Tuesday, July 13, 2010

old city, new in old city

In one of my previous posts in January, I mentioned how much I enjoyed being in a city for the first time; opening my perception wide to soak in whatever that city can offer. However I just realized that being out of my turf for a while and then returning gave me a somewhat similar experience.

It was the first time that I was away from Istanbul for 9 months. Coming back, my perception of the city wasn't so much different probably because that's not a very long period for a rooted city like Istanbul to change. Yet I felt like a complete outsider. At the end of my first day, I had a headache because of all the second-hand smoke and political discussions that I was exposed to. All of us living around the Mediterranean have always loved discussing politics, I cannot remember how many spontaneous conversations I had with taxi drivers in Greece and Israel on the subject. But now, I wondered why people wanted to share their political views with someone whose knowledge was as outdated as the bronze age. I wasn't even interested but people didn't really mind my yawning and went on. It doesn't make slightest sense to me to spend all that time and energy on stuff that I cannot change. Especially the energy that goes into it; nobody seems to talk about politics without a strong sense of judgment, dislike and blaming.  And mind you, these are neither politicians nor party members, they are my friends who work in advertising, finance, arts etc

Coming to Dubai, politics seemed to lose it's #1 place into a general sense of complaint of heat, stupid jobs, incompetent bosses, bad driving, senseless regulations, just to give a few examples. It's sad to see that only a few people are fully satisfied with their lives here. I'm not saying that life in Dubai makes sense in all the ways. Quite the contrary, it can resemble to an episode of the twilight zone pretty often. Yet we choose to stay.

I've been thinking about this quite a lot because this was my culture shock. I probably wouldn't have noticed this if I wasn't out for so long. Human beings are supposed to strive towards better (and therefore happier) but it seems that we build a very suffocating fence of complaints and judgments around our happiness so it does not grow up to its full potential. Why?

One possible reason that came to my mind was that we need to be heard, we need to receive attention. Since we are babies, we get more attention when we cry or have a sad face because it's an alarm of things not going as they are supposed to. Everyone hovers around when we are sick. Maybe some of never outgrow the need for this type of attention even when we are grown. Maybe we never develop the skills to seek a healthy dose of attention by means other than complaining. Hence we keep our unhappy masks on; we complain with an acute need to be heard and to be paid attention. Imagine a  random night out with friends you haven't seen in a long time, does the group spend more time listening to the one who says “oh it's all good, things are going fine” or to the one who says “in the office I work with the stupidest bunch of people who make my life a living hell every day”.

Complaining is a way to attract attention so that missing/wrong things can get fixed.  Most of those chronic complainers however are happy with things being  wrong/missing. If you actually try to correct things for them, they will either find a way to be unhappy with the new situation or will shift their focus to the next wrong thing, because the source of discomfort is internal.

I've been thinking a lot about this in the last 3 weeks and this was the only possible answer that I could see. I would really appreciate some fresh insight if you would care to share. What do you think? Why do we focus on what we cannot change and why do we keep complaining on things that we can change but do nothing about it?


  1. Esin, I love your blog, thanks for sharing your insights and experiences.
    Splendid topic! I think complaining is a way of living life and a very hard habit to break. It really is interesting that we choose misery over joy quite often, and constantly dwell in it in order to justify it, and sadly have nothing else to share. I believe it has something to do with automated responses to situations and not knowing what to do in an unknown territory (not being in the moment, being control freaks, self centeredness etc...).

    Wait, did I just complain about complaining?

  2. Esin'cim, when I was reading the blog I see all the scenes that you are talking about.

    The reason why we complain is,(1) like you said keep the attention, (2) not blamed, (3) and also that complaining gives a kind of living power like gossiping:))

    But most important thing is , this gives a inside about ourselves to check what we compain about and why. Why we can not leave that envirement or that person.

    I think ; real journey begins within you in Dubai:)

  3. @Aylin thanks for your kind words :) I never thought of complaining as an automated response, especially coming from a control freak... Hmm a lot to think about, in a completely different perspective. Thanks for sharing

    @Kivircik sacli kiz I would have always thought complaining as a form of victimizing yourself, not a means to gain living power. But when I think of certain situations, it starts to make a lot of sense. Thanks
    Btw, the real journey beginning in Dubai will be a different post by itself ;)