"Complaining" is a ruthless symptom in public mental health services. It highlights the system’s loss of "autopoietic capacity" and "autonomy". Such a system, if left untreated, passes from paralysis to implosion. The complaining stance is engendered by specific processes. The author describes three approaches and practices presenting case studies on the topic: a cognitive model that focuses on "living systems", a psychoanalytic model of group dynamics and the ‘containercontained’ relationship; and a model that analyses the creative block of a service as block of the autopoietic capacity of a system to dissociate continuously its pathological assumptions, promoting new connections between the different elements of the system. To deal with the complaining stance does not require new resources, but a different organisation of existing functions utilizing a more complex approach. In other words, when the capacity for autonomy, depression and the capacity for dissociation spawn more complexity in service relationships.
Keywords: Complaining, institutions, living systems, autopoiesis, autonomy, dissociation