Richard Greene

Exchange with a chronic complainer shows how negative outlook can hurt you long-term

An aerial view of Globe Life Park and AT&T Stadium in Arlington in August. Arlington ranks 4th among baseball cities with the most accessible stadium.
An aerial view of Globe Life Park and AT&T Stadium in Arlington in August. Arlington ranks 4th among baseball cities with the most accessible stadium.

In my journey through public life, I have never understood the minds of some who seem so tangled in the grip of negativism that it appears to define who they are.

An attention-getting headline announced recently that persistent complaining physically rewires your brain to be depressed and anxious.

After describing three types of complainers as those who complain to get sympathy — those who ruminate over all their problems, and those who want to vent but don’t really search for any real solutions to their problems — it concludes with steps to “get out of that grim loop of dark thoughts.”

We are not talking about common complaints that all of us express from time to time but a mindset that results in irrational denunciation of matters that most people find to be positive experiences. Let me share a recent example.

I recently heard from a reader who finds fault with just about everything associated with the Texas Rangers and where they play their games.

There will always be critics of the decisions that overwhelming majorities of voters made over the past few decades to support the development of Arlington’s entertainment district and the city’s largest economic engine.

But this gentleman, who doesn’t even live in Arlington, goes way beyond the ordinary expression of disliking the public-private partnerships that have produced billions of dollars of private investment and billions more from annual visitors to the city.

He begins his diatribe by saying he wouldn’t be attending Rangers games except for the fact that others provide him with free tickets. Then he says the team should be playing in Dallas or Fort Worth because Arlington “doesn’t qualify as an interesting destination.”

He must not have noticed the 15 million visitors who, last year alone, found it interesting enough to show up for all the city has to offer.

He says the parking and concession prices (about average for ballparks across the country) are “offensive” and the beer is “mediocre.” Then, he finds the in-game entertainment to be “insulting” and calls the Rangers owners a “disgrace” to the game.

He even expresses disdain for the lottery held at games to help fund the Rangers charitable foundation. No matter, apparently, that the foundation supports many of the community’s nonprofit organizations, youth and education programs and has become the city’s largest corporate benefactor.

Summing up his grumbles, he even throws in complaints of socialism, federal tax law and concludes with a declaration that he will not attend any games in the new ballpark because it has a roof and artificial turf – which some 70,000 voters said they wanted.

The aforementioned piece on negativity says people like this gentleman will find “any effort to change the mindset to a more positive outlook will be difficult, and the person will be stuck in a loop of negative emotions and attitudes toward life.”

Social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter have surely confirmed this reality.

But the report offers a start to recovery from this condition by reminding yourself that not everything is as dark as it seems by focusing on five things – “1. Be aware of your attitude, 2. Let go of all the bad stuff, 3. Focus on the positive, 4. Be grateful and 5. Be humble.”

I’m not either naive or particularly optimistic to think that persistent naysayers are going to change, but the suggestions are worth passing along.

Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor, served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency and lectures at UT Arlington.