Health & Fitness

How to stay calm emotionally when in company of whiners

A little more understanding of the people around you might make your life easier. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Qn. “How can one maintain emotional calmness when you always find yourself in the company of whining fellows?”

A group of friends were discussing this question at a social gathering recently.

In their conversation, one of them wanted to know why some people seem so determined to be unhappy. Asked to substantiate, he told the story of his boss who could find nothing to be happy about because he seemed sad, angry and grumpy even on the sunniest of days. He had something he was unhappy about everyday all day.

If the sun came up in its magnificence, then he was sad because it could lead to skin cancer. He had to find a hat and put on some sun screen. Typically, he would also explain that the problem of such sunshine is that it leads to the death of plants and hunger. The sun is bad for us all.

A cold day was even worse. In his 60s, pneumonia was an ever present reality and a cold day meant that he had to dress up to avoid death. A cousin died in England a few years earlier and the boss was sure that this was a cold related death. He had great sadness on cold days. If he got a cold, he was sure he would die.


The end of year results had a predictable response from the boss. “We only managed a 15 percent jump in profit. Why could we not do 20 percent or even 30 percent? Why are people so lazy that we manage such mediocre profits,” he would say. Nothing seemed to make him happy. Profits made him sad, losses made him sad.

A young psychologist was in attendance and he offered his view on the matter. He quickly became the centre of attention when he used the term “anal retentive personality”. When the laughter and shock had gone, the young man went into a discourse on the Freudian theory of the same name.

Energised by the attention from his peers, he went on to explain the origins of the theory. He told them of the stages of development in children. The first was the oral phase in which the child faced the mother’s breast with much pleasure and the mouth becomes the primary source of gratification.

The next is the anal stage when the baby learns how to control bowels. The attention was now total and as the psychologist said if problems arose at this time, for example, if the child received too much punishment or some other trauma at this stage, then the child developed this type of retention of faeces. This was becoming “too much science” for the group. The psychologist did not notice and he continued with enthusiasm.

This type of behaviour in adulthood manifested not as retention of faeces alone, but as obsessionality in general.

Such people can be extremely irritating to others in their preoccupation with detail. Although detail is important in general, if taken to extremes it can, and often leads to inefficiency. Some understood the theory while others simply laughed at the thought of person holding on to his faeces!

Following this description, another young man stood up to tell the story of his boss who often worked up to midnight and was in the office by six am. With much laughter they all wondered what time he spent with his family!

He explained that the boss could simply not delegate. All mail that went out had to come from his office under his signature. No cheque could go out without his knowledge, and he personally went through all invoices, delivery notes and payment vouchers and he did all the bank reconciliations.

He was a tall, thin mean, angry man who could simply not let go. After this conversation among “the boys” a light bulb moment occurred.

It was in the public domain that his boss had lost his mother during the Mau Mau war when he was two years old.

His upbringing had been difficult as he was moved from one aunt to another. He had ended up in an orphanage. It was clear that his anal retentive personality had its origins in his difficult childhood.

In your case, perhaps a little more understanding of the people around you might make your life easier. You might find liberation in knowledge. In the alternative you might seek and perhaps find people of a disposition similar to yourself!