and having greater clarity on whether something’s at the bottom of your frustrations.

Plus you didn’t hurt anyone’s feelings!

A version of this article originally appeared on Psychology Today.

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