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Coyote Thoughts: Crabby People Need to Stop Bustin'!

Crabby people. I am sure you know people who never have a good day. They are always complaining about something, somebody, the weather, their neighbors, fellow workers, and the list goes on. Don’t get me started!

Some of the crabbiness may be justified.

But it’s worth trying to beat it, because the truth is, crabbiness can start to feel chronic. Once a person starts complaining, it can take over their thoughts and moods. And their constant negative thoughts become painful and make them feel worse.

So here is what I know about crabby people (you may have different words for “crabby”, but my wife will allow me to use those words):

Some folks think it is their personality. I believe that they just don’t know how to stop picking things apart. It may feel easier to criticize something than think of a solution. And, when a situation is out of a person’s control, it can be challenging to let it go.

Most crabby people don’t have a good time when they are busting on something or somebody. You can’t have a good time when you are thinking about bad things. Make sense? Sure.

When I was in my twenties, I had an accident and broke a couple of vertebras in my upper back causing some pain. I thought I was a pretty tough guy. Thinking I’d broken ribs rather than vertebras, I didn’t go to the doctor for about six weeks. Yup, I was tough but not very wise. Over the next 4 1/2 years I became pretty crabby. One friend told me, “Beau, I don’t want to hang around with you any more because all you do is complain. I don’t like listening to you.” I was letting my pain control who I was and the thoughts I had. It wasn’t my personality. I was focusing on the pain and frustrated, not having a good time in life, and it showed.

I have seen some people who have had terrible accidents and physical problems, yet they stay positive and up beat. How can this be?

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You don’t have to have physical pain to be crabby. One thing about being crabby: crabby people complain and like to spread the wealth. That is, they want you to complain too, and crabbiness can be contagious. It has been said, “Misery loves company.” I guess you could call it “co-crabby.” Getting sucked into this type of complaining takes away your enjoyment of life.

So what do these two types of crabby have in common? Frustration and Trickster Thoughts, of course. Go and listen to your favorite crabby person (mine used to be me). They will have a basket full of Trickster Thoughts, those thoughts that seem true but are not accurate. Be sure not to point them out to the person as they won’t like it. You will hear the generalization Trickster like: “That is the way it always is,” or, “I always lose”; and labeling Trickster: “They are a horse’s patoot,” or, “This sucks.”

These types of Tricksters will be laced in the person’s complaining, mostly of beating others up or listing their frustrations. The complaints take away from the pleasure of living life. Problems end up controlling the person’s thoughts and moods, hiding the good things that go on around us everyday. When we are in a bad mood, we tend to notice the bad things in the world making our problems worse. 

One of my friends who I have known for decades has been in physical pain since I’ve known him. He is almost always in a good mood. When I ask him how he is doing he always says, “No reason to complain, nobody would listen anyway.” This is a generalization Trickster Thought. However, it is a protective Trickster Thought. Yup, some tricksters can be good. The good Trickster Thought keeps my friend from focusing on the problems that he can’t do anything about. He enjoys life and keeps the destructive Tricksters away.

It is okay to see the problems and talk about them once or twice. Dwelling on problems will make the problems stronger. Try to spot the Trickster Thoughts and take them out of the conversation. You and your thoughts will start to feel better, even with the problems of everyday life. I try to make a point to not honor my problems by thinking or talking about them. If I can’t fix a problem or do anything about them, they no longer serve a purpose other than making me feel worse. It works pretty well for me.

Dr. Beau Washington received his doctorate from the University of Northern Colorado. A member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Beau grew up at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas, where his Father was a teacher. While researching depression, he also discovered the wide range of problems that rumination (dwelling) on problems creates in other mental problems as well. His active understanding of ruminative thought lead to developing a technique for effectively stopping the painful thoughts that plague distressed individuals. In addition, Beau developed cognitive models of depression and addiction.

Beau’s therapy model is entering the clinical trial stage at the University of New Mexico. He is training behavioral health clinics in his therapy. Beau is also adapting his therapy for sports, making it easier for players to focus on the moment.

He has also developed a Native suicide prevention program called “Coyote Thoughts” ©2013. Beau has trained Native mental health clinics and presented at reservations as well as regional and national conferences. Visit his website